Friday, June 23, 2017


PIRACY ANNUAL VOL. 2 (Gemstone, 1998; Softcover)

Collects Piracy 5-7 (cover dates July- November, 1955)

Writers: Jack Oleck, Carl Wessler, and other unknown writers

Artists: Reed Crandall, George Evans, Graham Ingels, Bernie Kirigstein, and Jack Davis

A three issue trade paperback? Yes, in the days before mapping out lines, publishers settled on a format (in the case of these Annuals, four issues per book) and went from there with sometimes amusing, unintended results.

EC's New Direction line was the result of the implementation of the Comics Code Authority, the industry's self-inflicted gunshot wound to creativity and art in the wake of the Senate subcommittee hearings on the correlation between comic books and the rise in juvenile delinquency. Out were Horror and Crime, in were bold interpretations of genres like pirates.

George Evans rules!

Most of these stories take place in the 18th and 19th centuries, the days when seafaring men set sail for adventure and riches. There are no humor or horror elements to be found, only men who fought with their fists and their wits.

The EC stable of artists turned in some of the best art of their careers here. George Evans and Bernie Krigstein are just incredible, and I cannot stress enough how incredible their artwork is. The writing is also top notch, nothing unusual for EC. #7's Salvage and The Keg are fully formed stories with powerful messages. Each could easily be an hour long television episode. The fact that they are beautifully illustrated by Krigstein (the former) and Evans (the latter) only cements the brilliance of the writing of those stories.

Other stories, like Fur Crazy and Temptation, are morality plays, something of an EC trademark. They have a variation of the ironic EC twist ending. As well as things were going creatively, comics are, alas, a business, and if it doesn't sell then it doesn't get published. Many wholesalers were boycotting EC still, not understanding the changes that they had made after implementing the Comics Code Authority. Other times it was the drugstores and newsstands which refused to even put them out, instead returning them as unsold credit. The New Direction was a failure, which is a shame. The worst part about the EC story is that they made the best comics but were railroaded by politicians and their industry peers who used the Comics Code Authority to essentially blackball them. One can only wonder how they would have adapted to emerging trends like superheroes, which enjoyed a revival several years after these comics were made.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Gemstone overprinted their single issue reprints in the '90s with an eye toward selling their own back issues. They re-purposed this overstock by trimming and 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 EC Annuals are the most economical and efficient way of getting your EC collection.
Linework and Color restoration: Shot from the original artwork with a color palette authentic to the original publication. If you want to see EC Comics in full color then this is the best way to do so, as these look superior to the originals in print quality.
Paper stock: Standard pulp paper of the day. The pro is that this looks and feels like a real comic book. The con, and it is a very large one, is that this will age and yellow, just like real comic book paper. I am admittedly less and less worried about this sort of thing as time goes by, as I will likely be dead and gone before this book deteriorates too badly.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick cardboard with minimal coating. There are signs of wear after years but all in all very solid. 

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