Fantagraphics Books President and Co-Publisher Gary Groth announced today at Comic-Con International that it has entered into a publishing agreement with William M. Gaines Agent, Inc. to publish the EC Comics Library, beginning in Summer 2012. The announcement teams two of the most storied comics publishers in history and aims to reintroduce the timeless work of EC to contemporary readers.
Fantagraphics will re-package the EC Comics (with the exception of MAD, which is now owned by DC Comics/Time Warner) in a series of handsome hardcovers devoted to specific artists and writers. While virtually all previous EC collections have been published by comic book title, Fantagraphics will collect the comics by artist, allowing fans to finally own single-volume tomes collecting the work of their favorite creators.
“It pleases me greatly to be in partnership with such an influential company as Fantagraphics,” said Cathy Gaines Mifsud, President of William M. Gaines Agent, Inc. “It’s a pleasure to be working with a company that shares similar values, yet retains unique and distinct creativity. I trust them fully to carry on the iconic EC brand.”
Entertaining Comics may have been the greatest mainstream publisher in comics history, with an attention to quality and consistency that has never been rivaled. Under the stewardship of William Gaines (who took over the company from his father, Max Gaines, in 1947), EC’s “New Trend” line employed a Murderer’s Row of writers and artists including Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein, Reed Crandall, Will Elder, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, Bernard Krigstein, John Severin, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, and many others.
“EC was the most consistently literate and quality-minded publisher in the history of mainstream comics,” said Groth. “Editors Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman were aware that comics was an artistic medium in a way that few editors did, and publisher Bill Gaines was unique in taking a hands-on approach to his comics line, choosing his editors wisely, giving them such editorial freedom and latitude, and taking such personal pride — and responsibility — in his comics. This was simply unheard of in mainstream comics; if more publishers had had Gaines’ integrity, the history of comics would’ve been vastly different.”
Like most of its contemporaries, EC specialized in genre fiction, specifically horror, crime, science-fiction, war, and satire, with several titles that seeped into the public consciousness long after their demise, including Tales from the Crypt, Two-Fisted Tales, Weird Science, and of course MAD. Unlike most of its contemporaries, Gaines and his staff took great pride in crafting socially aware works that transcended their genres. “At a time when comics were consid- ered sub-literate junk by the reading public, Gaines and the EC creators were impressing people like Ray Bradbury with the aesthetic possibilities of the medium. That was no mean feat,” Groth added.
The first four books in the series will be:
• “Corpse on the Imjin” and Other Stories by Harvey Kurtzman. This will reprint all the war stories Kurtzman wrote and drew himself in Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, including all 23 of his covers — each a masterpiece in its own right. This volume will also include all the war stories that Kurtzman wrote and laid out but were drawn by artists who weren’t regularly featured in his war books: Gene Colan, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Dave Berg, Ric Estrada, Russ Heath, and others. (The regulars were Jack Davis, John Severin, Wally Wood, and George Evans, each of whom will later be the subject of their own war comics collections). Kurtzman’s war comics are still considered to be the gold standard for the genre, with a devotion not only to historical accuracy but also to resisting any impulse to glamorize wartime; a WWII veteran himself, Kurtzman’s humanistic approach was in stark contrast to the simp- leminded, jingoistic efforts of EC’s rival publishers, and paved the way for other popular media to depict the true face of war.
• “Came the Dawn” and Other Stories by Wally Wood: Though often remembered for his science-fiction work, Wood’s heavy, noirish brushstrokes were perfectly suited for EC’s rough-hewn suspense stories in (the appropriately titled) Shock SuspenStories and this volume will collect them all for the first time.
• Jack Davis’s horror stories (exact title t.b.a.): Jack Davis’s gift for caricature has made him an icon in the advertis- ing world and helped define MAD magazine, but he was also one of the most versatile cartoonists of his generation; after “Ghastly” Graham Ingels, Davis was EC’s most prolific horror artist, appearing in all three of EC’s horror titles — Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, and Crypt of Terror. This will collect the entirety of Davis’s horror work, all of which was written by Al Feldstein.
• Al Williamson’s science-fiction stories (exact title t.b.a.): EC published two SF comics — Weird Fantasy and Weird Science — and Williamson was one of the stars, with an illustrative style that carried on the tradition of the great adventure comic strips like Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. This volume will compile all 174 pages of Williamson’s SF stories.
