Artful Conception #5: Jeepers! She's Dead!

I recently read a post over at Pappy's Golden Age Comics where the ever knowledgable Paps noted that this scene - the dead chick in the forground - was repeated again and again in comics throughout this era.  The above panel originates from Crime Smashers #1, 1950 and was singled out in the infamous Seduction of the Innocent as an example of how amoral comics had become.

But the imagery didn't originate in 1950.  The same basic picture is found in 1948's Pay-Off #1...

...and then again in Straight Arrow #13, 1951...

... as Pappy said, "For being dead, the girl sure gets around!"

So, I thought I'd scavenge around a little to see more examples of this theme.  The idea interested me because, if something is repeated this often over decades, there is generally an underlying reason for it - something in our collective subconscious. 

Anyway, have a look at other variations of this theme... all remarkably similar.  There are disturbingly many of them, and not hard to find.

Crest 234


1435395713_b711db2216_o1956 - Gold Medal 605


The HoodsDeath in the Fifth Position

Detective Magazine

Well, now I'm depressed.  I guess that's enough to prove my point   Any sociologists out there maybe can shed some light on this pervasive theme.  What does it say about us - maybe it's just a form of the age old "damsel in distress" motif.  Who knows.... oh well, on to the next post.


  1. AnonymousMay 25, 2010

    Lee Marvin found a dead tennis player!

  2. First off, let me say I absolutely love your website and thank you for every single post. But secondly, let me say - If you find these images depressing or offensive, then you really need to get back in touch with your inner barbarian. Haha. As a comic book artist myself I find these images to be hilarious, harmless, fun "damsel in distress" fantasies and nothing more. From an era when men were men and women merely rolled their eyes at us and said, "Boys will be boys".

  3. Somehow everyone of those girls hit the floor (or bed) with her legs demurely crossed.

  4. Is that Geraldine (of Geraldine & Ricky fame)on the True Police cover? I knew that dummy was evil!

  5. I enjoy your posts. It's true that dead lady pose is common. I think it's a popular image because it combines two forces that make for fascination: Sex and Violence.

  6. Sergio Leone's epic "Once Upon A Time In America" is based off that Harry Grey book "The Hoods".

    There's your useless trivia fun fact of the day!

  7. @Bryanbaugh --

    I am disturbed by the claim that boys being boys involve the creation and casual disposal of girls for their amusement, even if the fictional persons doing the disposing are the bad guys.

    These covers advertise products for sale using depictions of dead women. I don't see what's "hilarious" about that.

  8. Falconer:

    I guess I find gratuitous images like these (or, as another example, the exagerrated violence in "splatter movies") to be so over-the-top, and out-of-touch with reality, that they cannot be taken too seriously. They are only about as dangerous to society as fake plastic vomit. You know that weird kid in elementary school who got in trouble for scaring the girls with rubber creepy crawlers? That's the kid who grows up to create (or enjoy) this type of art. The level of threat imposed is exactly that serious. Maybe you have to be an adult version of one of those goofy kids to see it that way. But thank goodness for people who are genuinely disturbed by such nonsense - it would be no fun to create creepy entertainment if there was no one to creep out.

  9. I don't want to get to deep here, but - What is the one thing we like to do to women? Anyone? Anyone? No, not kill them!? Jeez there really are some sick dudes out there. No, OGLE them. Looking, longing lurid, loving, eyefuls of curves, bumps, dimples, smiles, eyes, ears..everything. Now, what makes that difficult to do? Well, difficult when it's a moving target, walking by your door, between you and the sun on the beach, a glimpse in between cars, or other less attractive people. Damm! She's hot! Why won't she just stand still? Augh!

    I don't think the violence is gratuitous here, because it is implied and in the past. What we have left is beauty uninterrupted, exposed (yet not nude) for an eyeful. Notice all the ones that have men looking or with the opportunity to look...That's you! Not the murderer, but the next guy to find her and look,look,look! Yes it's a negative depiction, but fiction, and not promotion, just there to be appreciated for beauty's sake. These are just variations on the Pin-Up or playboy, Maxim, etc. It's art. Enjoy the view, because she's going to get up and either slap your face, or walk away once she sees your wedding ring.

  10. None of them die face down. I wonder why that is... ;)

  11. Not alla dese dames is dead -- certainly not the one being rescued at great risk from the path of that oncoming train!

    The most memorable of all dead dames in pop culture is of course Shirley Eaton's naked golden corpse in the flick Goldfinger." But did Oddjob use a roller or spray-gun so that poor Shirley's character would implausibly die of "skin suffocation"? And how did he avoid leaving a mess?