Friday, June 07, 2013

Booknote: 'Taint the Meat. . . It's the Humanity

Feldstein, Albert B., Jack Davis (illustrator),, 'Taint the Meat. . . It's the Humanity! Seattle (WA): Fantagraphics Books, 2013.

ISBN: 9781606995785

Genre: Comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: horror, vintage comics

This is a collection of the EC Comics title The Crypt of Terror, which would later be known as Tales from the Crypt, illustrated by Jack Davis.  Davis was well known in the 1950s not only for his work with EC Comics but also in magazines ranging from Mad to Playboy. He went on to become a leading commercial illustrator. Ringgenberg, in his biographical essay on Davis, included in the book, describes Davis as a hard worker and versatile artist with a "frenetic, humorous, loose-limbed style" (203). It is a style that is very well-suited to these comics. The book collects all Crypt of Terror titles that Jack Davis illustrated. It is part of a series that Fantagraphics is publishing of EC Comics, each volume devoted to one artist. From revenge tales to supernatural tales, Davis did excellent work bringing them to life.

Tales from the Crypt and other EC Comics horror titles (as well as other genres) were considered too gruesome and controversial in their time, eventually falling victim to censorship, including the Comics Code Authority. Personally, I think people back then were way too sensitive (and like today, there were probably a few opportunistic politicians pandering to moralists when it came to the government's attempts at censorship); if they want gruesome, they should have seen the seriously gory horror flicks and comics of today. However, these comics did feature good horror tales with interesting twists of fate and pretty healthy doses of dark humor at times. You can always count on poetic justice being given to wrongdoers in these tales. That poetic justice often takes many horrifying forms. For me, as a reader, that was a draw for these comics.

In addition to the comics, the volume features an introduction and some additional essays on Davis, the writers, and the history of EC Comics plus a restored 3-D version of the story "The Trophy." The original 2-D version is included, so you can compare differences.

Fans of these comics will want to add this volume and, probably, the rest of the series to their collections. The edition I read was a very nice hardcover. The book features some titles that have not been available for quite a while. Public libraries will want to add this to their comics and graphic novels collections. In fact, that is how I read it; I borrowed it from my local public library, but this is a volume I would consider adding to my personal collection down the road. Some academic libraries with pop culture interests and/or recreational reading collections may wish to add it as well.

Overall, if I have to give it stars, I'd say 4.5 out of 5.

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