on December 21, 2006
A big "thanks for nothing" to the reviewers who are actually giving away the shock endings to these great little gems in their reviews! So stop, already, Tim Janson and "friends," there are a lot of people under 60 who didn't read these comics in 1953, and we'd like to enjoy the fun of discovering the twisted E.C. endings for ourselves, if you don't mind!
on February 3, 2007
Just as I started thinking about the old E.C. titles and how I'd like to get my hands on some of the reprints that came out in the 1980's, I found out they were getting reprinted in hardcover trades! I was young when I first started reading the E.C. books, picking up the single-issue reprints of whatever was available at the supermarket or drug store. All of those copies were thrown away as a punishment nearly 20 years ago, along with all the other comics I had. I started reading comics again in 2001, and lately I've been dying to read these old stories from the 1950's that I connected with so heavily, forty years after they had originally been collected.
I've picked up this title and Weird Science, so far, and they both deliver even more than I thought they would. The original art was used in the re-printings. The lines and shading of the reprinted art is just as crisp as it may have been in the 1950's, perhaps crisper. The lettering is also amazingly clean and it's a blast to read Al Feldstein's thoughts on how each artist had his own distinctive style of bubbling/boxing in the letters that matched his artistic style.
And the colors, well I can't say that I ever laid eyes on the original printings, but I would imagine that the re-colorings are at on par. Even if they are not, they are certainly more defined than in the reprinted issues from the 1980's. Those issues are what I have to go on, and the reprinting in the hardcover surpasses them in quality--I managed to find a couple of back issues of the "Tales From the Crypt" and "Vault of Horror" reprints so I am able to compare them. Plus, everything is printed on high-quality, glossy paper. It's really a great job. And the writing is, of course, unchanged. It's amazing how Feldstein had so many stories in his head, churning out four stories per issue plus one or two one-page short stories. They hit just as hard as ever, with the "preachies" standing out like lightening blasts. To have read these fiery anti-bigotry stories in 1952 must have been a shock, indeed. All the letters pages and E.C. ads are also faithfully included.
Only downsides? It sells for $50 in the comic shops. Personally, I think it is worth the price considering just how well these stories are reprinted and the fact that it just gets harder and harder to find any trace of the older reprints, including the old hardcover reprints. The price just puts the younger readers out of range, though, kids will have to rely on their parents to fork over the cash if they want to be shocked and in suspense. The other downside is that it seems the volumes are going to be coming out just as slowly as every other comic book company puts out their trades, and that Weird Fantasy (the stories I am most interested in!) isn't scheduled until lord only knows when. They are putting out just one new volume every two months! Maybe if they sell fast and well, the release schedule will be quickened....hint, hint...BUY THEM!
To further answer the questions from die-hard fans about how faithful the re-colorings are, here is a quote from Russ Cochran, in charge of the project, from an interview by Jim Patterson for "Tales of Wonder" (Google it):
"RC: I remember when I saw the Nostalgia Press book Horror Comics Of The '50s. I was very disappointed in the color. It was garish and so strong in some cases that it tended to obliterate the artwork. The original ECs were printed on the cheapest grade of paper which absorbed the colors and kept them from being too garish. When these same color separations were printed on a better quality paper, the color was too strong. This has been a problem in virtually all the Archives projects from DC and Marvel and I wanted the EC Archives to solve that problem, and I believe it has. First of all, the earliest EC Comics from 1950 were not colored by Marie Severin. They were colored by employees of Chemical Color Engraving and this coloring left a lot to be desired. Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein were very unhappy with the coloring from Chemical. Toward the end of the first year John Severin mentioned that his sister, Marie Severin, could do a better job of coloring all the ECs. She was hired and subsequently colored all the EC product. Every page in the EC Archives has been re-colored using modern computer technology to include fades and blends, modeling on faces and clothing, and other modern techniques to achieve a more pleasing color page. But in doing this Marie's original color schemes and style were followed."
on February 1, 2007
For those of you like me who have already bought the prevoius black and white reprints by Russ Cochran before and are wondering whether these new and recolored reprints are worth your hard earned money, the answer is YES! As much as these comics have attained cult status it's great to finally have them under new hardcovers, printed on heavy-stock glossy paper and in COLOR.
Eventhough the coloring has been done on a computer, it maintains Marie Severin's original color schemes, which still gives it that retro-look (the male characters wearing cyan-blue and sometimes orange suits, phew). The printing never looked this good and though the notes by Cochran tries to give some historical context to the stories it isn't as good as the notes for the previous black and white reprints, but this is a minor quibble.
About the only negative thing I can think of from these reprints, is that it'll take me another fifteen years to get the whole collection once again (and depending on your age, some will never get to see the whole series once the reprinting is finished).
For those of you who are only into superheroes, forget it, this isn't for you, but if you are into well written and drawn stories this is way ahead of anything Marvel or DC could ever think about.
