Sunday, December 09, 2012

Number 1277: The crimes of F.C. Aljon

I love original art; I especially love original art from EC Comics, and love to share it. Well, I need to clarify that...the original artboards for these two stories don't belong to me. They were sold by Heritage Auctions, who — bless their Texas-sized hearts (they are headquartered in Dallas) — provide these excellent scans. I give them a tip of my 10-gallon Stetson in recognition of their (unwitting) contribution to Pappy’s blog. Thanks, pardners!

Now, on to the art. Johnny Craig and Al Feldstein did some collaborating during their early days working for Bill Gaines at EC Comics. In these two stories for Crime Patrol #13 (1949), signed by “F.C. Aljon” their styles sharply contrast. The first story, “I Fight Crime,” is credited by the Grand Comics Database as being penciled by Feldstein, and supposedly inked by Craig, and the process is reversed for the second, “Edna Sunday.” But in looking over both of these stories I see them differently. “I Fight Crime” is mostly drawn by Feldstein, pencils and inks, with a few panels by Craig. “Edna Sunday” is mostly drawn by Craig.

But really, is it all that important? Well, sure it is to those of us wonkish comic book guys who like to get the credits right, even though early comic book credits are often a lot trickier to pin down than we think.

The other thing of interest is the change of name and splash panels for “Edna Sunday” which covered over a violent panel with an innocuous portrait of the title character, and the title, “Hate,” There could be a practical reason for this, including concern over criticism of crime comics by Fredric Wertham, M.D. (his major attack against crime comics, the article that would grow into his 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, appeared in The Ladies Home Journal in 1948), and groups of bluenoses who were organizing comic book drives to feed bonfires. A year before this issue of Crime Patrol the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Rope, starring James Stewart, opened on a close-up of a man being strangled with a garrotte. Hitchcock could get away with it...maybe Bill Gaines didn't think in that climate of comic book criticism he could do the same. A couple of years later he challenged the critics, but in his early days as publisher he may not have been so brave.

Haunted Horrors is a reprint comic, an anthology of the pre-Comics Code, non-EC horror comics of the early 1950s. It’s co-edited by Karswell of the popular blog, The Horrors Of It All. Craig Yoe is the other horror-meister. He has published some great hardcover books from what is called “The Chilling Archives of Horror Comics” — they've been so well received the bi-monthly comic was launched.

I think it’s a great comic; Karswell told me the idea was to use stories that he had not featured in his blog, but even if they had used those stories it wouldn't have mattered to me. I’m old-fashioned enough to believe having something available only in a non-tactile, digital form such as a blog is not the same as having it in print, on paper. (And yes, that includes the blog you’re reading now.)

Haunted Horror #2 is out, with a fine line-up of stories from a variety of publishers: Fawcett, Superior, Harvey, Standard and two stories from Ace by two of their top artists, Ken Rice and Lou Cameron. My personal favorite story this issue is from Adventures Into Darkness #6, drawn by the great George Tuska, “Corpse Convention.” The splash panel reminds me of checking into the hotel in the early days of the San Diego Comicon!

Karswell is presented as a horror host, and Craig Yoe, with his instantly identifiable hairstyle, is “Forelock the Warlock.”

It’s all great fun in that special way these old comics were fun, reviving the spirit of the forbidden, when kids read these under the covers with flashlights so their parents wouldn't know they were scaring themselves silly. And silly some of the stories are, but that’s their charm. For $3.99 you can’t miss with Haunted Horrors. And while you’re at it, go to or and check out the other titles in Yoe’s hardcover series...Christmas quickly approaches, and you know someone wants a gift suggestion for you.

...and speaking of great books, this just in...

I got Yoe’s latest book, Comics About Cartoonists, just yesterday, and have spent some enjoyable hours paging through, admiring how many comic book stories there are with references to cartoonists and comic book artists. It seems a natural — cartoonists live in a pretty insular world, often working from home or a studio. Their art becomes their own self-contained universe. I remember stories like this when I was a kid and loved them, because it was the artist stepping through that “fourth wall,” coming off the page to let us readers know that yes, there was a person involved in producing the comic book.

The book is credited to Yoe as editor and designer, and his wife, Clizia Gussoni, as producer. I admire this book very much, and will give a more thorough review when I’ve had the chance to actually sit down uninterrupted and read it. Until then, I’m recommending it based on the eye-popping visuals, because of the quality of all of the books from Yoe’s studio, and because I provided the copy of Weird Science Fantasy #22, from which Craig got the scans for Wallace Wood’s story, “My World.” As one of the most famous of the comics about cartoonists stories, it’s fitting that Craig used it to end the book.


Brian Barnes said...

I usually just make my snarky observations, but let me instead thank you for this -- and everything else -- you post.

I'm a big EC horror/sci-fan, but not the biggest crime fan, so outside of the later shock, I haven't see much of this early crime work, and it's a real treat, especially in enlarged B&W.

That said, boy does Edna Sunday have a terribly dumb ending!

Also, I Fight Crime, I wonder how "acceptable" that kind of behavior was from the police, even at the height of the mob wars (not the later 1940s)?

Pappy said...

Brian, ...and I appreciate your thank you.

EC had that reputation for the twist ending, the "sting in the tail," which I sometimes found annoying. Especially when the denouement was as absurd as the ending of "Edna Sunday."

George Freeman said...

I'm pretty sure that first panel of Crime Convention was drawn by Alex Toth. You notice that the original art (not my scan) has a Tuska panel underneath it.

Pappy said...

I hadn't seen that before, George, and I appreciate you guiding us to the original art. As a lead-in to the story Toth's pasteover panel is much more interesting than Tuska's original splash. Thanks for your input.

Karswell said...

I missed this post, Pap-- thanks for pluggin' the Haunted Horrors! I think I got misquoted though because in both HH issues we've used stories that have been featured at THOIA, it's possible at this point in time and after half a decade of bloggin' that it'll be impossible to publish HH without using stories not already posted somewhere on the web-- your blog included! Thanks again! :)