There was a time when horror comics were actually scary. And the best of those scary comics came from a wonderful publisher called EC Comics.
Originally founded by publisher M.C. Gaines as "Educational Comics", they specialized in comics with stories from the Bible and other subject matter of social and educational benefit. When Gaines turned the company over to his son, William M. Gaines,
the younger Gaines changed the company's name to "Entertaining Comics" and began publishing titles like The Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, Two-Fisted Tales, Shock Suspenstories , Weird Science and Mad (yes, that Mad).
And believe me, these ARE entertaining comics. Problem is, some folks decided that these comics weren't appropriate for children. Which is funny, because they were never aimed at children. EC's titles were singled out, over and over again in a Senate Subcommittee hearing on the supposed connection between comic books and juvenile delinquency. I have reprinted a portion of the hearing transcript (Which I culled from Wikipedia) for your amusement:
- Chief Counsel Herbert Beaser: Let me get the limits as far as what you put into your magazine. Is the sole test of what you would put into your magazine whether it sells? Is there any limit you can think of that you would not put in a magazine because you thought a child should not see or read about it?
- Bill Gaines: No, I wouldn't say that there is any limit for the reason you outlined. My only limits are the bounds of good taste, what I consider good taste.
- Beaser: Then you think a child cannot in any way, in any way, shape, or manner, be hurt by anything that a child reads or sees?
- Gaines: I don't believe so.
- Beaser: There would be no limit actually to what you put in the magazines?
- Gaines: Only within the bounds of good taste.
- Beaser: Your own good taste and saleability?
- Gaines: Yes.
- Senator Estes Kefauver: Here is your May 22 issue. [Kefauver is mistakenly referring to Crime Suspenstories #22, cover date May] This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman's head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?
- Gaines: Yes sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.
- Kefauver: You have blood coming out of her mouth.
- Gaines: A little.
By 1955, EC went out of business as a comics publisher, converting MAD into a magazine.