“EC featured many of the best artists working at the time — innovators like Kurtzman, Bernie Krigstein, and Johnny Craig, illustrators like Al Williamson and Jack Kamen, and renaissance cartoonists like Wally Wood, Will Elder, and Jack Davis,” said Groth. “Many of these artists did the best work of their careers for EC, and that is directly attributable to the creative environment Gaines created.”
Fantagraphics will be publishing four EC collections a year, beginning in Summer 2012.
“Came the Dawn” and Other Stories By: Wally Wood, Al Feldstein, et al. Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 978-1-60699-546-4 Black & White • Hardcover • 7” x 10”
“Corpse on the Imjin” and Other Stories By: Harvey Kurtzman et al. Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 978-1-60699-545-7 Black & White / Color • Hardcover • 7” x 10”
• Review: "Gilbert Hernandez is one of the great craftsmen of modern comics... Hernandez’s new Fritz book, Love from the Shadows, is as bracing as a slug of bottom-shelf rotgut.... Hernandez artfully approximates the broad, thrilling badness of late-night movies and their inept special effects, and uses it as an excuse to show off some of his gifts: spacious compositions built around texture as well as forms, pauses heavy with foreboding, a sense of body language and facial expressions so acute that we can recognize both the story’s characters and the 'actors' playing those characters." – Douglas Wolk, The New York Times Sunday Book Review
• Review: At CBR's Comics Should Be Good, Sonia Harris looks at Gilbert Hernandez's trilogy (so far) of "Fritz Films" graphic novels: "Filled with the longing of unfulfilled desire and lost innocence, these stories are the kind of schlock film that is accidentally life-alteringly great and I suspect Hernandez might have missed his calling as a screenwriter in the early ’60′s… That’s the thing, this kind of movie doesn’t really happen any more which is why Hernandez’ use of the comic book medium to tell Fritz’ movie roles is particularly delightful."
• Review: "In her debut release, Leslie Stein proves that comic strips are so much more than those old Cathy cartoons you'd read around the kitchen table on Sunday mornings. Instead, this semi-autobiographical tale,Eye of the Majestic Creature, follows protagonist Larrybear on a trippy journey throughout Chicago, San Francisco, and NYC in hopes of figuring out her life.... Drawn in a totally out-there Surrealist style, this quick page-turner is proof that while you might be too old for Garfield and Friends, there are cartoons you can still relate to...and love." – Liza Darwin, Nylon
• Review: "...Eye of the Majestic Creature... blend[s] autobiographical self-discovery, surreal free-association, philosophical ruminations, nostalgic reminiscences and devastatingly dry wit to describe life filtered through a seductive meta-fictional interior landscape. This lady laconically tans under vastly different suns and the results are enchanting and entrancing." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "There’s precious little around for kids and especially girl readers in American funnybooks... so this intriguing and wildly imaginative series [Yeah!] which seamlessly combined fantasy, science fiction, fashion, pop and school cultures in a wild blend of frantic fun and thoroughly deserves another chance to shine." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Commentary: The anecdote and photo of a little girl and Yeah! that lead off Sonia Harris's latest "Committed" column for Comic Book Resources' Comics Should Be Good are beyond adorable
• Review: "Alex’s days are punctuated by alcoholic constipation, artist’s block, trashing his flat and avoiding childhood friends and his favourite teacher from high school, now a raving dipsomaniac surrounded by cats. He is also tormented by a rather good expressionist painting he apparently produced during a bender, and impure thoughts about his Asian neighbour and a beautiful former classmate... In short, a very good but not at all cheerful study of the consequences of achieving your ambitions when you’re a self-loathing dog-headed cartoonist." – Grant Buist, The Name of this Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell and his cohort Colin Upton talk with fellow British Columbian Mark Kalesniko about his new graphic novel Freeway
• Commentary: Our own Eric Reynolds has become ESPN.com's go-to expert on baseball cartooning — the article also discusses Jack Davis's work for Topps
• Buy Dame Darcy's mermaid print to help send her to the annual Mermaid Parade on her 40th birthday! She's also now an ordained Wiccan minister! Good luck and congrats! All this and more in her latest blog update
