High June: Reading Sanctum #22 — The E.C. Archives

As a kid, I loved the EC (Educational Comics) company for its incredibly extensive horror catalogue, but who knew that they created other things, too. When I decided to check out the EC offerings for High June, I realized that I would need to write a Reading Sanctum just for these lovelies. Who does not love westerns? I asked myself.

Now, I am not so naive that I believe EVERYONE loves westerns, but there are a lot of people that do, and so I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to share what I learned. Dark Horse Comics has done a very wise thing to reprint these hardcover editions. They look staidly classic, artistically lush, with some very serious writing.

EC may have started as Educational Comics in the 1940s, but gradually it became Entertaining Comics. One of the great things about the company was the willingness to try their hand at disparate markets. Even though they would eventually become best known for their horror comics line, they were strong in various other genres: Westerns for instance.

Saddle Justice did not run very long but some of the EC creative stars initially made their debuts there; none more so than Johnny Craig. In fact, in one of the comics collected for this compilation, there’s a note addressing the collective fan letters wanting some background information on the “hot new artist,” Johnny Craig stating that there would be more information to follow.

Clearly, EC was a company willing to address fans, and provide information on the talent. Another EC strength was the wonderful writing that combined with the sequential art would communicate morality tales in tight narratives of 8 to 10 pages that carried a climactic punch.

This is storytelling at its most fundamental level: beautiful aesthetics (innovative artwork largely considered the best the industry had to offer) combined with lyrical prose (communicated with linguistic flair) and a moral ending where the villain gets his comeuppance.

I highly recommend this Saddle Justice graphic novel in particular and the EC Archives in general. Just as I have espoused the laurels of Saddle Justice, the Gunfighter graphic novel is just as good.

In this volume, Gardner Fox does most of the writing with artists: Graham Ingels, Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein, and Sheldon Moldoff, showing off their artistic skills. Also, in this volume the creative team collects the Gunfighter issues numbering from five to nine which are all anthology collections of various western stories.

All of the issues have a Gunfighter story because it’s his book, but then there are disparate other continuing characters with their own stories. Characters such as the Buckskin Kid (who looked way too similar to the Gunfighter for my taste), and Moon Girl and the Prince (who were IMHO far too superhero for the book) but were welcome additions.

Every issue (like ALL of them) contained a two-page narrative short story, as well. These two graphic novel/ trade paperbacks were the first EC Archive volumes that I have had the pleasure of reading and I can definitely say that they will not be my last.

Lastly, there is also a foreword written by Jimmy Palmiotti who pays appropriate homage to the talent in this book. I will rate these 4 and a half Grey Geeks, because I thoroughly enjoyed the stories and the artwork.

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