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EC Comics The Original Horror Books

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During October everyone here at Comicbooked thought it would be fun to talk about some of the more spooky things in the entertainment world and what better topic for a comic book reviewer to talk about than one of the original spooky comic producers, EC Comics.

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EC Comic was founded in 1944 after creators saw a demand for books featuring things other than Superman and other caped crusaders.  EC has had many different titles under their belt; some of the more popular titles were under the SuspenStories label like Crime SuspenStories and Shock SuspenStories, but EC has also had many scary books like The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, and arguably the most famous Tales from the Crypt.

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Because of the time frame in which these books were created they all have a similar feel in artistic style and fit the era well.  EC Comics are the types of books our grandparents remember and shrugged off as mindless entertainment or crusaded against as a source of bad influence.  Of course as time has gone on we in the comic book world have come to realize that some of the older golden and silver age comics are actually masterpieces in their own right and I feel like EC holds up to those standards.  The art is very consistent and heavy with captions and dialog but it all fits in perfectly within the panels.  The people are all reminiscent of the time frame from which the comics were created and the artists really leaned on facial expression to emphasize the feel of the book.

Consistency transcends more than just the art, the writing and the overall feel of all their series are mystery and horror driven.  The feel of Crime and Shock are generally centered on criminal acts that are shocking and harsh like murder but they lean on the art to help tell the story and accentuate the caption and dialog.  The artists match up the feel of caption and dialog and follow a fairly strict pattern, as the stories go on the people have harsher and harsher looks on their faces.  The writing style is fairly simple but again the pattern that they follow is consistent and fun to read.  One of the things I find interesting is the little nuances and differences in the writing/speaking of that particular time frame.  What was normal speak to them is now ancient to us with words and phrases that make me chuckle, like nincompoop, and for me it adds to the appeal of the golden and silver age books.

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As I stated EC Comics has a lot of titles, but because October is the spooky month I thought it was most notable that EC has some of the most famous names in horror comics.  EC started with various different books that eventually morphed into the more famous titles, and Tales from the Crypt is no exception.  Starting as Return from the Grave! and switching other names such as Crime Patrol and The Crypt of Terror, Tales from the Crypt was actually an evolution of horror comics that was not just fun but a blue print for successful writing and creation.  They ran with what worked and scrapped what didn’t and it was that mindset that brought us some timeless stories and iconic characters like the Crypt Keeper.  Anyone in their thirties or older certainly remembers Tales from the Crypt on HBO and the Crypt Keeper brought to life.  The comics were so iconic that they spawned an iconic Television show more than thirty years after their last print.

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I also find it note worth that EC came under fire for some of these books because a lot of the more strictly religious and fundamentalist believed the stories were a cause of juvenile delinquency.  In April and June of 1954 the senate held a subcommittee on juvenile delinquency and targeted comic books as a source for children to learn unruly behavior and take in unsavory ideas.  EC Comics and the crime and horror books they produced were at the center of some of these hearings and ultimately lead to the publishers scrapping the books.  I feel sorry for the poor people that think comic books have anything to do with the erosion of morality while ignoring nearly everything that actually has anything to do with keeping us on the moral high ground.  EC Comics are fun, plain and simple, and as far as crime and horror goes they’re classic.

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This cover was used during the Senate hearings.

I would encourage anyone looking into golden and sliver age comics to read some EC titles, not just Tales from the Crypt, because their all very well done and follow that blue print of success.  EC creators knew what they were doing and they did it well because EC Comics are still relevant some sixty years later.  Longevity alone EC is one of the more respected labels still to this day and their successful blue print of creation can be seen in other aspects entertainment.  Every show like Law and Order or ER owe their success to innovators like the EC crew, they showed that a running theme can be successful as long as the creators hearts were in what they were producing.

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