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NY State Legislature on Marvel Tales “Brutality, Violence”, at Auction

During the Pre-Code era, the New York Legislature had issues with a Pre-Code Horror story drawn by Don Rico in Marvel Tales #97 in 1951.


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Marvel is not the first publisher to come to mind when we think of the Pre-Code Horror era of the late 1940s through the early 1950s, but perhaps it should be.  Not only did the publisher enter the horror genre in earnest before EC Comics, but it was also the driving force of the market — publishing around 389 comics that can be considered PCH, vs EC Comics PCH output of about 91 comic book issues.  One of the early entries of these, Marvel Tales #97, ended up in a 1951 Report of the New York State Joint Legislative Committee to Study the Publication of Comics.  There’s a Marvel Tales #97 (Atlas, 1950) CGC VG/FN 5.0 Cream to off-white pages up for auction at the 2023 January 8-9 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122302 at Heritage Auctions.

Marvel Tales #97 (Atlas, 1950)
Marvel Tales #97 (Atlas, 1950)

The Joint Legislative Committee depicted panels and pages from a number of comics in this report, placing their examples into three groups:

  1. Brutality, violence and crime.
  2. Drawings which depict ways of bodily injury, plans for commission of crime and unlawful breakings.
  3. Sexually suggestive cartoons and in some instances semi hidden pornography.

In the section giving examples for the “brutality, violence and crime” group, the report shows several panels from the Marvel Tales #97 story Beyond the Grave, a story drawn by Don Rico in which a witch doctor transfers his mind into the body of a huge gorilla with brutal results.  An interesting example of early Pre-Code Horror era history, there’s a Marvel Tales #97 (Atlas, 1950) CGC VG/FN 5.0 Cream to off-white pages up for auction at the 2023 January 8-9 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122302 at Heritage Auctions.

Marvel Tales #97 (Atlas, 1950)
Marvel Tales #97 (Atlas, 1950)

Marvel Tales #97 (Atlas, 1950) CGC VG/FN 5.0 Cream to off-white pages. Sun Girl appearance. Mike Sekowsky cover and art. Don Rico and Sol Brodsky art. This issue was used in a New York Legislative anti-comic document. Overstreet 2022 VG 4.0 value = $212; FN 6.0 value = $318. CGC census 12/22: 6 in 5.0, 16 higher.

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