Wednesday, December 5, 2012

THE HAUNT OF FEAR ANNUAL VOL. 4

THE HAUNT OF FEAR ANNUAL VOL. 4 (Gemstone, 1997; Softcover)
Collects The Haunt of Fear Nos. 16-20 (cover dates December, 1952- August, 1953)
Writers: Ray Bradbury and Al Feldstein.
Artists: Graham Ingels, George Evans, Jack Kamen, Jack Davis, Reed Crandall, and Al Feldstein.
I am reading these EC Annuals slowly, savoring them, content with the knowledge that I own the complete New Trend and New Direction in collected editions to read at my leisure. These comic books are like fine wine and seem to get even better with age. Ridiculous you say? Then you have obviously never read an EC Comic! EC Comics are the greatest comic books ever made.
There are several adaptations of the late, great Ray Bradbury's throughout this book, and they rock. Bradbury read EC, and Feldstein sometimes did, shall we say, liberal adaptations of other people's stories. Bradbury sent them a letter commenting on one of those stories which resembled his and stated that his rate was $50 per story and that they must have forgotten to remit his check. EC sent him a check, and so began their collaboration.
I love the over the top violence and gore, especially for the era. It was always presented in a beautiful, classy manner which belied the events that occurred. Genius. Every single Horror movie and comic book made in the wake of EC owes a huge debt to these cats whether they realize it or not. Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone owe a huge debt to EC as well, with the ironic twist ending being another EC hallmark.
EC employed only the finest artists. “Ghastly” Graham Ingels is brilliant as always here, and Jack Kamen once again delivers outstanding, museum quality artwork. I was taken aback by how beautiful George Evans' artwork is, though. He puts so much detail into his photo-realistic style that it is breathtaking. While it is nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite in this book, Evans' Lover, Come Hack To Me takes the cake. Honestly, every story is a winner. I know that it seems like I gush endlessly about EC Comics, but it is praise that is warranted and deserved. These comic books are national treasures.
Are you discouraged by the lack of progress with the EC Archives? Are the Fantagraphics artist-centric editions not enough for an EC Fan-Addict like yourself? Then you need to track down these EC Annuals. Russ Cochran has them for sale on his site for $7.50 each. Can't decide which ones to get first? Then do what I did back in January: order all of them! Imagine my delight when $300+ of EC goodness arrived in a crate on my porch. There are a handful of volumes that are out of print, but the vast majority are still available...for now. Russ packs his books extremely well, so order with confidence. Tell him Kris sent you. He'll say” Who?
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- If you do not know what an EC Annual is, then pull up a chair. I'll give you the skinny on these great books. Gemstone overprinted their single issue reprints in the '90s with an eye toward selling their own back issues. They re-purposed this overstock by gluing 5 entire issues into a cardstock cover. While this is not technically a trade paperback (it has no ISBN), it is squarebound and has the title on the spine. Close enough for Rock and Roll in my book. The comics themselves are printed on the mando/heavy pulp paper of the day. The water based inks look fine, although the blacks look weak on this paper, like they didn't sink in correctly. I am not sure if this is the ink or the paper's fault, as I am not an expert on the printing processes used in these books. I can spot bad restoration and reproduction a mile away, but the nuts and bolts of the printing process is outside of my realm of expertise.
William Gaines kept the original artwork, or filmed it, and so what you have are superb presentations of this material with no line dropouts. The color palette is largely faithful to the original material. I would love to see a purist line of these books done with all of the original color palettes once they complete the EC Archives. I know, I know, would I like fries with that? I am not above making tall orders, especially where EC is concerned. These pages should be hung in museums for all to appreciate and admire.
Linework restoration rating: 5 out of 5.
Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5.
Paper rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Binding rating: 4.5 out of 5. The glued binding is 15 years old and has nary a creak when you flip through it.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 4 out of 5. There isn't much in the way of coating, but this book has a nice thick cover and a fair amount of flex.

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