Entertaining Comics, more commonly known as EC Comics, was an American publisher of comic books, which specialized in horror fiction, crime fiction, satire, military fiction, dark fantasy, and science fiction from the 1940s through the mid-1950s, notably the Tales from the Crypt series. Initially, EC was owned by Maxwell Gaines and specialized in educational and child-oriented stories. After Max Gaines' death in a boating accident in 1947, his son William Gaines took over the company and began to print more mature stories, delving into genres of horror, war, fantasy, science-fiction, adventure, and others. Noted for their high quality and shock endings, these stories were also unique in their socially conscious, progressive themes (including racial equality, anti-war advocacy, nuclear disarmament, and environmentalism) that anticipated the Civil Rights Movement and dawn of 1960s counterculture. In 1954–55, censorship pressures prompted it to concentrate on the humor magazine Mad, leading to the company's greatest and most enduring success. By 1956, the company ceased publishing all of its comic lines besides Mad.
|Genre||Romance, Crime, war, fantasy, western, funny animal, horror, science fiction, satire, adventure|
|Fate||Defunct, 1956; continues to license its titles for various media, and "E. C. Publications, Inc." continues to publish Mad|
|Owner||Gaines Family |
The firm, first known as Educational Comics, was founded by Max Gaines, former editor of the comic-book company All-American Publications. When that company merged with DC Comics in 1944, Gaines retained rights to the comic book Picture Stories from the Bible, and began his new company with a plan to market comics about science, history, and the Bible to schools and churches. A decade earlier, Max Gaines had been one of the pioneers of the comic book form, with Eastern Color Printing's proto-comic book Funnies on Parade, and with Dell Publishing's Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, considered by historians the first true American comic book.
When Max Gaines died in 1947 in a boating accident, his son William inherited the comics company. After four years (1942–46) in the Army Air Corps, Gaines had returned home to finish school at New York University, planning to work as a chemistry teacher. He never taught but instead took over the family business. In 1949 and 1950, Bill Gaines began a line of new titles featuring horror, suspense, science fiction, military fiction and crime fiction. His editors, Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman, who also drew covers and stories, gave assignments to such prominent and highly accomplished freelance artists as Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, Will Elder, George Evans, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, Bernard Krigstein, Joe Orlando, John Severin, Al Williamson, Basil Wolverton, and Wally Wood. With input from Gaines, the stories were written by Kurtzman, Feldstein and Craig. Other writers including Carl Wessler, Jack Oleck, and Otto Binder were later brought on board.
EC had success with its fresh approach and pioneered in forming relationships with its readers through its letters to the editor and its fan organization, the National EC Fan-Addict Club. EC Comics promoted its stable of illustrators, allowing each to sign his art and encouraging them to develop idiosyncratic styles; the company additionally published one-page biographies of them in the comic books. This was in contrast to the industry's common practice, in which credits were often missing, although some artists at other companies, such as the Jack Kirby-Joe Simon team, Jack Cole and Bob Kane had been prominently promoted.
EC published distinct lines of titles under its Entertaining Comics umbrella. Most notorious were its horror books, Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. These titles reveled in a gruesome joie de vivre, with grimly ironic fates meted out to many of the stories' protagonists. The company's war comics Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales often featured weary-eyed, unheroic stories out of step with the jingoistic times. Shock SuspenStories tackled weighty political and social issues such as racism, sex, drug use, and the American way of life. EC always claimed to be "proudest of our science fiction titles", with Weird Science and Weird Fantasy publishing stories unlike the space opera found in such titles as Fiction House's Planet Comics. Crime SuspenStories had many parallels with film noir. As noted by Max Allan Collins in his story annotations for Russ Cochran's 1983 hardcover reprint of Crime SuspenStories, Johnny Craig had developed a "film noir-ish bag of effects" in his visuals, while characters and themes found in the crime stories often showed the strong influence of writers associated with film noir, notably James M. Cain. Craig excelled in drawing stories of domestic scheming and conflict, leading David Hajdu to observe:
To young people of the postwar years, when the mainstream culture glorified suburban domesticity as the modern American ideal-- the life that made the Cold War worth fighting-- nothing else in the panels of EC comics, not the giant alien cockroach that ate earthlings, not the baseball game played with human body parts, was so subversive as the idea that the exits of the Long Island Expressway emptied onto levels of Hell.
Superior illustrations of stories with surprise endings became EC's trademark. Gaines would generally stay up late and read large amounts of material while seeking "springboards" for story concepts. The next day he would present each premise until Feldstein found one that he thought he could develop into a story. At EC's peak, Feldstein edited seven titles while Kurtzman handled three. Artists were assigned stories specific to their styles. Davis and Ingels often drew gruesome, supernatural-themed stories, while Kamen and Evans did tamer material.
