Don Heck is best known as a member of the four-man team who created Iron Man and for penciling The Avengers during its Silver Age run, but he also paid the bills by penciling and inking horror stories for Weird Terror and Horrific (renamed Terrific after the comics code crack down). Horror by Heck is a new anthology of these grisly tales edited by Craig Yoe as part of IDW’s “Chilling Archives of Horror Comics” series, and while the utterly bizarre nature of these stories is what stands out the most, Heck’s work is still distinguished by his pan-faced characters and his restraint in illustrating some truly grisly material. I can imagine that his reserve in portraying the rather shocking violence and sex in “Concrete Coffin” is the only thing that made it publishable in Weird Terror back in 1953.
While I wouldn’t dare call Heck a hack, as one wrong-side-of-history critic did in an article that really raised the ire of Kelley Jones in his introduction to this volume, I will say that Heck’s work in the stories, themselves, is not overwhelmingly striking. His covers are another matter, as they fully showcased his trademark big faces. Horror by Heck makes a lot of room for these fabulously confrontational covers, as well as a neat selection of the illustrations he provided for those text stories most horror-hungry kids probably skipped. With a lengthy and informative biography by Yoe, and a cheeky cover that allows you to stick your finger into the bullet wound on the forehead of a typically large-faced Heck victim, Horror by Heck is another sweet package from the Chilling Archives… even if anonymous yet nutso stories about Hitler’s ghost, accident-causing gnomes, and a barber who becomes a vampire after wearing a dead guy’s scalp sometimes upstage this show’s star.