Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Number 710

Bed of Murder!

War Against Crime! #11 was the last issue of that title. With the next issue it became Vault of Horror. This last issue of WAC featured the second story hosted by the Vault Keeper, and EC's first horror cover. Those must've been heady days at EC when they saw their circulation jump as they moved into horror.

I could've shown you the Vault Keeper's story from this 1949 last issue of WAC, "The Mummy's Curse," but I'm contrary and want to show you story number two from that issue because I have the original art scans I purloined some years ago from Heritage Auctions, and because of the confusion over the artist of "Bed of Murder." When I showed some panels from this artwork in Pappy's #351 I identified it as being by Harry Harrison, because that was the credit I'd seen elsewhere. In Russ Cochran's reprint of WAC #11 the credit for the artwork is given to John Alton.

John...who? To paraphrase sportscaster Dick Vitale, "Let's go to the internet!" I found that John Alton was a Canadian artist who had worked for Bell Syndicate in Canada, and had done some jobs in the States after the Canadian comic industry crashed. Credits for Alton are scarce over the years, and after a time they disappear. I find Alton's style very clean, no white-out and no patches. There's nothing exceptionally dynamic about his artwork but Alton was obviously a professional and his style seems perfect for the late '40s crime comics.

Tomorrow is a non-EC posting, then I'll come back on Friday with a couple of EC love tales.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Number 709

What Lee Ames did was a crime!

Lee J. Ames is a famous and popular artist who, among many other things, illustrates books and does the Draw 50... series of art instruction books. At one time Ames was doing comic book work, but I haven't found much information on that phase of his career.  Oh well...based on his fancy signature on the artwork for this story he seemed to have been pleased with what he had done.

(UPDATE: Ames died in 2011.)

This 12-page version of the life of Machine Gun Kelly (misspelled "Kelley" in the splash, tsk tsk), is found in War Against Crime #1, 1948, and I'm presenting it as part of a series this week on EC Pre-Trend comics. The scans are from the Russ Cochran reprint from 2000. War Against Crime! and its partner in crime, Crime Patrol, were just two of many crime comics titles from several publishers in the late 1940s. These two fair-to-middling-selling comics became more famous — or infamous — for introducing the features, The Vault of Horror and The Crypt of Terror, just before these two crime titles morphed into the horror titles.

I posted another version of the Machine Gun Kelly story in Pappy's #11.

Next: Better than the dial-a-number bed, dig that crazy murder bed!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Number 708  

Moon Girl 

More from EC Comic's Pre-Trend: Moon Girl, similar to Wonder Woman, made her debut in Happy Houlihans, had her own book under a couple of different titles, and ended up as a casualty of the trend toward love comics. Moon Girl and the Prince begat Moon Girl, which begat Moon Girl Fights Crime, which then begat A Moon, A Girl, Romance

Sheldon Moldoff, who drew Moon Girl, was an important part of early EC history. He worked for EC publisher Max Gaines' earlier All-American Comics line doing Hawkman in Flash Comics, and he drew up plans for an EC horror comic, even producing some stories for a proposed book that went into the Pre-Trend crime comics instead--and without Moldoff--launched the EC New Trend horror comics. See the story of Moldoff's Tales of the Supernatural in the book Tales of Terror! by Grant Geissman. Moon Girl, for all her charms and the moonstone that gave her super powers, just couldn't carry a comic book title on her own, and during a period of transition was dropped. The Moon Girl stories were written by Gardner Fox, who was also with the Max Gaines Gang on Hawkman and several other features. From Moon Girl #3, Spring 1948: 

Tomorrow: What Lee Ames did was a crime!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Number 707


Before Graham Ingels became famous for his horror stories he saddled up at EC Comics for some Western action. He drew Gunfighter stories for the eponymous comic book. Ingels had worked at Fiction House before he landed at EC, doing comic book work and also pulp illustration.

No one can hold a dripping candle to the inspired artwork of Ingels in his Old Witch days at EC. Ingels' work on Gunfighter isn't classic like his horror, but it's still much better than most of his artist contemporaries. This story is the lead from Gunfighter #10, 1949.

We're doing some EC pre-Trend postings this week. Next, Moon Girl by Shelly Moldoff.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Number 706

Looks fishy to me

The radio show, Land Of the Lost, created, written and narrated by Isabel Manning Hewson, was on the air from 1943 to 1948. A book based on the show, illustrated by Olive Bailey, was published by Whittlesey House in 1945. Max Gaines licensed the show for Educational Comics in 1946, and hired Ms. Hewson as writer and Ms. Bailey as artist. This may be the only time I can think of during the 1940s that a female writer-artist team had a series.* The comic book went nine issues.

This is the first story from issue #1. As you can see, Bailey had a style which calls to mind an earlier era of storybooks and illustrated children's literature. Hewson's story is whimsical...the Land Of the Lost is the place where all of the lost artifacts of our daily lives go, into the ocean to be kept in storage in Davy Jones locker.

The fish character, Red Lantern, must've made Gaines smile, since it was his All-American Comics line, published by DC Comics, that introduced the popular superhero, Green Lantern.

Land Of the Lost was published until 1948 and then dropped. Max Gaines died in 1947. It's unknown to me whether the comic was canceled because of sales or because Max Gaines' son, Bill, was taking EC in another direction.

*There was Toni Blum, who wrote for the Iger comic book shop. Some of her stories were undoubtedly illustrated by one or more of the female artists in Fiction House comic books. Unlike the Iger shop, the Land Of the Lost connection between writer and artist was touted in the comic books themselves, as you can see by the inside front cover of issue #1.

The next few postings will feature early EC, before the notorious New Trend comics EC is famous for.