Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review- WAR AGAINST CRIME ANNUAL VOL. 1

WAR AGAINST CRIME ANNUAL VOL. 1 (Gemstone, 2000; Softcover)
Collects War Against Crime Nos. 1-5 (cover dates Spring, 1948- February-March, 1949)
Writers: Lee Ames, Johnny Craig, Ed Moore, Graham Ingels, Al Feldstein, and other unidentified writers.
Artists: Lee Ames, Johnny Craig, Ed Moore, Graham Ingels, Stan Asch, Frank Bolle, Leonard Starr, Al Feldstein, Sheldon Moldoff, and Howard Larson.

This is the first “Pre-Trend” EC Comic that I have read. As I plow through my collection of EC Annuals I have decided to jump back and forth between the various eras. I started with New Trend (Horror), then read some New Direction (i.e. Valor), back to New Trend, and have now went back to the beginning, the Pre-Trend. Unfortunately, much of the Pre-Trend material has not been reprinted. A few things made it into the black and white EC Library sets, but a lot of the obscure stuff seems to be lost to the ages. And don't even get me started on the long promised, perpetually delayed 3D set...

Crime comics were insanely popular with all ages of readers through the 1940s. The first (and best) was Crime Does Not Pay, which had a circulation of six million copies a month. Six million! Keep in mind that publishers today do backflips with 100,000 copies sold. If a monthly hits some magic mark like 300,000 it is cause for champagne. Crime Does Not Pay inspired a slew of imitators, with one in seven comic books sold in 1949 being a “true crime” type comic. It should come as no surprise that EC would throw their hat in the ring, since they hadn't found their “voice” as a publisher yet. That would come soon enough, though.
 This series followed the whole “true crime” case formula pioneered by Crime Does Not Pay. A few of these stories even use their famous phrase of “Crime Does Not Pay” in the final panel! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? There are subtle changes as the series progresses. I really enjoy all of this hard-edged, brass knuckle tough guy gangster stuff. Bank robbers and the like. It's all fun, although I won't be reading this to my kids any time soon.
There is some terrific early Al Feldstein artwork hear, and also some Graham Ingels before he was “Ghastly”. As for picking a favorite story, I can't. I enjoyed them all equally. I did like how they switched eras, from train robbers to the Revolutionary War to then-modern times.
 While this isn't as good as their Horror comics it was still a terrific read. I have tons of EC Annuals and Archives in my backlog, so there will be more EC reviews in the months and years ahead.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 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. On the plus side, there is zero glare under any light source.
Binding rating: 4.5 out of 5. The glued binding is nearly 15 years old and has nary a creak when you flip through it. The gutters are incredibly tight, although nothing is lost in them.
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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