Monday, July 23, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 62

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
62: June 1955 Part I

Weird Science-Fantasy 29

"The Chosen One" 
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Wally Wood

"Vicious Circle" 
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Al Williamson

"Genesis" ★1/2
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Reed Crandall

"Adam Link in Business" 
Story by Eando Binder and Al Feldstein
Art by Joe Orlando

Professor Henry Fuller believes his young son is a mutant, a super-intelligent being created by Fuller's job as a professor, working on an atomic pile at Alamagordo (sic). His son, Bobby, walks at six months, speaks at a year, and seems to be able to read the newspaper at age two. Bobby can even read the mind of the puppy Henry brings him to try to warm up the little cold fish. But nothing seems to help the kid become a normal kid. Then, one night, a spaceship lands in Henry's yard and two aliens emerge to explain to Fuller they've come for the little freak. Henry explains that he loves his son and refuses to give him up but the aliens pass right by him and head upstairs. Henry gets his handgun but does nothing as the space travelers walk past him, bearing "The Chosen One." The next morning, Bobby wakes up and asks his dad what's become of Spot and dad just smiles, happy that it was the puppy, and not his boy, who's the super-freak. I gotta admit that, even though nine times out ten (especially with these later SF tales), I can spot the O. Henry a mile away, I never saw this one coming. Al does a great job hiding the twist until the last possible second without cheating at all (Henry's suspicions all come down to being a worry-wart, just like his wife said).

David mourns his dead friend, John, in a far future where man has become savage again and lives in caves. When David seeks the truth about John's execution by tribal leaders, he is told by a wise old man that John defied tribal laws that exist to prevent another Armageddon. After the old man narrates a long story of World War III and what destroyed mankind, David begins to understand; his pal was put to death for creating a machine and machines led to the end of life. The young man asks his mentor if he can see this machine and, soon, David sees his first wheel, a "Vicious Circle"! What seemed awfully fresh and clever five years before seems a tad more preachy and cliched by 1955. At least Carl reveals fairly quickly that we're looking at a future race of man rather than Neanderthals and Williamson's art is always perfect for this sub-genre.

Uh oh . . . does that mean these two
will . . . um . . .
Mankind has become sterile and its only hope is to immigrate to the radiation-free planet, Mars. One man travels to the red planet with other scouts and immediately falls in love with it, returning soon after with the first batch of immigrants. Unfortunately, after Mars is colonized, scientists discover that man is also sterile on other worlds and that life on Mars exists only because life forms split in two like amoebae. Faced with extinction, the vast majority of citizens head back to Earth to die off, leaving only one resident, our initial protagonist, who discovers, to his glee, that eventually even man would be affected by Mars's atmosphere and procreate. "Genesis" is a very literate and well-told story, one with a very bold finale and probably one of the last really good science fiction tales to come out of the EC factory. I can just imagine Wertham spitting out his gin and tonic after reading such an overtly homosexual climax.

Wonder-robot Adam Link is finally exonerated for the murder of his creator and allowed to live the carefree life of a genius. Bored and looking for something to do, the tin man opens a business consulting on scientific matters. All the money the business generates is donated to charity and life seems rosy until . . . gorgeous Kay Temple professes love for the man of nuts and bolts. Ordinarily, Adam would be popping his gyroscope in happiness but, it turns out, another man has eyes for the babelicious Ms. Temple and that man is none other than his best friend (and the man who got Adam off Death Row), reporter Jack Hall. Heart-broken but knowing it's for the best, Link lets Kay down easy and then exits stage left, off to a hidden sanctuary where no one can find him. The final issue of Weird Science-Fantasy brings the third and final Adam Link story, "Adam Link in Business," the best of the EC adaptations. Why is this one better than the previous two? Probably because its plot line is a bit outré and the script is more engaging. Why the adaptations stopped at the third one is anyone's guess but Joe and Otto will re-adapt the first three and contribute a further five to Warren's Creepy in the following decade. I'm not holding my breath that those versions will be any more captivating than these but we'll find out soon. As for Weird Science-Fantasy, the title was killed off after only seven issues, but EC SF continued with Incredible Science Fiction two months later. Not a bad issue to close the run. -Peter

Jack: You did not mention that fantastic Frazetta cover! It's good to see that Al Feldstein could still write such an effective story as "The Chosen One," in light of his crash and burn experience with Panic. Wally Wood's art in the science fiction books was always stunning and this story is no exception. Like you, Peter, I did not see the end coming. Williamson and Krenkel contribute more great art to "Vicious Circle," but Wessler's story seems like an attempt to imitate a Feldstein script and the twist did not excite me. The bar was set so high for art in the first two stories that Crandall's work in "Genesis" seems a tad rough and it's hard to imagine the fear of atomic energy and its consequences that seems to have gripped the American public in the 1950s. "Adam Link in Business" seems to come from a simpler time, a pre-atomic age of science fiction where stories like this were more common. Link reminds me of Superman (whose first appearance pre-dated that of Adam Link in the pulps) and the love story is far-fetched. Joe Orlando's art doesn't help and in some places, resembles his terrible work for Panic.

