The opportunity to review The Entertaining Comics Group (EC) Archives of Shock SuspenStories is a comic lovers’ dream come true. This book is a huge, beautiful compilation of all that was right with comics in the 1950s. During this era, EC was a remarkably diverse team whose goal was to cater to adult audiences. The creators wrote stories they wanted to read. Beyond that, the creators of Shock SuspenStories took the need for more sci-fi, horror, and thriller comics to heart and created the stories included in this collection. Reading Steven Spielberg’s foreword is enough to give a modern horror fan chills. (After the first paragraph you’ll likely be thinking ‘That’s me!’) He outlines how EC comics changed from the Bible and education comics to Tales from the Crypt and others which shaped the horror comic genre.
Typically, it’s common to compliment artists and letterers for their jobs well done when they are deserved. Unfortunately, many freelance artists took part in the 6 issues this book includes. During this period in comic book history, putting artist and writer names on the covers of comic books, or even on the inner flap, wasn’t something that was done. Allowing artists to sign their work was frowned upon, and artists were encouraged to draw in the “house style” rather than to utilize their own particular flair. EC didn’t abide by either rule. Although we know the stories were all created and written by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, it’s up to the reader to determine who the artist is by way of looping signatures hidden amongst the scenery, and by identifying which art belongs to a particular artist. (Or by resorting to Google.) — However, commenting on the beautiful color work is easy. All of the coloring done was performed by EC colorist, Marie Severin. The image featuring the hands crawling out of the Jack-o-Lantern is an example of her distinctive coloring work. For this volume, however, the issues were digitally colored. This was done to improve the quality of the printing, however Dark Horse assures readers that every effort was made to match her method and style so that each story is recreated in the way she envisioned it.
Jack Karmen was the first artist featured. The first story in the anthology is a crime-themed issue, The Neat Job. Between the artwork and the coloring style, if you loved Joelle Jones & Laura Allred’s work on Lady Killer, you’ll love this story and others which feature Karmen’s artistic approach. Although many of the obvious similarities likely stem from the artwork being set in the same period, there is an undeniable familiarity while turning the pages of this striking introductory tale.
Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Graham Ingels, and Wally Wood are other artists whose exemplary work is featured in each of the classic issues included in this volume. It’s remarkable how well so many different artists can come together to create a cohesive anthology comic based on the creative works and written ideas of two lone comic pioneers. Especially in such a way that is accessible to non-horror fans. People who allege not to like horror, but enjoy crime dramas or virtually any other pulp-like fiction will still be drawn to this book. That’s an accomplishment! Whether the tales written are about war, crime, sci-fi or horror, each one has a delightfully surprising twist that will engage even modern audiences. This book says a lot about the enduring power of good storytelling, and just as fans are clamoring for the upcoming Tales from the Crypt reboot, they should also be eagerly awaiting the release of the The EC Comics Group Archive: SuspenStories series. This first hardback edition will be available March 29th, but pre-orders are open, now!
WICKED RATING: [usr 8]