EC Archives: The Vault of Horror Volume Two (GC Press LLC, $49.95)
EC Archives: The Haunt of Fear Volume One (GC Press LLC, $49.95)
Much to Jeff of Earth-J's shock and dismay, I once volunteered that I had never read all of the famous EC comics of the early 1950s. I had been waiting -- for much of my life -- for a high-quality, full-color, comprehensive, affordable reprint series. And with the EC Archives series from Gemstone -- $50 hardbacks, $35 at Amazon -- I finally had it.
Until it was canceled. Gah! And I figured that the series was well and truly buried when Fantagraphics announced its own EC reprint series, which would also be high-quality, full-color hardbacks -- only not comprehensive or chronological, as I'd prefer, in that it would collect stories by artist. Nice, but not what I wanted.
Fortunately, like one of the stories it reprints, the EC Archives has crawled from the grave for its revenge. A new company, named GC Press LLC, has spun off from Gemstone, with lifelong EC archiver Russ Cochran still at the helm. This new company has picked up exactly where the old one left off, with the two books advertised and solicited from Gemstone before the hammer fell: Vault of Horror Vol. 2 and Haunt of Fear Vol. 1. I imagine this was the path of least resistance, with those books already pretty far along in the process.
It seems ludicrous to review reprints of books more than 60 years old, that have been praised over the decades by dozens of better wordsmiths than I. And I won't, really. I'll just mention that, as usual, I read each book at a sitting, having the time of my life, and was sorry when I reached the final page, left lusting for the next book. I'll also mention that the Haunt of Fear stories were from 1950 and the Vault of Horror stories from 1951, so the former ones are slightly less sure-footed, whereas by 1951 the EC gang had found its stride -- although, had I not read them back-to-back, I surely wouldn't have noticed.
The stories are all mostly by Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines, except those by artists who wrote for themselves (Johnny Craig, Harvey Kurtzman). It's signficant to note that there is a smattering of stories in Haunt from writers left over from the pre-New Direction days, including Gardner Fox. It is those stories I suspect of giving me the opinion I expressed above, of the Haunt volume not being quite as EC-ish as the Vault volume. By 1951 (as seen in the Vault volume), Feldstein and Gaines had brought the entire line up to a consistency of quality unmatched to this day, with a unique sensibility and rhythm that permeated every story, regardless of writer.
These books really do deserve every accolade they've ever received. Which is why I desperately want this series to continue, and am baffled that these two volumes aren't available on Amazon. They're even difficult to order online -- the GC Press LLC home site only lists a snail-mail address if you want to order them! What does Cochran think this is, 1950? Anyway, I urge everyone reading this to buy the books, however you can get them, so that they will continue, and I will get my EC fix on a regular basis. We still haven't gotten to the first Weird Fantasy volume, and I can't wait!
Both books are available for 25% off at InStockTrades.com, which offers free shipping for orders above $50. Vault of Horror volume 1 is also available, but I plan to definitely get one of the two new releases to encourage more.
Good man. They need to finish the series so that the whole EC library is finally in a format anyone can access.
Picked up Vault of Horrors v2 and the Sugar and Spike Archives, which I somehow missed the release of.