By: Randy Payton

The absolutely most tragic casualty in the censors' war against comics in the 50's was the great, legendary line of E.C. Comics. This was a line of books whose artwork and writing was on a par such as had not been seen before or since.

It was EC's horrific and best selling titles, HAUNT OF FEAR, VAULT OF HORROR and CRYPT OF TERROR which were most singled out for the censors' flack. Yet ironically it is these very titles and their M.C.'s, THE CRYPT KEEPER, THE VAULT KEEPER and THE OLD WITCH, which retain to this day a fond place in the (dark) recesses of the American psyche (in recent years even turning up as a series on HBO...guess you can't keep a good ghoul down) ...

The writing at EC, mostly by editors Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, was head and shoulders above the rest of a field known for a hacks quick-money lack of aesthetics. According to writer Dean Latimer, "In the measly 5 years it was allowed to exist, the 'new trend' at EC made comic books into literature! Oh, FINNEGAN's WAKE this stuff was not, but on an aesthetic level, EC's science fiction could quality with L. Sprague De Camp, and their gothic horror was right in there with Poe, Shelley and Lovecraft."

And the art: my God, the art! EC's roster of artists reads like a Legendary Comic Artists' Hall of Fame. Al Williamson, Wally Wood, Frank Frazetta, Johnny Craig, Will Elder, Graham Ingles, Joe Orlando, Jack Davis, Harvey Kurtsman, all of whose work was to later years come to influence the world of illustration and fine arts as well as the comic art form forever. Yet all these greats were subjected to slander that their art was "corrupting the nation's youth," etc. As if anyone gives a fuck what the PTA or the cops think about art!

The only pleasure that can be derived from the above is that EC's have in the past year rearisen as a mass distributed, available-at-your-local news-stand series of reprints of the 50's series to scare the bejabbers out of a new generation of fans.


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