Sunday, May 15, 2005

Foul Play! : The Art and Artists of the Notorious 1950s E.C. Comics!
Author: Grant Geissman
Publisher: Harper Design; $29.95, 272 pages

I was very hesitant about approaching this book. I knew absolutely nothing about the EC Comics line beyond a vague sense of them being well thought of, and that they were at the center of the Wertham comics controversy of the past. So I wondered whether a book highlighting the creators would allow me any point of interest.

Yet when I did finally get around to trying the book, I was amazed at how engrossed I became with it.

First off the design sense is wonderful, with lots of images and artwork dispersed on nearly every page. That not only played well off what was being talked about in the articles, but instilled a compelling interest in me as a reader to want to seek these books out.

The book breaks itself down into individual chapters on the creators who worked for EC during the time. While there are a lot of facts they aren't done in the coldly distilled way of other bio pieces in other such books.

These give light to the work being done, the period they were working in and especially important, who the people were behind the work were. These aren't fluff pieces either, as the negative sides of these personalities are discussed with just as equal attention as the positives.

Which showed me a side of creators of the past that I hadn't saw before.

Be it Ingels's battle with alcohol and his later almost paranoia sounding need to isolate himself from his past. Or Kurtzman's prima donna sounding demands and seeking of power, whether justified or not because of his obvious talent. It gave me new insights into creators behavior in the past and today, and shows that some things never really change.

Most impressive about the book though, were the sample stories after most of the key creators work. These gave a new reader like myself a sense of what the individual's work was like, and brought home the points made in the articles in ways that the words alone couldn't have done.

Not all of the stories won me over, the horror stories especially, were nasty things happen to people are just not my cup of tea. Yet the talent behind them stands out clearly, showing a seriousness and approach that was miles ahead of many of their contemporaries at the time.

This volume is a definite must for fans of the EC Comics line. Yet even the most casual comic fan can pick this up, enjoy and likely even become a fan of that era of comics themselves. I know I myself will be tracking down some of the collections to learn more about and enjoy these treasures of the past.

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