After 70 Years, EC Comics Returns from the Crypt in Oni Press Deal

In the early 1950s, EC Comics was the bad boy of comic publishers. Its comics such as Tales From the Crypt, Weird Science and Two-Fisted Tales sold millions in mid-century America. Unfortunately, its stories — at times shocking, horrifying, and even progressive — also drew scrutiny and backlash, and the company found itself in the cross hairs of censorship and regulation at the height of the McCarthy era. The company ultimately shuttered, with the last comic hitting newsstands and drug stores in 1956.

Now, seventy years after the creation of the self-regulatory body Comics Code Authority, the infamous comics company is blasting out of the crypt and returning with a brand new line of comics.

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Oni Press, the publisher perhaps best known for the breakout indie hit Scott Pilgrim, has partnered with William M. Gaines Agent, Inc., the rights holders of the EC line, to launch all-new stories with A-list comics creators beginning this summer.

“EC Comics is one of the most artistically important and culturally significant publishers of all time,” Oni’s publisher Hunter Gorinson, told The Hollywood Reporter in an email. “In ways both artful and shocking, EC confronted the darkness lurking behind the thin facade of American society — a throughline of radically confrontational storytelling that we intend to both uphold and escalate with the first new EC tales in decades.”

The first book from the new line will be Epitaphs From the Abyss, a horror title debuting in July, followed by sci-fi comic Cruel Universe in August. The new comics will keep the anthology format with creative teams rotating in and out.

The names involved include writers such as Jason Aaron (Thor), Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets), Rodney Barnes (Killadelphia) Christopher Cantwell (Briar), Chris Condon (That Texas Blood), Matt Kindt (BRZRKR) among others. Among the artists are Kano (Immortal Iron Fist), Peter Krause (Irredeemable), Leomacs (Rogues), Malachi Ward (Black Hammer: The End), and Dustin Weaver (Avengers).

Buttressing the creative is designer Rian Hughes (The Multiversity)  and cover artists Lee Bermejo (Batman: Damned), Greg Smallwood (The Human Target), J.H. Williams III (Sandman: Overture). More are expected to be named in the months ahead under the oversight of Oni’s newly-installed editor-in-chief Sierra Hahn.

“This is not an exercise in nostalgia. These are comics meant to get people talking and to keep them up at night,” said Corey Mifsud, executive director of William M. Gaines Agent.

William Gaines was the son of Max Gaines, a comic book pioneer who launched Educational Comics in 1944, making comics with the goal to shape the minds of young readers. After a boating accident killed Gaines in 1947, the son took over the operation and gave it a makeover. Soon, the racks were filled tales of horror, science fiction, Western, crime, and war, in stories with twists endings. They were also anti-war, anti-racism, and pro-environment, and while kids and teens gobbled them, some 1950s American adults were revolted. Book burnings, Senate hearings, and the Comics Code Authority pressured Gaines to abandon the comics. He instead focused on humour, turning parody comic Mad into a magazine to evade regulation. (Through a series of sales in the 1960s, and early 1970s, Mad ended up in under the same corporate umbrella as DC Comics, before finally being folded into the superhero publisher in the 1990s).

Even though EC’s reign was short, the effect was long-lasting, with its artistry leaving impressions for generations to come, some of it thanks for reprints from more fringe publishers that forced readers to venture to the bowels of burgeoning comic collector shops in the 1970s and 1980s. The comics influenced filmmakers John Carpenter, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro and Steven Spielberg. Stephen King and George Romero tackled their own EC-inspired horror stories with 1982 movie Creepshow. Richard Donner and Robert Zemeckis brought back the Cryptkeeper for a Tales of the Crypt TV series in the 1990s.

Oni hopes to make the new comics as relevant and influential as the original stories 70 years ago.

“We’re challenging ourselves to evolve EC’s relentless energy and fearless sensibilities in ways never before attempted,” said Gorinson. “These are intense comics for our intense times.”

Check out the Williams cover below.

Cruel Universe Comic
Cruel Universe Comic

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