With hundreds of stories written, common themes surfaced. Some of EC's more well-known themes include:
The three horror titles featured stories introduced by a trio of horror hosts. The Crypt Keeper introduced Tales from the Crypt, the Vault Keeper welcomed readers to The Vault of Horror and the Old Witch cackled over The Haunt of Fear. Besides gleefully recounting the unpleasant details of the stories, the characters squabbled with one another, unleashed an arsenal of puns and even insulted and taunted the readers: "Greetings, boils and ghouls..." This irreverent mockery of the audience also became the trademark attitude of Mad, and such glib give-and-take was later mimicked by many, including Stan Lee at Marvel Comics.
EC's most enduring legacy came with Mad, which started as a side project for Kurtzman before buoying the company's fortunes and becoming one of the country's most notable and long-running humor publications. When satire became an industry rage in 1954 and other publishers created imitations of Mad, EC introduced a sister title, Panic, edited by Al Feldstein and using the regular Mad artists, plus Joe Orlando.
Beginning in the late 1940s, the comic book industry became the target of mounting public criticism for the content of comic books and their potentially harmful effects on children. The problem came to a head in 1948 with the publication by Dr. Fredric Wertham of two articles: "Horror in the Nursery" (in Collier's) and "The Psychopathology of Comic Books" (in the American Journal of Psychotherapy). As a result, an industry trade group, the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers, was formed in 1948, but proved ineffective. EC left the association in 1950 after Gaines had an argument with its executive director, Henry Schultz. By 1954 only three comic publishers were still members, and Schultz admitted that the ACMP seals placed on comics were meaningless.
In 1954, the publication of Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and a highly publicized Congressional hearing on juvenile delinquency cast comic books in an especially poor light. At the same time, a federal investigation led to a shakeup in the distribution companies that delivered comic books and pulp magazines across America. Sales plummeted, and several companies went out of business.
Gaines called a meeting of his fellow publishers and suggested that the comic book industry gather to fight outside censorship and help repair the industry's damaged reputation. They formed the Comics Magazine Association of America and its Comics Code Authority. The CCA code expanded on the ACMP's restrictions. Unlike its predecessor, the CCA code was rigorously enforced, with all comics requiring code approval prior to their publication. This not being what Gaines intended, he refused to join the association. Among the Code's new rules were that no comic book title could use the words "horror" or "terror" or "weird" on its cover. When distributors refused to handle many of his comics, Gaines ended publication of his three horror and the two SuspenStory titles on September 14, 1954. EC shifted its focus to a line of more realistic comic book titles, including M.D. and Psychoanalysis (known as the New Direction line). It also renamed its remaining science-fiction comic. Since the initial issues did not carry the Comics Code seal, the wholesalers refused to carry them. After consulting with his staff, Gaines reluctantly started submitting his comics to the Comics Code; all the New Direction titles carried the seal starting with the second issue. This attempted revamp failed commercially and after the fifth issues, all the New Direction titles were canceled.
Gaines waged a number of battles with the Comics Code Authority in an attempt to keep his magazines free from censorship. In one particular example noted by comics historian Digby Diehl, Gaines threatened Judge Charles Murphy, the Comics Code Administrator, with a lawsuit when Murphy ordered EC to alter the science-fiction story "Judgment Day", in Incredible Science Fiction #33 (Feb. 1956). The story, by writer Al Feldstein and artist Joe Orlando, was a reprint from the pre-Code Weird Fantasy #18 (April 1953), inserted when the Code Authority had rejected an initial, original story, "An Eye For an Eye", drawn by Angelo Torres, but was itself also "objected to" because of "the central character being black".
The story depicted a human astronaut, a representative of the Galactic Republic, visiting the planet Cybrinia, inhabited by robots. He finds the robots divided into functionally identical orange and blue races, one of which has fewer rights and privileges than the other. The astronaut determines that due to the robots' bigotry, the Galactic Republic should not admit the planet. In the final panel, he removes his helmet, revealing himself to be a black man. Murphy demanded, without any authority in the Code, that the black astronaut had to be removed.
