Written by: Various
Illustrated by: Joe Orlando
Published by: Fantagraphics
Joe Orlando (1927 – 1998) seemed like one of those artists who had always been with DC Comics and indeed he was there for over 30 years as an artist and later an editor. But this new book from Fantagraphics looks at Orlando’s work from legendary 1940s and 1950s publisher, EC Comics. Orlando would be part of perhaps the greatest stable of comic book artists ever assembled which included Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, Will Elder, George Evans, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, Bernard Krigstein, John Severin, Al Williamson, Basil Wolverton, and Wally Wood for whom he started as an assistant.
While EC published many different types of comics they were best known for their horror comics whose grisly content eventually led to the company canceling all of their comic titles and starting a new magazine which is still around today, Mad Magazine! This 226 page hardcover book features 30 of Orlando’s stories from the pages of “The Vault of Horror”, “The Haunt of Fear”, “The Crypt of Terror” and “Panic”.
The stories have been re-printed in black & white instead of their original color format, likely to keep the cost at $30 as opposed to $50 or $60 but honestly I prefer them. In B&W the EC stories remind me of the stories from the old Warren Magazines of the 1970s like Creepy and Eerie. Ironically, Orlando also worked as an editor for Warren before going to DC.
Orlando’s horror tales have the typical ironic twists that most EC stories had…Someone usually pays in the end for some bad deed they were guilty of in the beginning of the story. The book starts off with “Forbidden Fruit” in which a boss and his lovely assistant become stranded on a seemingly deserted island. They finally meet another survivor who warns them about eating the fruit from a tree he has built a wall around. Thinking the man is merely hoarding it for himself they return at night to steal the fruit only to discover that eating it causes them to be afflicted with a deadly rotting disease.
In “Madam Bluebeard” a woman has buried seven previous husbands who seemingly all died of tragic accidents. Of course we find out the woman actually orchestrated the murders of all seven and is working on the eighth when revenge from beyond the grave strikes. Along the same tone is Orlando’s “The Thing from the Grave”, the book’s title story. Two men, Bill and Jim, are in love with the same woman. Bill kills Jim claiming that Jim ran off with another woman. When Laura still spurns Bill, he plans to kill her as well but Jim’s undead corpse shambles forth from his watery grave to enact his revenge. The book also features an adaptation of “The Lake” written by Ray Bradbury.
Orlando was an extremely underrated artist and having the book produced in black & white shows off his fine detail work. From a pure horror standpoint his work wasn’t as ghoulish as that of Reed Crandall, Johnny Craig, or Graham Ingels but he still draws a damn wicked, decaying zombie. And few artists drew beautiful women like Orlando. The book includes a short article about EC comics by historian and science fiction writer Ted White.
Joe Orlando might not have been the most famous name at EC Comics but as this volume proves he could more that hold his own with the finest talents in the business.