Impact 2

"Mother Knows Best" 1/2★
Story by Al Feldstein (?)
Art by Reed Crandall

"Divorce" 0 (yes, zero!)
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Jack Davis

"The Suit"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Graham Ingels

"Paid in Full" 
Story by Al Feldstein (?)
Art by Joe Orlando

Laura Hart has never been able to get along with her domineering, disapproving mother. Ever since she was little, her mother has chided her for her choices, be they hair styles or, later in life, men. Now, after hitting rock bottom and considering suicide, Laura has decided to see a shrink and, by the time the session has ended, Laura is cured and discovers her mother has always loved her and wants the best for her. Of course, it helps that Laura's head shrinker (off panel to us dimwits for the entire story until the last panel) is, suprize suprize suprize!, her mother! Save Reed Crandall's usual vital visuals, "Mother Knows Best" is a really dumb waste of time. Never mind that it's entirely unethical for a mother to see her kid as a patient, why would Laura agree to be dissected by the very person who has provided her with her suicidal vibes? Did Al (or whoever wrote this soap opera trash) think that hiding Dr. Mom off-panel would fool the reader? It's evident by the third panel what's going on here and the smell-o-vision rises from the page. It's not bad enough we're subjected to an entire title filled with psychoanalysis but we have to have overflow as well? Yecccch!

Poor little Jackie gets to go to Miami but where's his dad? Mom's acting all funny and stuff and then drags Jackie to a big building with a guy sitting behind a big desk wearing a big robe and . . . hey, there's Dad! But Mom pulls him away and then Mom and Dad go stand up in front of this guy known as "the judge" and say all kinds of nasty stuff to each other. Then Jackie goes with his Mom and Dad and the judge and a couple of stuffy old farts in suits to a back room where the judge tells Jackie that Mom and Dad don't love each other any more and they're getting a "Divorce"! It's all too much for a little boy like Jackie, so he runs away and hops a freight train to Jacksonville (well, he doesn't know he's going to Jax, silly, but that's where it takes him) until the train police save him from the pervy bum on board the boxcar. Then Jackie gets chased by a wild dog, has to drink water from a polluted creek, gets scared by lots of eyes in the forest, and gets run over by a truck. All's well, though, when Jackie wakes up and Mom and Dad are there to tell him they've made a big mistake and gotten back together for their little boy. Mom flashes her new diamond ring and Dad shows Jackie the new agreement that Mom signed to keep her away from Dad's pension. There are happy endings in the EC Universe! Psychoanalysis proved that EC could scrape the bottom of the barrel just as well as the other septic tank publishers and "Divorce" carries on that New Direction. Seriously, what could have been going through the minds of EC fans in 1955, after the previous half-decade of stunningly high quality, when they picked up Impact #2 and read the first two tales of nonsense after experiencing "Master Race" in the first issue?

Tailor Alfred Durley is a conscientious craftsman who takes pride in his work but, problem is, work is scarce these days. So, when Ralph and Karen Curtis come into Durley's shop with Karen's father, Julius, to have a suit fitted, Alfred sees this as a chance to spread the word that a Durley suit is one to be proud to own. The tailor sets about to make his finest achievement and when it's done, he has a neighborhood boy deliver it. At the last second, Durley realizes he hasn't sewn his label into the suit and rushes to the Curtis residence, only to find that "The Suit" was designed to be worn on Julius's corpse. The couple knew the old man's days were numbered and wanted him to look good in his final outfit. Though there's not a big surprise in the finale, it's refreshing to get a story with no villains, no hidden agenda, just a decently-told tale with some nice "Graham" graphics. Durley is a nice old man who only wants to craft his masterpiece in hopes that the job will open new doors for his business.

