For EC was infamous in the eyes of the mundane public. It was singled out for a number of reasons and by a number of sources as one of the worst influences on then-modern American youth. Attacks from all sides eventually succeeded in taking the company to its knees, and it only survived by reducing itself to a single title and by fleeing the comic book format and going to magazine format as Mad Magazine. The move eventually made Gaines the single most wealthy publisher in the US. But the rest of the company faded away and became the legend.
For a brief time after the forces of evil had beaten down the comics industry, EC tried several methods to cooperate with the newly-formed Comics Code Authority and to circumvent the Authority. Gaines and his editors produced a line of more family-friendly comics, while at the same time moving a few titles to magazine size and avoiding the Code entirely. However, despite a few heroic efforts, the new lines failed. The fans who had so adored the gritty, cutting stories EC had provided just did not appreciate the pablum the company was reduced to offering, and those fans abandoned EC.
Today I got one of these later efforts by the publisher to try to spark the same electrical charge they'd generated with titles like TALES FROM THE CRYPT, and HAUNT OF FEAR, and WEIRD SCIENCE-FANTASY, etc. These new ones, though, were pedestrian books with no shock endings and almost no violence and not really much in the way of tension. The titles, while a noble effort, failed.
EXTRA was just such a comic book. It featured stories about investigative reporters digging to find the answers to crooked deals and violent crimes (which are never shown, or referred to in the mildest of terminology). Gone was the gore of the old EC. Vanished was the sarcasm and the tone of fatal irony. EC's bosses tried, but they failed. And their enemies laughed. Having cut off their own noses, they laughed.
|My copy of EXTRA #3, cover art by the great Johnny Craig.|