Back in 1952, only two years before the publication of Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent kickstarted a movement that would lead to the dissolution of his company, EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines received a rather fortuitous letter in the mail.
The letter was from Ray Bradbury.
In 1952, EC was putting out ten anthology comics, each with three to four stories. These included now legendary horror and sci-fi books like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Weird Science, as well as lesser discussed but delightfully named Shock SuspenStories; their first foray into comedy, Mad, had its first issue that year.
What EC didn’t have was a particularly large stable of creators, and that content had to come from somewhere.
This meant that Gaines, along with prodigious writer Al Feldstein, sometimes found themselves faltering for, shall we say, wholly original ideas. The work of other writers may or may not have begun slipping into scripts.
The letter from Bradbury began, “Just a note to remind you of an oversight. You have not as yet sent on the check. . .”
Home to Stay!: The Complete Ray Bradbury EC Stories collects thirty-odd adaptations of Bradbury’s stories, both the official adaptations that sprang from that tongue-in-cheek letter and the unaccredited stories which prompted it.
And it’s good. Really, really good.
The artists working at EC back in the 1950s were, to a one, master craftsmen of comics, and every page of this volume is dense with perfectly executed linework, whether that be the cartoony caricature of Jack Davis in stories like The Coffin, Let’s Play Poison, or The Black Ferris, or the brisk advertiser’s flourish of Jack Kamen’s Just Desserts! or The Screaming Woman!. Each story is executed with the precision that became the hallmark of EC.
It also doesn’t hurt, of course, that Ray Bradbury was an equally masterful storyteller, and some of his stories—even before his association with comics—read like they were meant to be published in Tales from the Crypt; the aforementioned The Coffin, initially titled “Wake for the Living”, might as well be a style guide for the form.
Other stories—like the early masterpiece The Lake—are so powerfully packed with lyric prose that Al Feldstein simply transferred whole lines to the comic script. In such a way, the adaptations carry not just the shape of the Bradbury originals, but a good deal of the soul as well.
Read alongside Bradbury’s original short story collections (or either of the massive, compendium-like tomes, which throw them all together), the book might double as a guide to comic adaptation—what portions of the stories did the creators carry over from the original, and what was embellished to better fit the medium?
Fantagraphics, whose EC Artists Library editions stand as a testament to each of those master craftsmen artists, fill the volume with a wealth of historic documents, contextual essays, and biographical information. It has the same archivist zeal brought to other historical comics, from Disney to Krazy Kat.
Home to Stay is a testament to Ray Bradbury first and foremost, but also to the strange and masterful era of American comics—a period of time when things were wild, unrepressed by the Comics Code Authority. It’s an excuse for readers to educate or reacquaint themselves with neglected masterworks, both literary and illustrated.
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