As Diehl recounted in Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives:
This really made 'em go bananas in the Code czar's office. 'Judge Murphy was off his nut. He was really out to get us', recalls [EC editor] Feldstein. 'I went in there with this story and Murphy says, "It can't be a Black man". But ... but that's the whole point of the story!' Feldstein sputtered. When Murphy continued to insist that the Black man had to go, Feldstein put it on the line. 'Listen', he told Murphy, 'you've been riding us and making it impossible to put out anything at all because you guys just want us out of business'. [Feldstein] reported the results of his audience with the czar to Gaines, who was furious [and] immediately picked up the phone and called Murphy. 'This is ridiculous!' he bellowed. 'I'm going to call a press conference on this. You have no grounds, no basis, to do this. I'll sue you'. Murphy made what he surely thought was a gracious concession. 'All right. Just take off the beads of sweat'. At that, Gaines and Feldstein both went ballistic. 'Fuck you!' they shouted into the telephone in unison. Murphy hung up on them, but the story ran in its original form.
Feldstein, interviewed for the book Tales of Terror: The EC Companion, reiterated his recollection of Murphy making the request:
So he said it can't be a Black [person]. So I said, 'For God's sakes, Judge Murphy, that's the whole point of the Goddamn story!' So he said, 'No, it can't be a Black'. Bill [Gaines] just called him up [later] and raised the roof, and finally they said, 'Well, you gotta take the perspiration off'. I had the stars glistening in the perspiration on his Black skin. Bill said, 'Fuck you', and he hung up.
Although that reprinted story did run uncensored, Incredible Science Fiction #33 was the last EC comic book to be published. Gaines switched his focus to EC's Picto-Fiction titles, a line of typeset black-and-white magazines with heavily illustrated stories. Fiction was formatted to alternate illustrations with blocks of typeset text, and some of the contents were rewrites of stories previously published in EC's comic books. This experimental line lost money from the start and only lasted two issues per title. When EC's national distributor went bankrupt, Gaines dropped all of his titles except Mad.
Mad sold well throughout the company's troubles, and Gaines focused exclusively on publishing it in magazine form. This move was done to placate its editor Harvey Kurtzman, who had received an offer to join the magazine Pageant, but preferred to remain in charge of his own magazine. The switch also removed Mad from the auspices of the Comics Code. Kurtzman, regardless, left Mad soon afterward when Gaines would not give him 51 percent control of the magazine, and Gaines brought back Al Feldstein as Kurtzman's successor. The magazine enjoyed great success for decades afterward.
The Tales from the Crypt title was licensed for a movie of that name in 1972. This was followed by another film, The Vault of Horror, in 1973. The omnibus movies Creepshow (1982) and Creepshow 2, while using original scripts written by Stephen King and George A. Romero, were inspired by EC's horror comics and hosted by a Ghoulunatic-inspired character. Creepshow 2 included an animated interstitial material between vignettes, featuring a young protagonist who goes to great length to acquire and keep possession of an issue of the comic book Creepshow.
In 1989, Tales from the Crypt began airing on the U.S. cable-TV network HBO. The series ran through 1996, comprising 93 episodes and seven seasons. Tales from the Crypt spawned two children's television series on broadcast TV, Tales from the Cryptkeeper and Secrets of the Cryptkeeper's Haunted House. It also spawned three "Tales from the Crypt"-branded movies, Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood, and Ritual. In 1997, HBO followed the TV series with the similar Perversions of Science, the episodes of which were based on stories from EC's Weird Science. It ran 10 episodes.
Although the last non-Mad EC publication came out in 1956, EC Comics have remained popular for half a century, due to reprints that have kept them in the public eye. Some of the many EC reprints include the following:
In 1964–66, Ballantine Books published five black-and-white paperbacks of EC stories: Tales of the Incredible showcased EC science fiction, while the paperbacks Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror reprinted EC horror tales. EC's Ray Bradbury adaptations were collected in The Autumn People (horror and crime) and Tomorrow Midnight (science fiction).
The EC Horror Library (Nostalgia Press, 1971) featured 23 EC stories selected by Bhob Stewart and Bill Gaines, with an introduction by Stewart and an essay by theater critic Larry Stark. One of the first books to reprint comic book stories in color throughout, it followed the original color guides by Marie Severin. In addition to the stories from EC's horror titles, the book also included Bernard Krigstein's famous "Master Race" story from Impact and the first publication of Angelo Torres' "An Eye for an Eye," originally slated for the final issue of Incredible Science Fiction but rejected by the Comics Code.
East Coast Comix reprinted in comic form a number of EC's New Trend comics between 1973 and 1975. The first reprint was the final issue of Tales from the Crypt, with the title revised to state The Crypt of Terror. This issue was originally meant to be the first issue of a fourth horror comic which was changed to the final issue of Tales from the Crypt at the last minute when the horror comics were cancelled in 1954. A dozen issues ended up being reprinted.
