With his wholesome approach, Jack Kamen stood out amongst the grand-guignol grunge, gritty realism, or futuristic dazzle of his fellow EC cartoonists — but his brilliant editor/writer Al Feldstein found a way to exploit the surface innocence of his style with seemingly nice stories of romance gone horribly wrong, or future fantasies with an unexpectedly brutal twist. And nowhere did Kamen'’s clean-but-lush graphics work better than in the stories he created for EC's science-fiction comics.
The title story, "Zero Hour" (one of three in this book adapted from works by Ray Bradbury), set in a Spielbergian suburban idyll, is particularly well served by Kamen's surface innocence; "A Lesson in Anatomy" works similar magic, with its Mayberry-esque setting veering into alien-invasion terror.
If there was any devil in Kamen, it came out in his loving depiction of the female face and form, and you could see why his hapless heroes were often fatally entranced with them — as in "Punishment Without Crime" (Bradbury again), "He Who Waits!" (a scientist finds an extreme way of rejoining his eight-inch-tall inamorata), and "Miscalculation!" (the lucky recipient of a package from the future literally brews his own harem); even the supercomputer in "Only Human!" proves vulnerable to a beautiful woman's charms.
Zero Hour and Other Stories contains 22 classic EC yarns — plus the usual all-new biographical, historical, and critical essays that have made Fantagraphics' EC Library series the ultimate version of these classics.
Even sixty years after their original release, in a post-Saw-and-Hostel era of explicit horror, EC Comics superstar Graham "Ghastly" Ingels's grisly pages retain the power to shock.
His loving depictions of the endless corruption of flesh and nature made him the go-to guy for stories involving swamps, maniacs, and dismemberment — and all three combined to best effect in one of the standouts of this collection of his stories: "Horror We? How’s Bayou?" — considered the single most spectacularly drawn of all of EC’s horror stories, with a climax that would give body-horror king David Cronenberg nightmares.
Ingels specialized in depicting the unimaginable. If you ever wondered what the vengeful, decaying corpse of an elephant stomping a woman to death would look like, it's in here ("Squash...Anyone?"). Or living rats sewn into the bodies of a tyrannical king and queen ("A Grim Fairy Tale")... or the results of injecting a "poison-pen" letter writer with literal poison and reducing him to, in the words of Al Feldstein's script, a "foul-smelling, oozing pool of putrescence" ("Notes to You!"). One of the two Ray Bradbury adaptations in the book, "There Was an Old Woman" (about a deceased crone who simply refuses to stay dead) provides the closest thing to a note of sweetness that you'll find here — perhaps with the exception of the genuinely romantic "A Little Stranger!" and its loving marriage between a dead vampire and a dead werewolf.
Sucker Bait and Other Stories features 25 classic stories from Tales from the Crypt, Shock SuspenStories, Vault of Horror, and Ingels and his "Old Witch" character's special showcase Haunt of Fear — plus the usual fascinating historical, critical, and biographical material.
The countdown to Zero Hour continues with this first glimpse of an advance copy of the upcoming volume in our EC Comics Library series. Artist Jack Kamen brings Al Feldstein's scripts to life with confident chiaroscuro brushwork in these spine-tingling sci-fi yarns. Mad scientists, creepy aliens, desperate criminals, beautiful women, cigar-chomping government types, apocalypse survivors, sideshow freaks... the classic EC stuff, reproduced in crisp black & white in our handsome, bookshelf-friendly hardcover presentation with scholarly bonus features. Secure your copy by pre-ordering today!
A new volume in our EC Comics Library series beams your way next month: Zero Hour and Other Stories, drawn by Jack Kamen and mostly scripted by Al Feldstein, with 22 pulpy sci-fi & suspense shockers full of Cold War paranoia, barely-suppressed sexual urges, desperation, alien invaders, bioengineering gone wrong, mass extinctions, lovelorn automatons, and man's folly in the face of technology he can't fully understand or control.
In our downloadable excerpt you'll find the haunting title story, adapted from a story by Ray Bradbury, sandwiched between the ultimate self-loathing tale "The Parallel" and the teleportational "Hot-Rod!"
184-page black & white 7.25" x 10.25" hardcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-727-7
Joe Orlando was a mainstay at EC, especially on science fiction, and this collects 23 of his best sci-fi stories. All of them, most scripted by Al Feldstein, serve up classic O. Henry-style endings, such as “I, Robot,” and “Fallen Idol.” The title story is one of EC’s most famous, with its blunt anti-racism message. When it was printed during the era of the Comics Code, publisher Bill Gaines and Feldstein had to fight to keep the story’s final panel “reveal” (and thus its whole point) intact. It was a pyrrhic victory, however, as “Judgment Day” became the last story in the last comic book EC published. This volume also features two of Orlando’s outstanding adaptations of classic Ray Bradbury science-fiction stories: “The Long Year” and “Outcast of the Stars.” Also included are all of EC’s “Adam Link” adaptations, a series which was later adapted for The Outer Limits TV show featuring Leonard Nimoy.
four black & white hardcover volumes in a 7.5" x 10.5" boxed set, 832 pages • $94.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-728-4
A boxed set of our first four books in our acclaimed EC Comics Library, which collects the best comics of the 1950s from the greatest mass market comic book publisher in history. Featured are: Corpse on the Imjin! by Harvey Kurtzman, et al.; Came the Dawn by Wallace “Wally” Wood, Al Feldstein, et al.; 50 Girls 50 by Al Williamson, Al Feldstein, et al.; and 'Tain’t the Meat... It’s the Humanity! by Jack Davis, Al Feldstein, et al. A great gift for Father’s Day or for the genre fiction fan in your life!
