“‘TAIN’T THE MEAT… IT’S THE HUMANITY! AND OTHER STORIES ILLUSTRATED BY JACK DAVIS” and “50 GIRLS 50 AND OTHER STORIES ILLUSTRATED BY AL WILLIAMSON” (Book Reviews)
Fantagraphics Books continues their classic EC COMICS cartoonist anthologies collection with two more mind-blowing offerings. EC’s hugely influential horror and sci-fi lines (George Romero, among many of its devotees) were a haven for groundbreaking comic artists in the 50s until the company got shut down for being considered a bad influence on kids. One of Jack Davis’ more notorious stories was even underlined by Dr. Frederic Wertham in his SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, the alarmist book that largely triggered this anti-comics hysteria. The story in question, FOUL PLAY, featured a person’s decapitated head and intestines being used in a baseball game. FOUL PLAY appeared in another seminal EC title, THE HAUNT OF FEAR, and not TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which is what ‘TAIN’T THE MEAT… IT’S THE HUMANITY! concentrates on, but believe me, there’s plenty more Davis gore to go around.
Perusing some of the more gruesomely graphic scenarios in ‘TAIN’T THE MEAT… IT’S THE HUMANITY!, it’s no wonder why stuffy morality watchdogs got in such an uproar. The story the book’s named after, for instance, crescendos its portrayal of a greedy butcher trying to make a fast buck selling tainted meat during food rationing in World War II, with a window full of chopped up human body parts. Homicidal maniacs, werewolves, vampires, two-headed zombies, and even good old Frankenstein all make appearances here, etched in Davis’ inimitable manner of disfigurement, crusty warts and all. 24 stories include the secret origin of The Crypt-Keeper and a 3D comic seen here for the first time since its initial 1954 publication, but in “easy-on-the-eyes” 2D.
Jack Davis’ dark comedic touch is all over this collection, diffusing the ghastly nature of the stories somewhat, an aspect to his work that was obviously lost on his opponents. Davis became an incredibly prolific caricaturist, after all. His ubiquitous artwork graced the covers of TV GUIDE, countless Hollywood movie posters, & he even did character design for animated films such as the 1967 stop-motion musical MAD MONSTER PARTY, with the voices of Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller.
50 GIRLS 50 AND OTHER STORIES showcases the exquisite work of Al Williamson, another master cartoonist from EC’s roster. In stark contrast to the exaggerated Grand-Guignol of EC’s horror oeuvre, here we’re dazzled by romanticized sci-fi heroics and delicate line-work of the ilk of FLASH GORDON’S original artist Alex Raymond, Williamson’s main inspiration. Dinosaurs, spaceships, and outlandish otherworldly creatures populate the flora of faraway worlds, accompanied by buxom, exotically garbed beauties.
50 GIRLS 50 AND OTHER STORIES includes a handful of Ray Bradbury adaptations (he was a fan of Williamson’s) and a hitherto unreleased story intended for a 3D comic that got cancelled, also presented here in “easy-on-the-eyes” 2D. Both books are in glorious black and white, the better to absorb every painstakingly rendered drop of ink with, and include various illustrated essays and career overviews.