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‘Home to Stay!: The Complete Ray Bradbury EC Stories’ (review)

Written by Ray Bradbury
Adapted by Al Feldstein and William Gaines

Art by Various
Introduction by Greg Bear ; Foreword by Ted White
Published by Fantagraphics / EC Comics

 

Ray Bradbury was always the most literate of the classic pulp writers.

Much of his prose reads like poetry (while his actual poetry tends to stink, at least in my opinion). Presumably that’s why teachers have always loved his work so much. In eighth grade, my English teacher let me have the three classroom Bradbury books at the end of the school year—R is for Rocket, S is for Space, and I Sing the Body Electric. I had already seen the 1966 movie and, in tenth grade, I read Fahrenheit 451, which became my all-time favorite book. In eleventh grade, we spent a whole month studying The Martian Chronicles.

All the while, I was also reading (and clipping) articles and essays by Ray in new magazines and newspapers, seeing TV adaptations such as The Electric Grandmother, The Screaming Woman, and All Summer in a Day.

Goes without saying, I suppose, that I became a huge Ray Bradbury fan.

You have to wonder, though, if those same teachers who pushed Ray at us students in the ‘60s and ‘70s ever actually read some of his more outright nightmare-inducing short stories from the ‘40s and ‘50s. Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines certainly did!

Home to Stay from Fantagraphics is yet another EC Comics reprint project. There have, of course, been a ton of these in recent years. This one however, focuses on one very special thing from William M. Gaines’s legendary lost comic book company and that’s EC’s Ray Bradbury stories.

You may have heard the story. Gaines and his writer/editor Al Feldstein were turning out so many horror and sci-fi plots per month for their comics that they were cribbing them from radio shows and pulps. What they didn’t know, however, was that one of those pulp writers was also a comics fan.

When Ray Bradbury recognized his own work, and beautifully adapted, his first instincts were to sue, but he liked it so much, he decided instead to write and say they had FORGOTTEN to pay him. From there, a plan was negotiated for EC to continue to pay to adapt Bradbury stories—prose and all—into comic book form.

Although Ray himself was involved with two mass market paperback collections of his EC stories in the mid-1960s, Home to Stay is the first complete collection.

And what a collection it is! The late author himself discusses the entire situation in a transcription of a long-ago Comic-Con address but we also have texts from science fiction greats Ted White and Greg Bear, Fantagraphics editor Mike Catron (who previously took over the two volumes of The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood after the death of Bhob Stewart), as well as an essay by EC mega-fan and expert Thommy Burns. My favorite text pieces, though, and the most informative to me, were by two folks with whom I was not previously familiar—Professor Ben Saunders, and Bill Mason.

As always, though, with this type of book, the meat of it has to be the stories themselves, and they hold up to this day almost as well as they did originally. Reproduced in crisp black and white, the always justly-lauded EC artwork is shown to its best advantage and proves, as it always does, that EC Comics art really was SO far ahead of other companies in that same period.

The stories are grouped not in chronological order by publication but by which later Bradbury collection they’re in.

Thus, we have the Dark Carnival tales, The Martian Chronicles adaptations, The Illustrated Man stories, and, finally, the ones from The Golden Apples of the Sun.

Wallace Wood is, of course, known for his EC Bradbury sci-fi stories and Ray’s work is said to have inspired Wood’s own clear and obvious artistic growth by leaps and bounds in those years, but, a bit surprisingly, Wood only does four of these. Whilst they are arguably the best in the book, with one story, “There Will Come Soft Rains” being one of my all-time favorite comics stories in general, Al Williamson’s early wispy art (with the help of Krenkel, Torres, and Frazetta) more than holds its own on the four stories he worked on.

As one might expect, all of the other EC artists are here as well, with Bernie Krigstein’s “The Flying Machine” one of the most unusual pieces on view. Reed Crandall, Graham Ingels, George Evans, Joe Orlando, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Jack Kamen, and the team of John Severin and Will Elder, all get a chance to give their artistic spin to Bradbury’s prose as freely—if sometimes barely—adapted by Al Feldstein (and in one instance, Carl Wessler).

Kamen’s work in particular seems a particularly good fit on such domestic horror classics as “Zero Hour” and “The October Game.” Evans likewise shines on “The Small Assassin,” one of Ray’s most chilling pieces, and the Bradbury-inspired “Blind Alleys,” itself famously adapted for the 1972 Tales from the Crypt movie.

The fact that these aging stories still retain so much of their original ability to disturb speaks to the author’s natural and unquestionable genius. The fact that many of these illustrated versions in particular still can take those “feels” to the next level speaks to the long-ago synchronicitous conjoining of EC and Ray B. The fact that here I am recommending yet another book about EC Comics, even to those of you who already have all the others, speaks to the overall quality of the publisher that Fantagraphics has become.

Booksteve recommends.

 

 

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