EC Comics were released in a different era. You can flip the page and go from slinky dresses to swank mansions and fancy décor to splattered blood and diced body parts. My stack of comics today is sadly lacking in this area. Few characters dress with such Madmen-esque style in the modern day of jeans and tennis shoes. We definitely don’t shy away from the gore in current stories; pages are sometimes covered in limbs. It’s not the same though.
EC Comics have a great combination of panache and murder that I’ve yet to see in any other stories. I’m attracted to the tales in the same way I’m drawn to the glamorized stories of the Mafia. Maybe it’s because it shows that even elegant people suffer from delusions, or maybe it’s just the sight of a bitter woman in an evening gown with an axe.
Speaking of the ladies, females do tend towards certain roles in EC Comics. Given the times when the comic was published, that’s not such a surprise. It was the time of the housewife wearing dresses while cleaning, after all. Wives are often labeled as shrews and made out to be nagging, horrible creatures. Often may be an overstatement. But. The ladies get their moments, too. They turn the tables around. In one of my favorite stories, “The Neat Job” from Shock SuspenStories #1, a wife finally has enough of her husband’s obsessive neat freak behavior and exacts perfect revenge.
In his workshop, the husband has labeled bottles of nails, screws, and all sorts of hardware. The wife chops her husband into tiny pieces and stuffs them into the jars. She crosses out his handwriting and labels each jar accordingly: fingernails, eyeballs… you get the idea. We’re not going to analyze what liking this story says about me.
But I digress. The tone of “The Neat Job” captures a lot of what I’m enjoying about EC Comics. Sure, I like the part about gruesome vengeance, but the background the story is set against makes the difference. This couple is obviously well to do; they live in a veritable mansion. They dress nicely. Just under the surface however, there’s a touch of crazy that ends in crime. It’s not quite an everyday setting, but it’s near enough that you start to look at seemingly normal people with suspicion. Especially the wealthy ones.