Welcome to a new installment of Reclaiming History, an ongoing series where the Comics Cube! tries to balance out what the history books say and what actually happened! Click here for the archive!
This installment may be unusual in the sense that I'm not actually "reclaiming" history. I found this paper I wrote in university about EC Comics, and I wanted to share it with you. It's slightly revised, because, well, I write better now. But the content is pretty much the same. So without further ado...
If there was no point to being offensive (as with a high number of comedians who frequent the average working men's club), then the perpetrator will either be squeezed out of business or be relegated to working in bottom-of-the-heap sleaze pits where nothing more than vulgarity is demanded. Alternately, if there was some integrity behind all the outrage, the perpetrators become persecuted legends with a fanatical cult following and generally exercise tremendous influence upon the artists that come after them. In comedy, Lenny Bruce is an example. In music, perhaps the Sex Pistols. In comic books, EC would fit the bill.
-Alan Moore, WRITING FOR COMICS
The year 1946 saw the founding of Educational Comics, a small company publishing exactly what they claimed to be, giving life to Bible stories and patriotic American history in the medium of comics.
When William Gaines inherited the company from his prematurely deceased father, Max, he realized that these were not the type of material that flew off the stands and therefore did more work to emphasize their crime, western, and science fiction comics. With freelance artist Al Feldstein, he restructured EC Comics, renamed it Entertaining Comics, and used the medium to express their mutual love for the radio thrillers of the time. This would inspire what became known as the "New Trend" in comics, as pioneered by EC. Gone were the educational books. The science fiction books were made to be darker, with titles such as WEIRD FANTASY and WEIRD SCIENCE. The pre–New Trend crime books were disposed of to make room for darker, grittier interpretations of the genre. And, most importantly of all, horror, which was the backbone of EC, became legendary, and is even known in the comics industry as a martyr of the public crusade against the penny dreadful in 1954–55.
However, EC was hardly the only publisher of these genres, nor were they even the first. Horror, crime, and suspense stories were spanning the whole industry. Even Timely Comics, which would later become the juggernaut that is Marvel Comics, was guilty. Why was EC Comics the lynchpin of the Senate's argument that comics were bad for children? Why do the more experienced comics readers, and, more importantly, the writers and artists working in the industry look upon EC with fondness? How is this imprint still so influential, so widely imitated by the creators after all these years? How did EC Comics, with such a small line of titles, a limited number of stock characters, artists who produced such a miniscule amount of work, and a run that only lasted half a decade, make such a big impact which influences and inspires many artists working in the field today?