Martha Wilson has lost her husband, Walter, to pneumonia, but she has to listen to her shrewish sister, Helen, drone on about how the man ruined Martha's life by becoming a doctor and administering help to the poor. Martha continually pooh-poohs Helen's admonishment and explains that love was all that was needed for a wonderful life. They didn't need a car, they didn't need a nice house, they didn't need jewels or expensive clothes. In the end, all they needed was . . . the antibiotics that might have saved Walter's life, I guess. When Martha takes Helen out to Walter's pauper's grave, the snooty sis learns just how much the "trash" of the neighborhood loved Dr. Wilson when she sees his headstone. Another Elia Kazan-influenced six-pager filled with soap opera melodrama and corny dialogue that is saved a bit by its genuinely touching final panel. Yes, even a stodgy old grump like me can be touched now and then. Don't try giving me a whole issue of this stuff, though. -Peter

Jack: A terrible comic book! Even Reed Crandall can't be expected to bring "Mother Knows Best" to life--how many panels can the guy draw where a woman lies on an analyst's couch? "Divorce" is even worse and has no suspense at all. It was a relief to see Ghastly's art in the third story, though I guessed the finale by page three and I didn't buy for a second that skinny old Julius had a 38 1/2 inch waist, as Durley measures it. Finally, "Paid in Full" has no surprises and I found the ending hopelessly corny. I just don't enjoy Joe Orlando's art at this point in his career.

Psychoanalysis 2

"Case 101 - Freddy Carter (Session 2)"
"Case 102 - Ellen Lyman (Session 2)"★1/2
Story by Dan Keyes
Art by Jack Kamen

"Case 103 - Mark Stone (Session 2)★1/2
Story by Robert Bernstein
Art by Jack Kamen

"Freddy Carter" stole a watch from his pal Billy and then made sure he was caught. Why? To get back at his parents, of course! Freddy was sent to the psychiatrist, who saw through his psychosomatic asthma attack and told him that he would help him. The shrink helps Freddy realize that his behavior was a ploy for sympathy and he just needs to grow up.

The psychiatrist gets physical with Freddy
The second issue of Psychoanalysis is not off to a good start, with overly wordy panels and a nearly complete lack of conflict, action, plot--you name it. The shrink, who is not given a name, is a bit unorthodox (if you ask me) and grabs and yells at Freddy to straighten him out. Oddly enough, it seems that Freddy's father was right and Freddy is a big baby whose asthma attacks are fake, even if Freddy doesn't realize it. Maybe he just needed more tough love.

"Ellen Lyman" is the next patient. She recalls an episode from childhood when her father yelled at her for spilling ink on his desk at work. Then there was the time she overheard her parents arguing about money. And how about the time she fell in the lake? It seems that Ellen has always reacted to emotionally upsetting situations by unconsciously causing accidents that brought her attention. Oh, and she was also unwittingly sensing that her parents were not getting along, so she had accidents to draw them together in their concern for her.

No she hasn't!
This shrink is a real know-it-all. It's almost as if he knows the hidden reasons for everything before his patients do and can't wait to tell them! This story gets an extra half-star because Ellen is kind of cute with those glasses.

Why is "Mark Stone" sixty pounds overweight and dealing with stomach ulcers? The psychiatrist says that there must be some hidden reason. Mark recalls that his mother encouraged him to eat when he was a boy. Now, when things get tough, Mark eats to recall his happy childhood. But was it all that happy? Mark admits he was ashamed of his immigrant parents and his mother's foreign accent. Mark eats to atone for being embarrassed by his parents, hoping to please his mother now in the way she enjoyed when he was a boy.

Mark also has nightmares that stem back to a hunting accident in which he thinks he may have killed a stranger in the woods and then run away. The psychiatrist explains that Mark was really trying to kill his father (who had died two years before) in an Oedipal fit.

Got all that? Unlike the first two stories by Dan Keyes, Robert Bernstein's tale of tubby Mark Stone has more twists and turns than an amusement park ride. That doesn't make it interesting or entertaining, it's just hard to keep up!-Jack

Mark Stone's problem? He's fat!
Peter: Just in case you thought the first issue was all a bad dream, #2 proves otherwise. What's particularly amusing about this title is that "the psychiatrist" rips each of his patients a new one but, by each story's end, the poor fools love the guy and are seemingly cured. But the fact that the three stooges return for more sessions next issue indicates that either "the psychiatrist" is a quack or our hapless protagonists have lots of toys in their attics. The only upside to Psychoanalysis is that it draws Jack Kamen away from the other titles. In the end, #2 is number two. Oh, and by the way, you're not seeing things. That's a comics code seal on this and Impact #2; this was the first month that the CCA invaded EC Land. The invasion would not last very long before the rebels fought back.

So . . . it was my mother who ruined me with
her constant loving?

Next Week!
Will we finally learn the true identity of . . .
The Pirate?!

Time to get excited!


AndyDecker said...

After all their success, did the EC guys really believe that books like Impact or Psychoanalysis would be liked by their typical audience?

Another western or another war book I could understand. But this? Absolutly bizarr.

At least Psycho sound unintentionally funny with its therapist from hell.

Jack Seabrook said...

It really is awful. Did I read somewhere that Gaines had psychoanalysis or did I imagine that? That could explain it.

David said...

In this interview, Gaines says he started the book because he was undergoing psychoanalysis at the time.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks for the link. That was a very interesting interview.