Classic Horror-Themed 1954 Black Cat Mystery #50 Cover Art Reels In Nearly $1 Million At Auction

Original cover art of a horror-themed comic from the 1950s took in nearly $1 million at auction. Lee Elias’ original cover art for Black Cat Mystery #50 reeled in $840,000 at Heritage Auctions. It’s one of the most iconic horror-related works of art.

Black Cat Mystery #50 original cover art
Black Cat Mystery #50 original cover art. (credit: Heritage Auctions)

The cover shows a man’s face and hands literally melting off due to radiation poisoning.

“A classic cover! Radiation-related covers from the 1950s are highly prized by collectors, and this ghoulish delight is simply one of the best! Not only is this pretty much universally considered to be the greatest, most over-the-top, and therefore most iconic pre-Code (Comics Code Authority) horror cover ever published, it’s one of the most memorable comic book covers of any genre, from any period!” Heritage Auctions writes in the description lot.

Black Cat Mystery #50, published by Harvey Publications in 1954, stands as a significant artifact in the history of American comic books, particularly in the horror genre, with publishers pushing boundaries in terms of graphic content and disturbing themes. This era, often referred to as the “pre-Code” period, existed before the implementation of the Comics Code Authority in late 1954, which would dramatically censor comic book content.

Horror comics of this era, including Black Cat Mystery, were at the center of a growing controversy. Critics, led by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, argued that these comics were corrupting the youth and contributing to juvenile delinquency.

Due to its timing just before the Comics Code and its representative content, issue #50 has become highly prized among collectors, serving as a tangible link to this brief, uncensored era in comic book history.

A mint edition copy of Black Cat Mystery #50 sold for $72,000 in 2021, according to Quality Comix.

Despite the high price tag, it falls short of the most expensive original comic cover art of all-time. Frank Frazetta’s “Egyption Queen,” which was used for cover are for Eerie #23, sold for $5.4 million in May 2019.

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