[GoH] The peak of E.C. Comics

“Gutter of Horror” is a Brazilian column from DinamoStudio website that talks about horror comics.
This is the translated version of the article.

In its first years, E.C. had several successful titles, such as Crypt of Terror (later renamed to Tales From the Crypt), The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear1, which kind of created the “horror host” trope in comics. But there was so many others. War comics like Frontline Combat e Two-Fisted Tales usually focus on stories that subverted the traditional north-American heroism trope while Shock SuspenStories featured heavy themes like racism, drugs, sex and the “American way of life”, with a tone close to film noir. But the company was really proud of its science fiction titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, which featured unusual stories compared to space operas published in other companies’ titles. This E.C. was far from Educational Comics’ original intent (more on that here), but regardless, Bill Gaines was carrying the family business with great success.

Among the most recurring themes in E.C. Magazines were ordinary situations with an ironic or sinister plot twist, generally a poetic justice for the crimes of the protagonist; Siamese twins – yeah, that was a thing; “Grimm fairy tales”, horror interpretations of children’s fairy tales; and adaptations of Ray Bradbury stories with a political message – which became the mark of science fiction and suspense stories of E.C. Among the political topics were conviction without trial, antisemitism and political corruption. Among the artists and writers that contributed to E.C. were Jack Davis, Graham Ingels, Al Williamson, John Severin, Marie Severin, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando, Jack Kamen, Russ Heath, Roy Krenkel, Gene Colan, Dave Berg, William Elder, George Evans, Frank Frazetta and Wally Wood.

But by far the most prominent element of E.C. Comics was satire, a theme that were everywhere in the titles, sometimes in the political criticism, sometimes in the black humor of the ordinary situations that ended up badly. And that satire essence ended up giving birth to probably the most famous E.C. title: Mad.

Created in 1953, MAD focus on satire and parody. It started as a comic book and two years later became a magazine - without losing the original appeal. MAD’s popularity was probably due to being published in a time where Americans needed political satires once censorship of the media was a reality in the wake of Cold War paranoia. For a while, MAD was the most successful magazine in America to publish completely without the help of advertisement. This was great for the writers and artists, which could criticize everyone without any worries without holding back.

But it was not all flowers and daisies for MAD, which got several lawsuits for its acid, critical and many times ridiculous humor. Mad Magazine was the longest E.C. title, having survived the end of the company, being published in a intermittent way until it was acquired by DC, which, for years, kept Gaines involved and let the magazine ran without editorial interference. The last issue of Mad Magazine was published in 2018, with some issues in 2019, when publication ceased completely.

Unfortunately, even with the success of E.C. and his popular themes, a monster worse than anything that the writers and editors could imagine in his stories would put an end to the company: Censorship.

Rafael Algures is a Bachelor of Philosophy specialized in Neurosciences of Language. He is also a copywriter, content and science writer, and a comic book creator. His latest work, “Gutter of Horror: Transition”, is available at Amazon – digital and paperback.

                             [GoH] The rise of E.C. Comics


1. You probably notice that I didn’t talk much about E.Cs main horror titles. That’s because those titles will need separate articles. But don’t worry, we will talk about them in length.