[GoH] The rise of E.C. Comics

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

We can’t talk about horror comics without talking about the company that influenced all generations that followed. Reference not only in comics but also in other medium by having inspired movies, TV shows and songs until to this day. In this article we will know a little more about how E.C. Comics came to be. And it all started with... the Bible?

Well, kind of. It begun actually when All-American Publications – company that created characters like The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Wonder Woman, just to name a few – merge with other two publishers in 1944 to become what would later be known as DC Comics. Max Gaynes, the former editor of All-American Publications, was out of the company but maintained the rights of a title called “Picture Stories from the Bible” and with that decided to start a new company with the goal of selling comics about Science, History and the Bible to schools and churches. He then created other three titles: Picture Stories from American History (1946), Picture Stories from World History and Picture Stories from Science (1947). Gaines was no ordinary editor: his story was linked to the very foundation of the American Comic Industry. He was one of the pioneers of the “comic book” format, having collaborate with Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, which is considered the first “true” comic book. Gaines founded the new company which was named Educational Comics and the books were a huge success, so much that Gaines collected the titles in companions - similar to trade paperbacks of today –  and even donated some of the profits to religious groups. The future of Educational Comics (E.C. for short) looked bright – until tragedy strikes.

Max Gaines’s career with Educational Comics was short: in 1947, he died in a terrible boat accident. His son, William, who at the time was part of the United States Army Air Corps (precursor of the American Air Force), just came back to his home town only to finish his studies – he intended to teach chemistry – but ended up carrying the family business in 1949 and 1950 to his mother's request. But William Gaines was not interested in the "educational" aspect of this business, so he began to introduced titles that didn’t exactly fit with the original goal of the company, with more focus on horror, suspense, crime, satire, science fiction, military.

With the help of editors Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman, the company could get great artists that the editors brought – names like Frank Frazetta and Wally Wood, just to name two. The stories were written for the most part by Feldstein and Kurtzman and later by other writers such as Otto Binder, most known for his work at Fawcett Comics with Captain Marvel, but that also wrote characters like the original Human Torch, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Captain America for Timely and Superman for National. Because of this new editorial direction, the company dropped the “Educational” in its name and changed to “Entertainment" so it could keep the initials. And that’s how the “E.C” we know was born.

But E.C was not known only for having been successful with horror comics in the past. The company has also many merits related to changing the industry. It was pioneer on having a more direct relationship with its readers through letters to the editors and his organization of fans. E.C was also one of the first publishers to promoting his artists as individuals, giving credit to them, asking them to sign his works for the company and encouraging them to develop their own artistic styles. Until that, it was a common practice in the comic industry to “forget” the names of the illustrators that worked almost like “ghost artists” – with the exception of some well-known names like Bob Kane and the duo Jack Kirby-Joe Simon.

But of course there’s more to be told about E.C Comics, especially about its famous titles and his unfortunate downfall. But that’s for the next article.
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.
Further reading: Tales of Terror!: The EC Companion, by Fred Von Bernewitz and Grant Geissman