In 2013, Dark Horse Comics began reprinting the EC Archives in hardcover volumes. The first volume to be reprinted was Tales From the Crypt: Volume 4, with an essay by Cochran. These reprints are digitally recolored based on the original coloring by EC colorist Marie Severin.
In 2012, Fantagraphics Books began a reprint series called The EC Artists' Library featuring the comics published by EC, releasing each book by artist. This collection is printed in black-and-white.
IDW Publishing began a series of Artist's Editions books, which reprint the stories and art using scans of the original comic book art. The first EC-themed book in the series was focused on Wally Wood's EC comic stories, followed by a collection of stories from MAD, and a book featuring Jack Davis's stories. Upcoming volumes announced include "Best of EC Comics: Artist's Edition" and the Graham Ingels Artist's Edition book. 
Aces High was a short lived comic book series published by EC Comics in 1955 as the fourth title in its New Direction line. The bi-monthly comic was published by Bill Gaines. It lasted a total of five issues before being cancelled, along with EC's other New Direction comics.
Aces High was dedicated to tales of air combat and front line service of Allied airmen during World War I and World War II. Many of the stories were in an anti-war vein.
Contributors to Aces High include George Evans, Wally Wood, Jack Davis and Bernie Krigstein.
Aces High was reprinted as part of publisher Russ Cochran's Complete EC Library in 1988. Between April and August 1999, Cochran (in association with Gemstone Publishing) reprinted all five individual issues. This complete run was later rebound, with covers included, in a single softcover EC Annual.Al Feldstein
Albert Bernard Feldstein (; October 24, 1925 – April 29, 2014) was an American writer, editor, and artist, best known for his work at EC Comics and, from 1956 to 1985, as the editor of the satirical magazine Mad. After retiring from Mad, Feldstein concentrated on American paintings of Western wildlife.Angelo Torres
Angelo Torres (born April 14, 1932, in Santurce, Puerto Rico) is an American cartoonist and caricaturist whose work has appeared in many comic books, as well as a long-running regular slot in Mad.Bernard Krigstein
Bernard Krigstein (March 22, 1919 – January 8, 1990), was an American illustrator and gallery artist who received acclaim for his innovative and influential approach to comic book art, notably in EC Comics. He was known as Bernie Krigstein, and his artwork usually displayed the signature B. Krigstein. His best-known work in comic books is the short story "Master Race", originally published in the debut issue (April 1955) of EC Comics' Impact.Fred Peters (artist)
Fred Peters (January 22, 1923 – May 18, 2018) was an American animator and comics artist who contributed to several EC Comics. He was a carryover artist from EC's Pre-Trend line into early issues of EC's New Trend titles and helped make many good comics and people at his work said that he was a brilliant drawer and he often made masterpieces of art.Gemstone Publishing
Gemstone Publishing is an American company that publishes comic book price guides. The company was formed by Diamond Comic Distributors President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Geppi in 1994 when he bought Overstreet.Gemstone published licensed Disney comic books from June 2003 until November 2008. The company has also reprinted EC Comics of the 1950s.
BOOM! Kids acquired all comic publishing licenses regarding Disney characters in the second half of 2009.Graham Ingels
Graham J. Ingels (; June 7, 1915 – April 4, 1991) was a comic book and magazine illustrator best known for his work in EC Comics during the 1950s, notably on The Haunt of Fear and Tales from the Crypt, horror titles written and edited by Al Feldstein, and The Vault of Horror, written and edited by Feldstein and Johnny Craig. Ingels' flair for horror led EC to promote him as Ghastly Graham Ingels, and he began signing his work "Ghastly" in 1952.Gunfighter (comics)
Gunfighter was a short lived comic published by EC Comics from 1948 to 1950, with a total of nine issues. It was part of EC's Pre-"trend comics" era.Howard Larsen
Howard Larsen was an American comic book illustrator for EC Comics and other publishers during the 1940s and 1950s.Impact (EC Comics)
Impact was a short-lived comic book series published by EC Comics in 1955 as the first title in its New Direction line. The bi-monthly comic, published by Bill Gaines and edited by Al Feldstein, began with an issue cover-dated March–April, 1955. It ran for five issues, ending with the November–December, 1955 issue. The sub-title "Tales Designed to Carry an" ran above the title Impact. The book was dedicated to stories with shock endings, and was seen as a toned down, Comics Code era version of EC's earlier Shock SuspenStories. Front covers were by Jack Davis, and the stories were illustrated by Davis, George Evans, Jack Kamen, Graham Ingels, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall and Bernard Krigstein.
