Sucker Bait and Other Stories and Zero Hour and Other Stories

The EC Comics Library

Apr 01, 2014 Issue #49 - February/March 2014 - Portlandia Bookmark and Share


The EC Comics Library showcases the heyday of William Gaines' EC Comics publishing company during the golden age of comics. EC's horror and crime stories are famous for sparking the comic book panic in the 1950s, fueled mostly by paranoid do-gooder Dr. Frederic Wertham's alarmist critique of the comic book industry, Seduction of the Innocent, that claimed these horror stories were turning America's youth into homicidal maniacs.

Wertham's fears were validated by politicians looking to win over votes from nervous parents, and EC publisher Gaines testified before a S enate subcommittee that his comics were harmless, even ones that show a man brutally killing his lover with a fireplace poker (found in "Pipe Down" from Sucker Bait). Other highlights, like a rat eating a baby in "A Grim Fairy Tale," or the shocking sexism found in Zero Hour suggest that maybe Dr. Wertham was on to somethingthese certainly aren't kids' stories.

Zero Hour and Other Stories features the work of artist Jack Kamen, illustrator of EC's science fiction titles. Kamen's forte wasn't the violence and gore of EC's crime and horror books, but he still managed to fill the page with kitschy sexuality. The stories in Zero Hour are tantalizinglike the tale of the scientist who discovers an eight-inch woman and falls in lovebut mostly reflect America's skepticism of scientific progress during the atomic era. Each story is a dire warning of science gone too far.

Graham Ingels was known at EC as "Mister Horror," and Sucker Bait and Other Stories highlights his work. Ingels was particularly crafty at illustrating rotting corpses, gruesome murders, shadowy figures, and especially the Old Witchone of EC's horror mascots, like the iconic Crypt Keeper. The Old Witch hosts the stories, which are full of grotesque imagery and comically dramatic twists.

These collections show comics in a pure, unadulterated form. Before the Superhero frenzy, before '60s cynicism, and just before the Comics Code Authority started trimming all the gory and sexy fun from the pages with their seal of approval. (www.fantagraphics.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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