A really warm welcome to see and read once again the (in-)famous EC comics. Great job by everyone involved.
on January 26, 2015
I have to confess: I've avoided the EC Archives for some time. The build-up of the reviews, I feared, had heightened expectations, and the cover prices of these archives often outstrip greatly archives from, e.g., Marvel or DC (I know - quality determines price and all that - the laws of economics don't apply to Amazon). Fearing disappointment from what might have been a bunch of fanboy navel-gazing, I put off purchasing these books.
However, recently, I found a copy of this book for a very reasonable price (over 50% off the cover), and took a chance with both it and Crime Suspenstories, voulme 1. And I'm happy I did. I don't like this volume as much as the latter (as I'll explain below), but it was well-worth the price of admission.
Apparently, at the insistence of fans, EC comics (the publisher of the famous Tales from the Crypt, as well as many other fine lines) created a sort of potpourri comic to appeal to fans across multiple genres. Rather than a single issue being devoted to crime, or horror, etc., Shock Suspenstories would have 4 stories across 4 different genres. Initially, those genres were crime, war, horror and sci-fi, although war slowly morphed into the eponymous Shock Suspenstory, which focused more on morality issues facing the America of the 50s. While I don't know of their acclaim at the time of their drawing, the artists of this comic are now regarded highly among comic artists of any day and age. There are 6 total issues in this volume, comprising 24 total stories of 6-8 pages.
First, a note on the physicals - they are absolutely, positively astounding. Purists may poo poo the modern coloring techniques, as is their right. However, for a reader whose first exposure to these gems is through this book, you absolutely cannot go wrong. It looks astounding.
Before purchasing this volume, I knew that the war stories would morph over time, and initially, I was happy about that. I have never been a fan of war stories, despite numerous efforts to get interested. Apparently, I looked in the wrong place. The single war story here (a second story tangentially concerns Korea, but is really a morality play) is fantastic, with a twist that I literally did not see coming.
The crime and horror comics could probably double as one another in a pinch. While there are a couple of horror tales that are horror tales alone, most could jump back and forth easily (a fact not lost on EC, BTW - their Crime Suspenstories volume often has Haunt of Fear titles). And I love both of them. Here, the stories and their twists are more predictable, but still perfectly sound. I particularly liked the opening tale of the volume, which would have made a great Tales from the Crypt episode itself.
The morality tales which take the place of the war tales are solid. Nothing spectacular, and at times, pretty unbelievable (I found the story about the parade particularly hard to believe), but still good to read. Each story ends with a note from the author, which is not ambiguous in the least regarding his feelings. I thoroughly enjoyed the story attached to the cover of the volume, BTW.
The lone deduction I give because of the Sci-Fi stories. These are, without a doubt, inferior to the other offerings. Often, they read like a lousier version of the "pew!pew!" raygun pulp sci-fi that has been all but forgotten. Tastes vary, I'll grant, but with one or two exceptions, I found these stories were better simply as a means of looking at the pictures.
Thus, this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed 19 or 20 of the 24 stories present, which garners a natural 4-star rating. Enjoy!
on April 26, 2013
Any die-hard comic fan knows what EC comics means. The Entertaining Comics group published some of the best comics magazine work of the late forties and early fifties. They had the best artists of the time, some of whom went on to create icons of popular culture. Their comics didn't feature superheroes (they were not all that popular after World War 2) but stories of human drama and seething passions is suburbia. Some where couched in horror; some in Sci Fi; some in tales of war and crime. Shock Suspense Stories was a title that borught all that together. It features four stories per issue and some might be crime, horror, or war and it alternated from one issue to the other. Volume one reprints the first six issues of Shock and the reproductions here are quite good. They are published in a 9 X 12 oversized format that fits the 50's comics proportions better that a modern us comic format. The only thing that is not so faithful is the coloring. In a way its better than the original since the original coloring is done with 50's printing technology (and cheap printing at that). But I've seen original EC comics and in some ways they were better. The black line is crisper in the original and you preserve the coloring style. The colorist after all was preparing art for printing and knew what to do to make the most of it. These reproduction look a little too flat and "plastic" some times. Also worth noting is one shortcoming of the original material. The writing while mostly good, is sometimes repetitive. Al Feldstein was the most prolific writer fro EC and had a tendency to re-hash the same idea with slightly different "twist" endings many involving reanimated corpses back for revenge. He also tended to over-write narrative. Some panels are positively drowned in word balloons and caption and the artwork suffers for it. Also in some cases the story needs to be wrapped up by a dense explanatory paragraph at the end due to a lack of space. (if you look at Two-Fisted Tales, another EC comic but mostly written by Harvey Kurtzman, you don't see this) A comic works best when art and words work together and neither drowns the other out, but you do have to appreciate that what EC was doing was laying the groundwork for the art of comics. EC comics are also fun to read.
on August 17, 2009
In the early 50s, William Gaines and Al Feldstein put out a line of comic books that were such high quality in both art and writing that nothing else could touch it. At a time when the popularity of costumed hero comic books was waning, EC set the new standard and spawned a slew of imitators. Unfortunately, EC drew the attention of Frederic Wertham who singled out EC more than any other comic company as the prime offender in a group of comic book creators that Wertham claimed were conspiring to corrupt the children of the 50s. This led to the creation of the Comics Code, which effectively handicapped EC and put an end to the deliciously gory and outrageous, even thought provoking comic books.
