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EC Comics

Entry updated 18 December 2023. Tagged: Comics, Publisher.


Company founded in 1945 by M C Gaines (1896-1947), creator of the format of the modern Comic book and original partner in the company that became DC Comics. The initials stood for both Educational and, later, Entertaining Comics. After Gaines's death the company passed to his son, William M Gaines (1922-1992), who revamped the line to his own taste. Educational Comics was wound down and Entertaining Comics was transformed into a line of anthology titles that included two sf comic books – Weird Science and Weird Fantasy – which were the poorest sellers, but which survived because of his personal support. Various artists drew the sf stories, which ranged from the clichéd and absurd to the surprisingly good; most were written by editor Al Feldstein, though some were by Otto Binder (see Eando Binder). Feldstein also "borrowed" stories from authors such as Anthony Boucher, Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, John Collier and Richard Matheson. In 1952 Bradbury noted the unauthorized adaptations but, enjoying them, simply wrote and requested payment, which Gaines forwarded. This led to official adaptations of Bradbury stories.

In 1954 there was increasing concern about juvenile delinquency and the "harmful influence" of comic books, stoked by Fredric Wertham's distinctly biased study Seduction of the Innocent (1954). This concern – often directed at EC's horror and crime publications such as Tales from the Crypt and Shock SuspenStories – led to the two above-cited sf titles combining as Weird Science-Fantasy; this was in turn renamed as Incredible Science Fiction (which see). Such minor measures failed to stem the flow of criticism, and EC abandoned its entire comic-book line in 1955 to concentrate on the satirical magazine Mad, which started as a comic book but became a magazine to avoid the self-censorship of the industry's newly christened Comics Code Authority.

EC influenced various creators, including the underground comics artists of the 1960s and several writers, notably Stephen King; but the main influence was from EC's horror titles and Mad, not their sf titles. A number of collections of EC material have appeared, including two books of Ray Bradbury adaptations by Al Feldstein: The Autumn People (coll 1965), which is horror, and Tomorrow Midnight (coll 1966), which is sf.

Russ Cochran's The Complete EC Library reprints the entire run in large hardcovers, and the material has been republished in numerous formats on an almost continual basis over the last several decades. [ZB/BF/JP/DRL]

see also: Roger Hill.

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