There are two versions of the cover to Impact # 1. One logo is yellow and the other is white.
Impact was reprinted as part of publisher Russ Cochran's Complete EC Library in 1988. Between April and August 1999, Cochran (in association with Gemstone Publishing) reprinted all five individual issues. This complete run was later rebound, with covers included, in a single softcover EC Annual.Jerry DeFuccio
Jerome DeFuccio (July 3, 1925 – August 10, 2001) was an American comic book writer and editor known primarily for his work at Mad, where he was an associate editor for 25 years. He was also closely involved in many of the Mad paperbacks, editing Clods' Letters to Mad and many other reprints and spin-offs. Some of his contributions to EC Comics appeared under the pseudonym Jerry Dee.Johnny Craig
John Thomas Alexis Craig (April 25, 1926 – September 13, 2001), better known as Johnny Craig, was an American comic book artist notable for his work with the EC Comics line of the 1950s. He sometimes used the pseudonyms Jay Taycee and F. C. Aljohn.List of Entertaining Comics publications
Entertaining Comics, commonly known as EC Comics, was a major publisher of comic books in the 1940s and 1950s. The letters EC originally stood for Educational Comics. EC's Pre-Trend titles are those published by Max Gaines and his son William M. Gaines, who took over the family business after his father's death in 1947.
In 1950, with the addition of writer and artist Al Feldstein, EC found success with their New Trend line, including their horror titles Tales From the Crypt The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror. A line of science fiction titles soon followed, Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, illustrated by the best artists in the business, such as Wallace Wood, Reed Crandall, Johnny Craig, George Evans, Graham Ingels, Jack Davis, Bill Elder, Joe Orlando, Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta. In addition to original stories, the books also featured adaptations of Ray Bradbury's short stories.
The New Direction group was a response to the Comics Code Authority. Picto-Fiction was a short-lived line of heavily illustrated short story magazines. Beginning in 1958, EC published annual and special editions of Mad.Moon Girl (EC Comics)
Moon Girl (Clare Lune) is a fictional character published by EC Comics. Created by Max Gaines, Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff. Moon Girl is a character from the Golden Age of Comic Books and has since slipped into the public domain.Russ Cochran (publisher)
Russ Cochran (; born July 3, 1937) is a publisher of EC Comics reprints, Disney comics and books on Hopalong Cassidy, Chet Atkins, Les Paul and vacuum tubes. He has been a publisher for over 30 years, after quitting his job as a physics professor.
His EC Comics reprints include the black-and-white The Complete EC Library, the four-color EC Annuals, and the full-color hardcover EC Archives.
Cochran has been associated with Another Rainbow Publishing, Gladstone Publishing and Gemstone Publishing.The EC Artists' Library
The EC Artists' Library are a series of books released by Fantagraphics Books, collecting anthologies by artists and themes of the comics originally published by EC Comics.Valor (EC Comics)
This article is about the EC Comics title. For the DC Comics character, see Lar Gand.Valor was a short-lived comic book published by EC Comics in 1955 as the second title in its New Direction line. The bi-monthly comic was published by Bill Gaines and edited by Al Feldstein. It lasted a total of five issues before being cancelled, along with EC's other New Direction comics.
Valor was dedicated to tales of action and adventure in various period settings, including Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Crusades, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic era. It was similar in vein to the historical stories that previously appeared in EC's Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat from 1950 through 1954.
Artists included Reed Crandall, George Evans, Gardner Fox, Graham Ingels, Bernard Krigstein, Joe Orlando, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson and Wally Wood.
Valor was reprinted as part of publisher Russ Cochran's Complete EC Library in 1988. Between October 1998 and February 1999, Cochran (in association with Gemstone Publishing) reprinted all five individual issues. This complete run was later rebound, with covers included, in a single softcover EC Annual.Weird Science-Fantasy
Weird Science-Fantasy was an American science fiction-fantasy anthology comic, that was part of the EC Comics line in the early 1950s. Over a 14-month span, the comic ran for seven issues, starting in March 1954 with issue #23 and ending with issue #29 in May/June 1955.William Gaines
William Maxwell Gaines (; March 1, 1922 – June 3, 1992), was an American publisher and co-editor of EC Comics. Following a shift in EC's direction in 1950, Gaines presided over what became an artistically influential and historically important line of mature-audience comics. He published the satirical magazine Mad for over 40 years.
He was posthumously inducted into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame (1993) and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame (1997). In 2012, he was inducted into the Ghastly Awards' Hall of Fame.