Lot 69 of 350:
DARK MYSTERIES #19 * CGC 4.0 * Rare PRINTING ERROR Variant * Printer Pulls a Boner  

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My max bid
Current absentee: $850 (3 bids)

$1,500 - $2,500


DARK MYSTERIES No. 19 * Printing Error Variant



Story, aka Master/Merit [Indicia: Master Comics, Inc.]

August, 1954


CGC certified: VG (4.0). Off-white/white pages. CGC notes: "Interior cover manufactured with interior cover of Cowboy Western #50 printed upside-down." RARE PRINTING ERROR VARIANT. Cover: Hy Fleishman. Art: Hy Fleishman? Jon D'Agostino, A.C. Hollingsworth. Overstreet says: "Injury-to-eye panel; EC swipe; torture cover." GPAnalysis: A 4.0 sold for $1900 in April 2021. No data can be located for this printing error variant.

Hy Fleishman's cover, a masterpiece of depravity, depicts "ancient corpses" (aka skeletons) giving their helpless victim a serious case of spine-roll on "THE RACK OF TERROR."

Speaking of skeletons, it looks like the printer pulled a "boner" on this one. The inside covers of this mag are printed upside-down, and the indicia lists a different title and publisher altogether: Charlton's Cowboy Western #50 (July-August, 1954). 

Before submitting this mag to CGC, we photographed the inside covers and facing pages in high-resolution, so that interested parties can see exactly what's going on beneath the slab. We scrutinized the covers under magnification, and enlisted opinions from knowledgeable collectors, dealers, conservators, and specialists on midcentury printing techniques. Some of the folks we spoke with were effusive in their enthusiasm for this oddity, while others were adamant in their skepticism. CGC has given this comic a positive verdict, which PBA supports, but we encourage you to consider the facts, scrutinize the hi-res photos on our website, and make your own determination.

First, let's consider the facts supporting this misprint's authenticity:

  • The texture and weight of the cover stock matches that of the other issues of Dark Mysteries offered in this sale (we're offering a near-complete run of the title). The printing quality is that of an old comic printed on a high-speed four-color press, with Ben-Day color dots visible under magnification on the front cover, and a fine black-and-white dot matrix visible on the back cover and inside covers. There is no moiré pattern, as one would expect from a copy photo-mechanically reproduced from the original. This shows that the cover is period authentic and not a later replica.
  • The consignor is a collector of good reputation who has been actively collecting for decades. In his own words: "This book has been in my collection for many years. I am not sure that 20+ years ago it was possible to create such a high quality facsimile cover. I don't know if the technology existed. If it was possible it seems like it would have been a pretty expensive undertaking. It was not uncommon to see color Xerox cover replacements but those were not nearly of this quality."
  • Charlton, whose imprint is listed in the indicia, is known to have published another publisher's comics on its presses on at least one other occasion: EC's Bill Gaines outsourced the printing of Impact #1 (March-April, 1955) to Charlton in order to cut costs. The quality control was so poor Gaines had most of the print run pulped, and reprinted the mag using his usual printer (see the listing for the Charlton variant of Impact #1 in PBA's Dec. 10, 2020 catalogue for details).
  • The publication dates of Dark Mysteries #19 (August 1954) and Cowboy Western #50 (July-August 1954) correspond, indicating that these books would have rolled off the presses at roughly the same time.
  • There's a hint of toning to the inside covers indicating lengthy proximity with the facing newsprint pages, and the heavy creasing to the bottom spine area of the covers matches identical creasing to the pages throughout the book. This suggests that the cover and pages are not a marriage, unless the damage was sustained after the pages and cover were married.
  • The staples are age-toned, with a slight kiss of rust, and the prongs appear machine-folded, rather than hand-folded (books with married covers can often be detected by improperly folded staple prongs, as it's nearly impossible to hand-fold staple prongs properly). There are staple impressions to the facing paper, with slight amounts of color transfer from the age toning, which suggests that the staples and pages have been cohabitating for decades.

Now, let's consider the skeptics' arguments:

  • Comics with right-side-up covers and upside-down pages are a relatively common printing error. Comics with right-side-up front covers and pages but upside-down inside covers are, essentially, unknown. A search of internet and print references finds no other examples of such a printing glitch.
  • The inside covers are significantly brighter than the facing pages. Typically, age-relating toning to first and last pages is matched by equal or similar toning to the inside covers. This discrepancy may support skeptics' clamis that the cover was married to a coverless comic.

If the cover was married to a coverless copy, then where did the cover itself come from? Matthew Gore, publisher of the horror-zine "Lurid Little Nightmare Makers," has a strong background in historical paper conservation. He surmises that the cover may have been printer's scrap rescued from the discard pile and married to a coverless copy: "The cover might have been a proof that got screwed up... As to who would have access to printers' scrap, anyone at the printing plant back in the day or anyone looking through the dumpster. Again a guess, I'd say some time after it was printed some press monkey saw an opportunity to make a few dimes and stitched together scrap into complete, if incorrect, comic books."

Another curious piece of evidence is the bold rubberstamped "W" on the cover. Magnification confirms it's a genuine hand-applied stamp. Could it be a distributor's mark? If so, that would pretty much prove that this comic was shipped by a distributor for commercial sale. However, the large size and odd placement of the stamp suggest that it's a second-hand dealer's rubberstamp rather than a distributor's stamp, possibly from a used book or magazine vendor in the 1950s or '60s.

eBay seller "Rhinecrosser" sells modern replica covers of classic comics. He has extensive knowledge of the ins and outs of midcentury printing and distribution, so we sought his opinion: "I did some digging and the only correlation between the two publishers is the city of Derby, Connecticut [Story-Master-Merit was headquartered in NYC, but according to the indicia of a normally-printed copy of DM 19, the company maintained some sort of business presence in Derby, CT]. Charlton was headquartered there for many years and they were unlike most publishers in that they did everything under one roof: creation, printing, and distribution. My best theory is that Charlton was contracted to print Master Comics [aka Story Comics] in 1954. Master was winding down their publications in '54-'55, so it’s possible they would use Charlton for printing and distribution. It’s possible that if Charlton was printing for Master, this copy was at the very front of the print run either for Cowboy Western or Dark Mysteries. My guess is that whoever was in charge of the printing plates messed up and forgot to change out the interior cover plate. I would assume they printed several of these, and when they caught the error, most of those copies would have been destroyed. If this is an actual error, it may be nearly a one-of-a-kind."

TL;DR: PBA's verdict is that the cover is a genuine misprint, possibly married to a coverless copy, but more likely publisher-bound and distributed. CGC's verdict is that the cover is a genuine misprint, publisher-bound and distributed, and not a marriage. Our advice to the buyer: Crack the slab so you can wow your chums with this obscure and possibly unique printer's gaffe — it's a near-cinch you'll never see another.


Consignments welcome for PBA's Fall 2022 Comic Book sale. Pre-Code Horror, Golden Age and Silver Age comics, original art, vintage comic-related photos and ephemera sought. Send inquiries to [email protected].

A limited edition of 100 softcover and 6 hardcover catalogues are available. 140 pages, fully illustrated. Fun reference, great keepsake. Softcovers $40, dust-jacketed hardcover with limitation plate $200. To order, contact [email protected].


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