Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review- THE VAULT OF HORROR ANNUAL VOL. 6

THE VAULT OF HORROR ANNUAL VOL. 6 (Gemstone, 1999; Softcover)
Collects The Vault of Horror Nos. 37-40 (cover dates July, 1954- January, 1955)
Writers: Carl Wessler and Johnny Craig
Artists: Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Al Williamson, Angelo Torres (inker), Graham Ingels, Bernie Krigstein, Reed Crandall, and Joe Orlando.

An air of desperation and agitation hang over these final issues, as the witch hunt led by Dr. Frederick Wertham which resulted in a Congressional subcommittee inquiry into comics boils to a fever pitch. EC was the biggest target, with the publisher being blackballed by distributors due to the recently imposed Comics Code Authority which all but banned their best titles. They knew the end was near and upped the ante, defiantly going out with a bang.
The Vault Keeper reintroduces a seldom used character who became a fixture in these last few issues, his co-hostess Drusilla. She has the requisite Goth/dead chick thing going on. It should be noted that this predates The Munsters and The Addams Family television series, although the latter was around as a New Yorker strip nearly two decades before EC.
Godlike artwork by Reed Crandall. 
 I loved Bernie Krigstein's artwork on #38's The Catacombs. His style, panel composition, and use of shadows is highly effective. I have picked up the Fantagraphics collection of his work, Messages In A Bottle: Comic Stories By B. Krigstein, and that story is also included there recolored with water colors by famed EC colorist Marie Severin. Issue 39's Deadly Beloved! is a genuinely creepy story that benefits from Johnny Craig's fine artwork. Reed Crandall's Top Billing, also from #39, is another winner.
An example of Johnny Craig's artwork from Deadly Beloved!
As I have stated ad nauseam in all of my reviews for EC Comics, these remain the gold standard for comic books, or as the hipsters call them, the graphic panel sequential narrative artform. Whatever you call them, or however you read them (originals, '70s reprints, '90s Gemstone reprints, EC Library sets, EC Archives, or the artist-centric Fantagraphics collections), the important thing is that you read them. Everyone owes it to themselves to read this stuff.
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 and 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.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: None.
Linework restoration rating: 5 out of 5. William Gaines kept the original artwork, or filmed it, and so what you have here are superb presentations of this material with no line dropouts.
Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. The color palette is entirely faithful to the original issues with the exceptions of the covers. Marie Severin recolored them all for the EC Library sets, and those same versions are found here.
Paper rating: 3.5 out of 5. The comics themselves are printed on the mando pulp paper of the day, while the covers are presented on the original slick cover stock. Some folks prefer this comic book feeling paper. I prefer paper with a little more heft. Your mileage may vary.
Binding rating: 4.5 out of 5. The glued binding is over 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 cardstock cover with a fair amount of flex to it.

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2 comments:

  1. Great review, Kris. I share your love for anything and everything E.C.
    In case anyone reading this review wants to try one of these (Or ALL of these!) E.C. collections, Russ Cochran has almost all of them for sale on his website for ten bucks apiece.

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  2. All I want is everything EC in oversized, slipcased color hardcover. Is that too much to ask??

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