Silver Age

THE LITTLE COMPANY THAT COULD

Written by | Comics

Charlton’s horror, mystery titles gleamed in Silver Age

As anyone old enough to remember comics of the 1970s would say, horror titles of the so-called Silver Age were probably not the first way they spent their dimes and nickels.

After all, the ’70s were dominated by the four-color adventures of the resurgent superheroes. Marvel had Spider-Man, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four. DC countered with Superman, Batman and the JLA.
So where did that leave those who craved a good horror or mystery yarn? We turned to the town of Derby, Conn. and Charlton Comics. I certainly did; my writing career began with Charlton and has now come full circle, covering the current comic-book scene with this inventive website.

Sure, Charlton was the No. 3 horse in a three-horse race, but that didn’t stop the writers and artists from doing what they loved and giving their readers their best alternatives to the colorful do-gooders. And that’s how I’ll always remember Charlton–as a solid, entertaining alternative to the big guys.

Marvel had all but abandoned its mystery titles to superheroes–Amazing Fantasy went to Spider-Man, Journey into Mystery went to Thor, Tales of Suspense to Iron Man and Tales to Astonish to Ant-Man. DC held onto its quality title, House of Secrets, but even there, the top talents eventually migrated to the more popular superhero books.

That left Charlton to fill the gap, and the small company did it with gusto and more than a little talent. Certainly, the editors–mainly Nick Cuti and George Wildman in the ’70s and early ’80s–dabbled in the adventure genre (most notably with the imaginative E-Man by Cuti and Joe Staton, Doomsday+1 by the young John Byrne, Steve Ditko’s Captain Atom and Peacemaker.)

But horror ruled the roost in Derby and the titles seemed endless: Midnight Tales, Ghostly Haunts, Ghost Manor, The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves (you get the idea). The mid-’70s really saw a resurgence of talent, with Joe Gill churning out hundreds of scripts and such luminaries as Ditko, Staton, Byrne, Mike Zeck, Tom Sutton, Warren Sattler and Don Newton providing the artwork.
Was the quality always up to snuff? Probably not, to be honest. But the effort was always there. The alternative was always there.

And fans (hopefully) appreciated the “horrific” choice.

Last modified: March 7, 2017