The Best of EC Artists Editions Volume 1 and 2, written and drawn by various, IDW Publishing
The E.C. Fan-Addict (like me) has been spoiled for choice when it comes to reprints of their classic pre-code horror, crime, science fiction and war titles that scandalized and infested America’s newsstands in the first half of the 1950s. There have been many formats over the decades reprinting these tales of mystery and imagination, most of which have done justice to the originals without ever quite capturing their essence – the East Coast, Gladstone and Gemstone runs allowed the enthusiast an inexpensive entrée into Gaines’s dark and sinister universe, although the colours were too bright, blotting out subtleties and nuance. Better have been the more recent Archives series by DC and Dark Horse, which have been more painstaking in their reproductions, but still don’t quite capture the spirit of the newsprint. And then there were the Russ Cochran boxsets, favoured by the more hardcore acolyte – printed in the larger format and comprehensive, yet black and white, E.C. champion Cochran’s mammoth collections have strained many a bookshelf, including mine.
IDW’s Artist Editions, however, supplants all of these, whilst dwarfing even Cochran’s mighty tomes – measuring in at 22 by 15 inches, these two books redefine the term “deluxe” in their repros, using original art pages and high-quality paper, that (even for a veteran E.C. obsessive like me) provide an extra dimension to the publisher’s output. The two albums (hard to refer to them as books) feature the cream of E.C. storytelling, from mavens such as Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, George Evans, Jack Kamen, Al Feldstein, Roy Krenkel, Harvey Kurtzman, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, as well as Atom Age superstars like Wally Wood, Bernie Krigstein and of course Frank Frazetta.
The format’s reliance on the original art pages, despite the usual smudges, scribblings and overlays, is a definite plus, as it adds immediacy to the material – and the choice of said material is needless to say, choice – from Kurtzman’s treatise on super-heroes Man And Superman (my favourite New Trend science-fiction story after Joe Orlando’s Judgment Day, also in the books) to Bernie Krigstein’s Master Race and You Murderer, to Al Williamson’s 50 Girls 50, to Johnny Craig’s Whirlpool to Alex Toth’s Thunderjet, the stories leap out of history and the oversized page – a widescreen tour de force that transcends the four-color pamphlet. As it declaims in the indicia, the books showcase the artists in the medium they deserve. My only quibble is that there could’ve been a bit more depth and notations in the contents section, as it would’ve made things easier for the reader – but it’s a moot point. If you’re a fan of great comics, my advice would be to pick up these volumes.