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‘The EC Archives: Confessions Illustrated’ (review)

Written by Daniel Keyes
Art by Jack Kamen, Joe Orlando, Johnny Craig,
Wallace Wood, Reed Crandall

Foreword by Alex Segura
Published by Dark Horse Comics

 

When I was growing up, there was a whole subgenre of magazines that seems to have just faded out of existence over time and that was the confession magazine.

Each issue offered supposedly real-life stories of love and loss and lust and desire.

In retrospect, they were probably all about as true as the letters in Penthouse Letters. Marketed almost exclusively toward women, there were dozens of them, with True Story and True Confessions probably the best-remembered.

My parents actually met through a “write-to-a-soldier” column in one of these types of mags toward the end of World War II! My mother had me pick up a couple every month in the 1970s when I would go to pick up my comic books.

I wonder if she ever ran across Confessions Illustrated, EC Comics’ Picto-Fiction entry, which had its two issues published three years before I was even born. Probably not, I guess, and it’s sadly far too late now.

It’s not too late for the rest of us, though, as Dark Horse’s latest collection offers those two issues as well as the third, completely prepared but unpublished at the time. The stories themselves are all a bit dated by now, but interesting in that they’re all credited to Daniel Keyes, a young pulp writer who would later become famous as the author of the book, Flowers for Algernon, which many of us had to read in high school.

Where the book really succeeds is as an art book.

Although not really comics, each story in this volume is heavily illustrated by several of EC’s now most legendary artists. As with the other Picto-Fiction titles, it’s clear that the artists are stretching their legs here, heading off into the direction of more traditional magazine illustration and thoroughly enjoying it.

“My Tragic Affair” is the only story here with work by Wallace Wood but it’s the highlight of the book! Wood gives us 28 illustrations not as detailed as his classic Mad work but much more realistic in style than his 1950s and ‘60s pulp illustrations. Reed Crandall’s work is probably my second favorite in this series.

Surprisingly, the ever-underrated Jack Kamen offers some great work here, the most traditional of all in terms of classic magazine illustration style. EC mainstays Johnny Craig and Joe Orlando are present as well, but to my eye, neither at their best here.

Unless you’re a relative of Mr. Keyes, I’d look elsewhere for good reading. If you are an EC completist or a fan of any of the artist involved, you need Confessions Illustrated, this latest volume in Dark Horse’s EC Archives.

Booksteve recommends.

 

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