• Review: "Like Saturday morning cartoons, Yeah! was about a kind of science fiction that embraced weirdo aliens rather than science fact. From alt-comix came characters that were outcasts, lived on the margins of society, or had outsider personalities. Instead of being offensive and edgy, this unusual comic book series was imaginative and inventive. ...[I]t was an all-ages gem, and I’m glad that it's back..." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "How does Peter Bagge stay so good after all these years? Hate Annual #9 was as good as any of the previous issues of Hate (possibly better?). I guess that's why he's one of the all time greats. He just stays good year after year, issue after issue. This latest offering involving Buddy and his wife Lisa and son Harold visiting Lisa's parents in Seattle was hilarious, awkward and sublime! It's a hell of an issue and I want to see what happens next..." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "I was not familiar with Leila Marzocchi's work before [Niger #3], so the subtlety and nuance of her scratchy dark art entranced me right away. It's spooky yet tame enough to remind me of top notch children's book style illustration.... The art is so lovely [that] even when I wasn't sure what exactly was happening story wise, the work on the page was enough to keep me involved." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Coming Attractions: In the latest "Graphic Novel Prepub Alert" from Library Journal, Martha Cornog spotlights a bunch of our upcoming Fall releases:
Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture: A Career Retrospective: "Boomer veterans of Mad magazine will remember Davis's exuberant caricatures, windows into the 1950s and 1960s. Davis also worked extensively on horror, war, and Western titles for EC Comics and other publishers, and his mangier version of the Crypt-Keeper became the character's portrait. Known as a super-fast worker, Davis turned out a huge amount of work, and this collection brings together a variety of comics and commercial art from every stage of his checkered career."
Oil & Water by Steve Duin & Shannon Wheeler: "In 2010, Duin and Wheeler joined a group from Oregon touring the environs of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. And, it appears, theirs is the first graphic novel reportage on the devastating BP blowout.... You will buy this."
The Hidden by Richard Sala: "Classic setup: a bunch of strangers stranded in a diner during a snowstorm, with a killer on the loose outside. And just for extra fun, maybe a global catastrophe in the works.... Clean line color drawings with a tongue-in-cheek feel."
Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010 by Michael Kupperman: "The recent publication of Twain's real autobiography sets the stage for mocking the master of mockery, who surely would have chortled at the homage. This Twain tells of hunting the Yeti ('Come out here and face me, you snow-covered coward!'), meeting the Six Million Dollar Man, having a love affair with Mamie Eisenhower ('Boy oh boy, this lady was one hot dish'), and accidentally becoming involved in X-rated films. Proceed at your own risk!"
• Plug: "From his musings on Hamlet to his thoughts on the TV show Married..with Children, Alexander Theroux covers pop culture, literature, and high art while he takes us on a rambling tour of this tiny Baltic country. Theroux examines Estonia’s language and customs in order to get a larger view of a land which holds a population of less than two million. As he states, 'Seeing Estonia — disrobing her — was my focus.'" – Kathleen Massara, Flavorpill "10 Most Anticipated Summer Reads"
Ragged Claws Network posted this scan of an original Jack Davis page from the 3rd issue of Humbug — unfortunately we didn't have this original when we were compiling our complete Humbug collection, but we have a scan on file now and it's certainly a candidate for inclusion in the Jack Davis art book we're putting out late this summer, Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture!
• Review: "Like WWI itself, it's difficult to summarize It Was the War of the Trenches — each moment and story is precise and poignant and devastating, and they add up to far more than the sum of their parts, but they add up as a mosaic does, with each shard forming a point of color that only makes sense from a distant perspective. [...] Tardi is one of the giants of world comics, and this is one of his strongest works, a rare combination of ability, ambition, and subject. ...It Was the War of the Trenches is immediate and moving and deeply involving from page to page, showing once again the power that comics has to both illuminate dark corners of the world and to turn them into a compelling narrative accessible to nearly everyone." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Feature: At The SF Site: Nexus Graphica, Rick Klaw dubs Jacques Tardi "the Martin Scorsese of European comics" and runs down his reactions to all of our recent English reprints of Tardi's work: "Before my discovery of the French artist Jacques Tardi, how did I enjoy comics?"
• Interview (Audio): Guests Jean Schulz, Nat Gertler (The Peanuts Collection) and Kevin Fagan (Drabble) discuss the legacy of Charles M. Schulz on yesterday's episode of Southern California Public Radio's AirTalk (via Spurge)