One of these EC titles was Shock SuspenStories. Volume 1 reprints the first 6 issues cover to cover in their entirety. Stories range anywhere from tales of scheming and murderous wives and husbands, to startling tales of racism and anti Semitism. The stunning cover art and interiors show off the work of ECs dream team of talent. Works of writers like Bradbury, and the art of people like Wally Wood, Jack Kamen, Joe Orlando, Jack Davis and Al Feldstein. Volume 1 also contains issue number 4, which contains material that Wertham cited as objectionable in his book "Seduction of the Innocent", his expose on the dangers of comics on children. There is also an entertaining foreword by Steven Spielberg.
Gemstone Publishing has set the standard with EC Archives. The color and art is wonderfully reproduced and very lush and attractive. These aren't just reprinted comic books. This is comic book history. All of the EC Archives are extremely entertaining. However...Shock SuspenStories were always my favorite of the bunch. They were more diverse in theme. Stories of War, Horror, Crime, Racism....this series had it all.
As someone who has been a comic book collector for 35 years, I have to say this is well worth the money and I must highly recommend it. It's fun, outrageous, over the top, innovative, beautiful and just plain entertaining. All of the EC archives would be a wonderful addition to any comic fans collection. But especially Shock SuspenStories.
on April 22, 2007
The current age of the comic book and graphic novel has seen so much classic work with technical and artistic virtuosity that could only have been dreamed of in 1950. What they had back then, and is so beautifully reflected in this reprint, was a deep desire to tell a story unlike anything that had been seen or read before. I won't spoil any of the material for you, but I must say the level and depth of social ills dealt with in these stories is far more unflinching than even the current crop of verite and dark side of life style of writers and artists provide. The art in some cases, as seen in the work of Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando and Jack Kamen, is precise and stripped down in order to serve one cause- the furtherance of the story being presented. This book has beautiful production values, a great paper stock, some interesting historical tidbits, letters pages, pristine restoration and enhancement of the originals. The title says it all folks, these truly do shock and also manage to drum up a bit of suspense at the same time. A must buy, as are all the EC Archives books now out. I remember these comics in the hands of my older cousins and neighbors, I even inherited shopping bags full of old EC books from them as they all entered High School, went to College or left for the miltary. Moldy and a bit raggedy in some cases, they were nonetheless fascinating. But these more mature themed works could not escape the all seeing eye of my Mom, and in a heartbeat they went out in the garbage. A shame, because the books, as you will see with all edtions in this series, are anything but garbage.
on December 16, 2006
If you've never read an EC story, but have always been curious, this is the best place to start (unless you have unlimited amounts of money to invest in buying up the back issues).
This archive edition is of a title that was a sampler of EC's (in)famous stories -- stories that influenced the likes of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, George Romero, George Lucas and John Carpenter. In this volume you've got crime, horror, social commentary (some of it very hard hitting), war and science fiction. The stories hold up even today and show how EC helped to shape modern horror.
EC holds a special place in the history of horror, comics, and censorship. This archive volume shows you why. EC was unafraid of tackling subjects like racism and blind patriotism (no pun intended -- you'll get it later) and mix it up with unapologetic horror where a murdering husband ends up eating his wife, or a sci-fi tale where people are skinned and worn like fur.
Affordable and beautiful, these books deserve a place in the library of any horror and comic fan. If you don't have this one already, get it today.
on August 29, 2015
I read these as a boy , not in hard cover . but I am so happy with this I am a little disappointed in the fast production of this hard cover no real binding just glued which makes this a fragile book , but if you are careful and slow it makes for beautiful reading.
on March 24, 2007
Whether inspired by the success of Marvel Comics Essential or DC's Showcase reprint editions, EC Comics have excelled with the first of their series of collected editions from their late 1950s archive. These volumes give the average comic collector (even with a full set of the 1990s reprint editions) and avid fan of B movies access to many hard to find and prohibitively expensive gems, reprinted larger than the original comic size in full glowing colour. Even the forewords presented by icons like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and John Carpenter (on Tales From The Crypt) show the significance of the stories that are contained within each volume, many of which giving inspiration to sci-Fi, mystery and horror tales in the intervening years.
I can heartily recommend these collected editions to lovers of nostalgia of every age.