"EC Comics' output of crime, horror, and war comics have been reprinted and collected multiple times, but never like in Fantagraphics' new 'EC Comics Library,' which repackages some of the most influential comics ever published in writer/artist-driven volumes, printed in black and white.” – The A.V. Club
"The EC Comics Library collections display the grace of cartooning." – The Chicago Tribune
"Fantagraphics has been inventing unique ways to publish [this] treasure trove of '40s and '50s crime, horror and war comics." – The Toronto Star
"Al Feldstein [was] the mastermind of EC's horror and science fiction comics..." – Time
"All of these books are essential purchases for comics fans… These are the books that best show off how EC took genre stories seriously, striving to create comics that didn’t treat readers as naive or ignorant." – Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times
"It's fitting that Fantagraphics -- long-time champion of the rights and importance of comics creators, and re-issuer important historical comics -- would arrange a publishing line this way. Even though it may not be surprising, it's still a commendable decision. It's also an important development in further establishing comics as art and literature worthy of serious consideration and study.… It presents work by EC’s most important artists, drawing the work from across all EC titles." – Sam Costello, Full-Stop
"...I am not only appreciative...but also very impressed. [The books] are spectacular packages of their featured artist and their stories." – Al Feldstein
Al Feldstein is best known as the main writer/editor of the EC comics line during the first half of the 1950s — and then the editor of Mad Magazine for the first three decades of its existence.
But what many don’t know or remember is that Feldstein was also an accomplished and distinctive cartoonist, whose comics (which he both wrote and drew, a relative rarity in those days) adorned the pages of many of those selfsame EC comics. His powerfully composed, meticulously inked pages, often featuring grotesque creatures or scenes of ghastly destruction (and some of the greatest stiffly handsome/beautiful specimens of 1950s humanity ever put to paper), were a vital part of the allure of these classic comics.
Feldstein's contributions to the first year and a half of EC’s two SF titles, Weird Science and Weird Fantasy — comprising 16 classic O. Henry-style shock-ending stories with such evocative, vintage title as "'Things' From Outer Space." "The Flying Saucer Invasion," "Spawn of Venus," "Destruction of the Earth," and "Am I Man or Machine?" — are collected in their integrity in this volume, along with a handful of bonus stories drawn by a few of Feldstein's oft-overlooked collaborators, including Graham Ingels, George Roussos, George Olesen, Max Elkan and Sid Check. This volume also boasts a new interview with Feldstein about his years at EC, focusing in particular in his work on these science fiction titles that were the company’s pride and joy (and were killed a few years later by the Comics Code).
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
108-page black & white 8.25" x 10.75" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-625-6
"It's an engaging collection of vignettes full of magical realism and compelling characters...evoke[s] comparisons to the short fiction of Jorge Luis Borges or, in the case of the science fiction-styled entries, Ray Bradbury." -Publishers Weekly
176-page full-color 12" x 6.25" hardcover • $29.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-612-6
"Fantagraphics has reprinted the full run of Gahan Wilson's Sunday Comics with their customary attention to detail and gorgeous reproduction... These comics crack me up, especially the weeks that are seemingly endless variations on different themes." -Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
216-page black & white 7.25" x 10.25" hardcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-659-1
"Feldstein's art has a delightful amount of expressiveness to it and a remarkable amount of subtle beauty - if a word like beauty can be applied to comics that feature strange blob aliens from outer space." -Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
The stories Al Feldstein wrote and drew for EC Comics's science fiction titles captured precisely the popular science fiction zeitgeist of mid-20th century America.
Feldstein applied a flat-out pulp sensibility to his treatment of such themes as atomic war ("Child of Tomorrow"), defense against nuclear weapons ("The Last City"), the arms race ("Destruction of the Earth!"), the cruel perils of space travel ("Space-Warp!"), and (of course!), horrifying alien monsters ("Spawn of Venus," "Seeds of Jupiter," "It Was the Monster from the Fourth Dimension").
But he also explored notions of personal identity ("Am I Man or Machine?"), and had a little fun with time travel ("Made of the Future," "The Origin of the Species") and mass hysteria ("Panic!") along the way.
Feldstein's full-throttle scripts and powerfully composed, meticulously inked artwork come at you with a raw, blunt force — a quirky directness which is a vital part of the allure of these classic tales, presented together here for the first time.
Also, in a candid new interview done especially for this book, Feldstein speaks out about his science fiction days.
As a bonus, you'll find even more Feldstein stories drawn by a few of his oft-overlooked collaborators.
So strap into your spacesuit, power up your time machine, and take a look inside...