Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The EC and Warren Connection

EC comics were an obvious influence on Warren's comic magazines and with this article I shall point out the connections between the two. It is well known that during Warren's original golden age of 1964 to 1967 that the comics came off as EC resurrected, with many of the stories drawn by the same artists that had originally appeared in EC comics. In fact Warren's horror comics came about in the first place due to original Creepy editor Russ Jones wanting to recreate EC-style horror comics in the early to mid 1960s. By 1967 all of the original EC artists had departed Warren due to the money problems that plagued Warren that resulted in a reduction in the stories commissioned, and the rates paid. Some of these artists, like Joe Orlando, Johnny Craig and Angelo Torres would never return, but a fair number, like Reed Crandall and Al Williamson eventually did. Others, like John Severin, Alex Toth and Russ Heath actually outpaced themselves in later years, during eras that are principally known at Warren as being dominated by Spanish and Phillipino artists.

An early force in Warren comics was a group of artists who were known as the Fleagles gang at EC in the 1950s, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Roy Krenkel and Angelo Torres (Nick Meglin and George Woodridge were also part of this group but never actually worked for Warren). This group of artists frequently collaborated at EC on stories that were often credited just to Williamson. Only occasionally would a credit appear for Frazetta, Krenkel or Torres, although they had a big part in a great many more. Each non-Williamson artist including Frazetta only did one solo story, and Torres' wasn't even published during EC's original run due to being rejected by the Comics Code. Frazetta also contributed a solo cover for Weird Science-Fantasy #29, which was a rejected cover for Famous Funnies. This cover is frequently credited as the best cover from an EC comic.

Aside from Krenkel, each of these artists had a high level of contribution to Warren, particularly Frazetta and Torres. Frazetta did only one actual comics story for Warren ("Werewolf", appearing in Creepy #1) and a couple of frontis one page features, but did numerous covers, principally on the early issues. Some of these covers are quite famous, in particular Eerie #23 and Vampirella #1, but for the most part each one is a classic. Like much of the original Warren artists, Frazetta stopped contributing in late 1967 as Warren went into a dark age, but later returned and contributed work in 1969 and 1970. His last Warren cover was used for Eerie #81, but had actually been painted several years earlier, intended for a magazine called "POW!" that was never actually published. Frazetta was extremely popular with readers, and Warren reprinted his covers numerous times starting in the mid to late 1970s. Krenkel never did an actual full Warren story on his own, although he contributed to a story with Al Williamson in the first issue of Creepy, had a few frontis one-page features and had a couple of writing credits. He has also been credited as assisting with drafts for Frazetta's covers to Creepy 6 and 7 (which can be seen in EC fanzine Squa Tront #7).

Williamson contributed early stories to Creepy, Eerie and Blazing Combat before departing Warren for almost 10 years, returning for 2 stories in Creepy #86 and Creepy #112 respectively. An additional story that he originally drew for Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction appeared in Creepy #83. Torres was prolific in the early issues of Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, contributing 19 solo stories, a collaboration with Al Williamson for one story, a single page ending to a Gray Morrow (to whom he had stylistic similarities) story from Creepy #2 and 6 single page frontispieces. Torres' art was typically a high point for me in the early issues of Creepy and Eerie. He departed Warren for good in early 1967.

Williamson's work for EC was primarily their sci-fi work, which was also the case for Joe Orlando and Wally Wood who also made many contributions to Warren. At EC, Orlando's work appeared heavily influenced by Wood at first but slowly grew into his own unique style, one that was more so apparent by the time he worked at Warren. Orlando provided art for approximately 30 stories in Creepy, Eerie and Blazing Combat, including the infamous "Landscape" story from Blazing Combat #2 that is oftentimes cited as a primary reason for that comic's demise. Eight of his stories were part of the Adam Link series, Warren's first recurring series. The first 3 stories had also been adapted by EC in Weird Science-Fantasy in 1954/1955, drawn that time by Orlando as well. Although it should be noted that stylistically Orlando handled things differently, particularly the Adam Link character in both series. Orlando's work for Warren ceased in 1967, when he moved on to join DC Comics.

Wally Wood was EC's most well known sci-fi artist and also was a heavy contributor to Harvey Kurtzman's war comics. Wood, unlike many of the other EC artists discussed here did very little work during Warren's original golden age when Archie Goodwin was editor, his output limited to a single horror story he did with Dan Adkins in Creepy #9 and a pair of stories for Blazing Combat. He had earlier done a story for Famous Monsters which was also reprinted in Eerie in 1967. Wood did a variety of stories for Warren in the early to mid 70s, most of which were sci-fi or fantasy based. Wood departed Warren for good after a controversial incident when Bill Dubay took a 12 page stories of his, split it in two, and heavily rewrote it to focus on sexual aspects of the story as published in the first 2 issues of 1984. Dubay had reportedly ordered rewritten a story of Wood's from Eerie #60, which was published a few years earlier, as well. A joint story of Wood’s with Ernie Colon appeared a few issues later in 1984, but this story was originally done several years earlier, intended for the previously mentioned POW! magazine which never saw the light of day.

Jack Davis was one of the most prolific artists at EC, appearing in practically every horror and war comic that EC issued. He never did any actual stories for Warren, but contributed one frontispiece from Creepy #3 and did the original drawings for Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie that appeared throughout Warren's comics for years to come. He also did the covers for the first issues of both Creepy and Eerie, although the Eerie cover was actually a reprint of a subscription advertisement that had appeared in an earlier issue of Creepy.

