25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The story of EC Comics really is one of the most intriguing in the lore of comic history. EC's founder, Max Gaines is really the father of the modern comic, having been the first one to devise the idea of printing newspaper comic strip re-prints into a magazine format. Gaines was also co-publisher of All-American Comics, the sister company to National Periodical Publications, AKA DC Comics, which published titles such as All Star Comics, Green Lantern, and The Flash. Gaines was bought out by his partner and eventually formed EC Comics, which then stood for Educational Comics but later would change to Entertaining Comics.
Gaines was killed in a boating accident, leaving his son William Gaines to reluctantly take over the company. Gaines soon changed the focus of the company and began to concentrate on publishing titles with horror, Sci-Fi, war, and suspense themes. Thus, Gaines created a legend. EC had perhaps the finest stable of artists ever assembled in one company that included Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman who also wrote and edited most of the titles, along with other greats such as Johnny Craig, Graham Ingels, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Al Williamson, Bernie Krigstein, George & Marie Severin, Reed Crandall, Basil Wolverton, Joe Orlando, and Frank Frazetta.
EC's horror comics were well ahead of their time and were really the pre-cursor of magazines like Creepy & Eerie. The stories in Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror were often quite gruesome and gory. Because of this, EC became the prime target of Psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham who, in 1954 published Seduction of the Innocent, a book that blamed the violence and horror in comic books for juvenile crime and delinquency. A Congressional investigation resulted in the formation of the Comics Code Authority to censor comic books. Books had to be submitted and receive the stamp of approval and subjects like zombies & vampires were prohibited. While the CCA had no legal authority, most magazine distributors would not carry a comic if it did not have the code stamp. EC was forced to cancel their horror titles and shift it's focus to dramatic titles like "MD" and "Extra!", as well as the humor title Mad which was later changed to magazine format.
Much like it's Crypt Keeper, EC would not stay dead, thanks in large part to zealous fans and the efforts of Russ Cochran and Gemstone publishing that began re-printing the EC Comics in various formats in the 70's with the Complete EC Library, and then actual comics in the 80's and 90's. Among the latest projects are the EC Archives which collects several issues of the original EC comics into gorgeous hardcover editions.
Tales from the Crypt may seem tame by today's standards where blood and gore oozes off the pages, but when these stories were originally published back in the early 1950's, they were well ahead of their time in terms of their subject matter and artwork. While most comic art of the 50's was bland, mass produced house art, EC gave its artists unrivaled creative freedom. It's the reason why those issues are so highly sought after by collectors today.
The stories in Tales From the Crypt rarely deviated from the formula...they almost always ended with a shocking, ironic twist with a character getting their just desserts. Even when following this pattern, the gifted talent always kept things fresh and innovative. Inside these 212 pages you'll find stories featuring werewolves, mad scientists, zombies, animated limbs, ghosts, raving madmen (and women) and a host of other terrors. One of the most ghoulish tales is Johnny Craig's "Midnight Snack" in which a sleep walking man discovers he's been digging up bodies and eating them. This was pretty intense stuff for 1951. This book features the talents of legends Wally Wood, Graham Ingels, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, and colorist Marie Severin.
These editions feature re-mastered color and also include special features such as an interview with Nancy Gaines, the widow of EC Comics founder Bill Gaines. The book lists for $50 but you can definitely find it online much cheaper making it well worth the price. If you've never read EC Comics before it's an experience you must have!
REVIEWED BY TIM JANSON
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This book is amazing in terms of its production value. The book is gigantic in size(I don't remember the exact dimensions, but trust me - this is one huge book). The quality of the hardcover, binding, and glossy paper is of the highest order. It's a really thick book when it comes to length as well. And the comics from that era tended to have more bang for your buck when speaking strictly of the sheer amount of words per panel that accompanied the artwork. Stories, while still told with artwork, relied heavily on more exposition and writing than modern comics. This leads to more actual 'reading' time. Is this a good thing? Well, it can be. But it can also fail to deliver the dynamic experience you get out of a comic book/graphic novel that focuses a little more on visual storytelling. Now, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"(the graphic novel series) is a direct, word for word adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick novel. This is the only series to ever to do this, and having read the first volume, I think it works beautifully. All of the words don't, in any way, detract from the illustrative/pictorial storytelling approach. I feel that in verbal versus visual terms, "Do Androids..." strikes a pretty perfect balance. In fact, I think it could start a new trend in comics; utilizing more prose than is the norm for telling stories. It might not work for every book, but it did for that one. When it comes to this book, however, the results are mixed.
It's not that the writing is bad(though it does feel dated, which in all fairness, should be expected). It isn't great, however, either. Some stories are written very well, and avoid that corny feeling some of the others fall prey to. The first story in the collection is a great example. I loved it. It had everything I expected from a "Tales from the Crypt" story; suspense, horror, and that twist/'snap ending' for which the series is famous. There are other stories here that also meet these requirements. But there are some who fall short, and end up leaving you feeling let-down. I have to say here though, that I am 33 years old, and wasn't around for this series when it was originally published. The only experience I had previously had with "Tales..." was the HBO tv series. I loved that series. But even though I didn't experience this comic book series growing up, I still have always had a kinship with older comics(or comics that have that 50's/60's feel to them; such as Darwyn Cooke's "DC: The New Frontier"). I get a nostalgic feeling when I read these kinds of stories, which I know makes no sense. But I have that feeling nevertheless. So, I'm not completely put-off by the older style of prose/dialogue used in this book(although the use of exclamation points after every single sentence did get a little irritating). I just feel like the sheer volume of writing in each panel sometimes takes away from the artwork. And the fact that much of the writing is TOO MUCH on the cheesy side makes it difficult to feel the fear that I thought these stories were supposed to project. I know they are supposed to have dark humor to them too, but the terror needs to be there as well. And being able to predict the endings to many of the stories doesn't help much either.
The artwork ranges from average(at best) to very good. Given the amount of words per story, I feel like the artistic side of the storytelling, for the most part, is about as good as it could be. Again, I really enjoyed that first story. The writing and artwork gelled really well. This story is probly my favorite in this collection. There are others I like, but I think this one met my expectations the most. I know the artwork in this book is considered by many to be ahead of its time. And in some instances, when compared to other artwork I've seen in comic books from that time period, this is true. There is, however, some pretty mediocre artwork on display here. There really seemed to not be much difference from story to story sometimes. I like variety and uniqueness when it comes to art. And I didn't find much of that here. But maybe I'm subconsciously comparing the artwork here to today's stuff. And that really isn't fair. And as I said earlier, the artists here aren't really given(by the very nature of the writing style) as much freedom to tell the stories in the same visually fresh and distinct ways that today's artists are. Still, the artwork IS interesting and cool in some of the stories. And given what the artistic restrictions the artists had to work with, I guess I can't complain too much.
I am generally pleased with my purchase of this giant tome. I guess if you grew up with these stories, you'll be pretty happy with it. But, if you're really looking for some fun, darkly humorous, and truly creepy short horror stories with truly satisfying twists at the end, and some spectacularly original artwork, then I'd recommend you buy the completely awesome "Creepy Comics Vol. 1" instead. I'm referring to the new series, not the old, classic "Creepy" collections(I've never read any of those, so I can't speak to how good or bad they are). This is an okay book - if you don't mind some wordy cheese and mostly average art with your collection of comic book horror stories. I prefer "Creepy Comics Vol. 1"(from Dark Horse) hands-down.