Monday, May 11, 2009
Go Johnny Go!
I'm partial to the writer-artists in the EC crew: Feldstein, Craig and Kurtzman. There was a real harmonic convergence of talent at EC.
Johnny Craig was one of the slowest EC artists; like Kurtzman a perfectionist, he reworked his drawings until he got them right. It meant he didn't get as much work in, so he increased his income by writing his own material. A few issues before the horror comics were killed by EC he was given the job as editor of Vault of Horror, writing all the stories and drawing the lead.
Here are a couple of my favorite Craig stories. I read them first at age 12, and while I 'got' "Star Light Star Bright" from Vault of Horror #34, "The Tryst" in Shock Suspenstories #11 partially zipped over my head. I went to the dictionary to look up the word "tryst." Sex is the basis for the story. I knew because the young girl — "fresh out of high school," as we read on page one — is sitting on the older guy's lap in her nightgown, asking for a baby. That looked pretty hot to me at such a tender age, even if I was just a bit vague on the whole process. (I grew up sheltered, which is probably why I am the dirty old man I am today.) I understood the jealousy angle, but I didn't have the life experience to put everything, the husband's obsessive possessiveness and controlling behavior, into context.
"Star Light" is like "Reflection of Death," my favorite Feldstein story from Tales From the Crypt #23. It's told in a straightforward narrative style, then switches to the main character's point of view, then back to the reader's POV, then finishes with the main character's. There's no sex at all in this story. (Unless you count Hartley Quimb's name, "Quim" being one of those old-time euphemisms for female genitalia.) At one time I read that the casket scene in "Star Light" was inspired by a similar movie scene, but can't find anything about it in my EC reference material. If you know what movie it was please let me know.