April 27, 2013 | 11:00 a.m.
REVIEW Golden-age publisher EC Comics’ rise and fall was tied to its horror titles “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror,” which were so sharply written and beautifully drawn that they quickly became fan-favorites in the early ’50s — while also freaking out some authority figures, who were bothered that these stories were so gory, so irreverent, so effective. When comics fans sum up the EC saga, the focus is usually on how the company excelled at twisty tales of murder, then had to tone that down in the wake of congressional investigations into the link between comics and juvenile delinquency. Eventually, EC survived the furor by turning to humor, becoming a success again thanks to Mad magazine. Yet EC in its heyday was about more than just violent criminals and the shambling undead. The company was also […]
Feb. 18, 2013 | 10:44 a.m.
With his latest literary endeavor, “Seduction of the Innocent,” Max Allan Collins writes a hard-boiled detective novel inspired by the 1950s witch hunt against crime and horror comic books. He took inspiration for the story from the real-life crusade of Dr. Fredric Wertham, who in 1954 published a nonfiction book also titled “Seduction of the Innocent” in which he accused comic books – especially violent ones such as those distributed by “Tales From the Crypt” publisher EC Comics – of corrupting America’s youth. Collins sets his book in 1954, though it’s fictional EF Comics that is the target of concern. Would-be censor Dr. Werner Frederick meets a gruesome demise on the way to a Senate hearing, and it’s up to private eye Jack Starr and his beautiful boss Maggie to solve the case before the crackdown comes. Collins, of course, […]
Oct. 31, 2010 | 8:25 a.m.
Halloween 2010 is upon us and here at the Hero Complex we’re marking the weekend with a special three-part excerpt from the “The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read!” which was edited by Jim Trombetta and features his commentary throughout (as well as an introduction by R.L. Stine). The 304-page book from Abrams ComicArts hits shelves Monday. There’s a trailer for the book as well, below… The success of horror comics in their heyday had nothing to do with politics, idealism, or the artistic avant-garde; it had to do with money. The worldview of the comics’ stories and art worked for a lot of readers, especially kids, who were willing to spend their dimes on them. Comics were a huge business in pre-TV times. Of the eighty million comics that were released each month in the United […]
Oct. 29, 2010 | 11:22 a.m.
Halloween 2010 is upon us and here at the Hero Complex we’re marking the weekend with a special three-part excerpt from the “The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read!” which was edited by Jim Trombetta and features his commentary throughout (as well as an introduction by R.L. Stine). The 304-page book from Abrams ComicArts hits shelves Monday. There’s a trailer for the book as well, below… Horror comics offer a privileged glimpse into the Age of Nuclear Terror, from 1947 to 1955. The prominence of horror comics exactly parallels the emergence of the United States as a military and economic superpower nonpareil: The nation had defeated two evil empires, and its productive capacities were intact; it possessed not only ultimate weapons (for a while, exclusively) but also the moral high ground over its potential enemies. At the […]
Oct. 18, 2008 | 6:36 p.m.
"Tales from the Crypt" is about to take a whack at the nation’s most famous hockey mom. The next issue of the horror comic book has Sarah Palin, GOP vice presidential candidate, depicted on its cover swinging a hockey stick and rousting the ghoulish "Crypt" characters made famous in the book’s gory glory days back in the 1950s. "Didn’t we get rid of you guys in the 50′s?" the Alaska governor asks with a sneer as she scatters the Vault-Keeper and his creepy mates from a stone castle doorway. The poltician is wearing a campaign button that reads "Palin-McCain" — as well as a red top with a plunging neckline. The cover is a reference to two instances of content debate, one that played out on a national stage and the other a seemingly minor moment in Alaska that has […]
Aug. 17, 2008 | 1:44 p.m.
The Sunday Review: "The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics" Edited by Paul Gravett (Running Press, softcover, $17.95) Earlier this year, there was quite a stir of attention (and appropriately so) for author David Hajdu’s latest book, "The Ten Cent Plague: the Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America," which delved into the quirky and alarming crusades against comics in this country that reached their shrill peaks in the 1940s and 1950s. In a piece I wrote in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, I admired the research but had some problems with the focus in the final analysis. That said, the book and its tale really stuck with me, and I think it should be on the bookshelf of anyone who loves comics history. And you know what should go right next to it? "The Mammoth […]