Reed Crandall and George Evans joined EC midway through its run and contributed a variety of stories for EC's horror and crime comics. Crandall was a prolific contributor to Warren in its early days and as with the other EC artists departed for a few years towards the end of 1967. Crandall returned to Warren in 1969 for another approximate half dozen stories then departed again, only to return once more for a final batch of stories that appeared 1972 and 1973. By this point however the quality of his work had deteriorated quite a bit and I believe this was his last actual comics work. Evans did a variety of types of stories for EC, but planes was his true love and his Warren work reflected this as all 3 of these stories featured this theme, which appeared in Creepy and Blazing Combat.

Johnny Craig was my personal favorite EC artist, where he was principally responsible for the Vault of Horror and Crime Suspenstories comics. He had a very clean style which was a stark contrast to EC's other notable horror artists like Jack David and Graham Ingels. Craig was a strong writer as well and wrote the majority of his EC and Warren stories. Much of his work was under the alias "Jay Taycee" which he used due such that the advertising clients he worked for didn't know he was doing comics work as well. Craig was yet another artist that departed Warren for good in 1967 although a couple of stories of his didn't see print until 1968.

John Severin appeared principally in EC's war comics, and actually edited Two-Fisted Tales for a period of time before its cancellation. His early work during Warren golden age was a mixture of this type of work for Blazing Combat, as well as several stories for Creepy and Eerie. Severin departed along with the other EC artists in 1967 but returned in 1974 and contributed Warren work for many years after, through 1979. Severin was never a favorite of mine during his EC days but he always was a strong contributor for Warren with the approximate 30 or so stories he did for them.

Russ Heath, Alex Toth and Eugene Colan aren't artists one usually thinks of when they think of EC, but all 3 had done stories for EC's war comics. Heath only did a single story during Warren's original golden age, "Give and Take" from Blazing Combat #4, but did approximately a dozen stories for Warren in the late 1970s, including some extremely memorable stories like "Yellow Heat" (my personal favorite Warren story), "Process of Elimination" and "Zooner or Later". Heath's Warren work was always exceptionally strong, particularly the aforementioned Yellow Heat. Toth did a number of stories during Warren's original golden age, best among them "Survival" from Blazing Combat #3. Toth departed Warren over a year before the other artists did, but returned to Warren multiple times and his artwork appeared in Warren magazines far longer than any other former EC artist. In the mid 70s he did a number of solo stories, most of which he wrote himself, along with the well known "Daddy and the Pie" story from Eerie #64 and the final two stories in the "Hacker" series. His latest batch of original Warren stories were done in the early 1980s and featured him inking stories for a variety of artists such as Leo Summers, Leo Duranona and Carmine Infantino, producing an interesting result each time. The Rook printed his "Bravo For Adventure" two part series, which was rated as the #1 Warren series of all time in the book The Warren Companion. Toth's last Warren work was a couple of stories from the Torpedo series that he had originally done for the Spanish version of Creepy that were reprinted in some of the last issues of Vampirella. Colan's work appeared exclusively during Warren's original golden age, totaling approximately 15 stories that mostly appeared in Eerie. His work was principally done in wash-style and was always of exceptionally high quality.

The two big omissions from this article to this point from EC's side have been Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder. Kurtzman acted as editor for EC's two war comics and was the founding editor of Mad in its comics form and the first few issues of its magazine form. Elder appeared within EC's war comics, primarily teamed with John Severin. Once Mad came out, Elder's true calling as a humor artist became apparent and he was among EC's strongest comedic artists in Mad and its sanctioned imitation comic, Panic. Neither artist ever did work for Warren's horror comics, but both worked on the magazine Help!, which Warren published from 1960 through 1965. Kurtzman acted as editor and a primary writer for the magazine while Elder did art for various stories throughout the magazine's run.

Most of the focus of this article has been on EC's artists, but what about their writers? With the vast, vast majority of EC's stories being written by Al Feldstein, there was only a few other EC writers, although two of them, Otto Binder and Carl Wessler did work for Warren. Both of these writers came on board with EC around 1954 towards the end of its original run of horror comics. Binder did approximately a dozen stories for Warren, all during its original golden age. Most of these stories were from the Adam Link series which he originally developed with his brother Earl Binder. As mentioned earlier, the first 3 of these stories had also appeared in EC comics as well. Wessler contributed only 2 stories to Warren's original golden age, but rejoined Warren during Bill Dubay's run as editor, contributing approximately 20 stories. Four of his stories later appeared in the early 1980s although I suspect all four of them were originally done during the Dubay era and just held off for printing until this point. One story, "Lucky Stiff", was a redo of a story he had done called "Out Cold" from the Haunt of Fear #25.

So who from EC never actually contributed to Warren? The most notable is "Ghastly" Graham Ingels, the lead artist of the Haunt of Fear and probably the most liked of the EC horror artists. Ingels' style would have fit Warren perfectly, but the criticism of the subject matter that he contributed to EC greatly bothered him and he left the comics field entirely. That said, Warren eventually did a tribute story to him, "Encore Ghastly" in Creepy #61 which featured a horror comics artist who had been driven from comics, but returned, this time drawing the stories with blood. Bernard Krigstein, who did groundbreaking work for EC, particularly with his art on the famous story "Master Race" had also departed comics entirely by the time Warren started doing comics. Al Feldstein was the principal editor from EC throughout its run, but working as editor for Mad during the entire period that Warren was publishing comics was obviously never even available. Jack Kamen was a very prolific EC artist and was EC's best artist at drawing women, but was generally weak from a horror standpoint and never did any Warren work.

1 comment:

superficialman said...

My problem with Warren was the writing. EC had great stories. Warren was boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl turns out to be werewolf/vampire/zombie.