The strange case of Reginald Leonard Carver

Jasper Bark, a FIFTIES HORROR friend and reader, who is a sophisticated horror writer in his own right, contacted me to share a wonderful discovery!
According to him, he came upon a very special comics find and started a research into the life and history of a previously unknown artist by the name of Reginald Leonard Carver.
Jasper dug up some interesting facts (and even some comic stories) which are right up FIFTIES HORROR’s ally.
So allow me to share what Jasper told me:

R. L. Carver (biography)

Reginald Leonard Carver (D.O.B. unknown) was a comic artist and writer believed to be active from the 50s through to the early 80s. He specialized in horror comics, but is known to have worked in a variety of fields.

Little is known about his early life, though his family were said to have come from rural Louisiana and to have moved to New York in the 40s. Carver began his comics career as an errand boy for the Sonnenfeld Studio, a rival to the Roche–Iger Studio and the only other surviving comic art studio in 1950.

Carver graduated from sweeping floors and sharpening pencils to inking backgrounds and then pencilling and inking his own stories. Colleagues noted a sudden and vast improvement in Caver’s work a couple of years after joining the studio, so sudden and so great that, with his Louisiana heritage, some attributed it to Voodoo. Carver, however, put it down to hard work and continued application.

Sonnenfeld Studios was one of the many casualties of the industry-wide slump that followed the Kefauver hearings and the formation of the Comics Code Authority, but Carver had been working freelance for at least a year by then. With the loss of so many publishers, Carver’s work dried up.

There are many rumors about what Carver did in the sixties. Some people believe him to be the fetish artist who produced work similar to Eric Stanton and signed his name ‘Irreg’. Others have claimed he moved into underground comix. There are somewhat outlandish and entirely unsubstantiated rumors that Carver drew a proto-graphic novel.
A horror comic entitled Tales That Draw You In, similar to Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom, intended for the underground press. The comic was said to be cursed because every publisher who tried to print it either burned down or went out of business.

Because the details of Carver’s life are so maddeningly vague, the rumors surrounding him call for greater and greater suspensions of disbelief. One rumor has it that Carver was the late 60s Bay Area guru and activist known as Doctor Len. Another has him joining a covert government program for psychic espionage. Needless to say, there is no proof to substantiate either of these assertions.

No record of the date of Carver’s death has come to light and he seems to disappear without trace. His career is seldom discussed and he doesn’t even have an entry in the Grand Comics Database.


The only reason R. L. Carver’s work is remembered at all, is because of the horror hosts he created, collectively referred to as the Saints of the Damned. While most horror hosts were trademarks of a specific publisher or publication, it seems Carver drew stories introduced by the Saints of the Damned for a variety of comics and comic publishers and these characters are the principle reason we still know of his work.

There were three Saints of the Damned:

The Hatchet Man – a killer, who is fond of the shadows and large meat cleavers. This host presented his stories as cautionary tales for other would-be killers to make sure they didn’t get caught like the subjects of his stories.

The Child Captor – an aging hag in a fortune teller’s costume with a dislike for young cherubs. This character prolonged her life by feeding on the misery of the children she abducted, her stories featured the exploits of the unfortunate children who fell into her clutches.

The Keeper of the Tome ­– a faded dandy whose distended ribcage is used as a lectern for a living book of forbidden lore. A decadent poet who pursued the legend of a magical tome, the Keeper became the tome’s slave and the forbidden book feasted on the suffering of the victims of the tales it collected.


Three unpublished comic strips signed by R. L. Carver, two dating from the mid-fifties and one from the early seventies were discovered recently by comic buff Jasper Bark.
Jasper was helping the family of an older friend, a comic collector who passed last year, dispose of his friend’s substantial comic collection.
According to Jasper, “Ray, my friend, had a huge four-room attic stuffed to the ceiling with long boxes and lined with shelves. It was like an Aladdin’s cave for comic collectors.” In return for his help selling the collection, Ray’s family let him pick a few choice items for himself.
Among these were a series of unpublished engraver’s proofs that his friend had bought in the 80s. Engraver’s proofs are unbound pages that a printer would run off for the publisher’s approval, prior to making a full print run.

Among them were an issue of Key Publications’ Weird Chills #4 and pages of what may be issue 6 of Stanley Publications reprint mag Chilling, neither comic was ever published.
The two proofs mainly contained reprints from the pre-code era of horror comics, but there were three stories by the enigmatic R. L. Carver that Jasper had never seen before. After some research he was able to verify that these stories were not reprints but original to those unpublished issues.

So, dear readers, whaddaya know?!
Can we maybe see one of these stories???
More to come! Stay tuned!