Fred von Bernewitz
& Grant Geissman,
Tales of Terror:
The EC Companion

(Fantagraphics/Gemstone, 2000)

The greatest comics of the 1950s (with the possible exception of Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge/Donald Duck stories) were those released by EC Comics. If you grew up in this era, these were the comics your parents didn't want you to read: Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, Weird Science, Shock Suspenstories and many more, including the sole survivor, Mad. Fortunately, these magnificent works of literary and visual art have been preserved in numerous reprints, the best of which have been Russ Cochran's EC Library, a complete boxed hardcover reprinting of all the "New Trend" and "New Direction" comics, shot from the original black-and-white art, which takes up a space on my shelves roughly equivalent to the length of one of artist Graham Ingels' slouching, reanimated corpses.

For those of us for whom such a collection is still not enough, there's Tales of Terror, subtitled "The Complete Compendium of all the incredible old EC comics." This coffeetable volume, released in both hardcover and paperback, is an indispensable addition to our EC shelves. This book is the EC attic, containing all the great stuff that didn't fit in the comics volumes. First and foremost, there's the art: color reproductions of every EC comic ever, and not just the great ones. Here you'll find the covers and complete contents listings, including artists and writers, for everything from Picture Stories from the Bible to the last 1956 issue of Confessions Illustrated.

That just scratches the surface of what's inside this nearly 300-page oversized slab of a book. There are tons of historical material, including Bill Gaines' complete testimony before the Senate Sub-Committee investigating the dismal influences of EC comics. There are plenty of other contemporary documents, photographs and interviews, as well as looks at where EC got the raw material for their stories. I was delighted to see that the chapter of horror stories in the Bennett Cerf collection, Try & Stop Me, which terrified me when I was a kid, was mined assiduously by the EC crew. There are oodles of little nuggets like this, including features on the Ray Bradbury adaptations, plenty of non-EC art by EC artists, material about early EC fandom, a complete index by story title and an fascinating interview with Russ Cochran, describing his efforts to get the original artwork out of Bill Gaines' storage vault so that he could reproduce it. And on and on and on.

There's so much material here that it would take pages just to give you a good idea of the contents. If you're new to EC comics, grab a few individual reprints of the comics at your local comic-book store and see what you think. This book would be the next logical stop. And if you're already an EC fan-addict, this is an absolute must. You will spend countless happy hours in these colorfully illustrated pages, and will spend nearly as much time thanking editors and writers von Bernewitz and Geissman for assembling this amazing grab-bag of EC material.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 9 November 2002

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