Three Dimensional E.C. Classics
|Three Dimensional E.C. Classics|
Cover to Three Dimensional Tales from the Crypt of Terror.
Art by Al Feldstein.
|Publication date||Spring 1954 - March 1954|
|Number of issues||2|
|Main character(s)||The Crypt-Keeper|
Three Dimensional E.C. Classics was a quarterly comic book anthology series published by EC Comics in 1954. It began publication with its Spring 1954 issue and ceased with its March 1954 issue, producing a total of two issues. The stories it contained were classics in that they were recyclings of stories that had already appeared in earlier EC comic books. They were three-dimensional because they were presented in Anaglyph 3-D. Two 3-D viewers were included with each issue.
Conception and characteristics
Three Dimensional E.C. Classics was conceived in 1953, when 3-D comic books were enjoying a period of great popularity. Its conception was a direct response to the popularity of the form. When Three Dimension Comics, the "World's First" 3-D comic book, sold a million copies, other comic book publishers were naturally eager to carve out their own pieces of the market pie. EC Comics was no exception. They began to lay plans for a 3-D comic series of their own.
That series, Three Dimensional E.C. Classics, was launched in early 1954. One could argue that it was two one-shots instead of a series, but in fact the issues were numbered sequentially: "3-D No. 1" and "3-D No. 2." Only the first issue was called Three Dimensional E.C. Classics. It was a general EC sampler, recycling stories from EC's non-horror lines: Crime SuspenStories, Frontline Combat, Mad and Weird Science. The second issue's reference title was Three Dimensional Tales from the Crypt of Terror. It recycled stories from EC's horror lines exclusively: Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. It also recycled the Tales from the Crypt Crypt-Keeper as host. But in all other essentials these books were the same: new packages of old stories with all new art, often demanding script changes, for the 3-D format.
The stories were presented in Anaglyph 3-D. Anaglyph comics employed the same technology that Anaglyph movies did. A 3-D camera photographed a subject from two different positions and angles, corresponding to the points of view of the left and right human eye. The two photographic images were presented overlapping on a single field, with the images differentiated by color, commonly red for the left image and green for the right. The 3-D viewing device had two filters with the colors reversed, green for the left eye and red for the right. The filters separated the images, the green filter blocking the green image and browning the red, and the red filter blocking the red image and browning the green. Thus the left eye saw only the left image and the right eye saw only the right, and the brain behind the eyes combined these 2-D images into a single 3-D view.
But 3-D comics had challenges all their own. A 3-D view of a flat drawing would still look flat. For the view to look otherwise, the drawing had itself to be a 3-D object. This required more labor than 2-D comics did. A 2-D panel had only to be penciled and inked. A 3-D panel had to have its elements separated according to which visual plane or level (fore-, middle- or background) the elements were intended to occupy. The elements had to be drawn on clear acetate cels corresponding to those levels, with the solid parts of the elements opaqued. Then the cels had to be stacked and aligned to assemble the finished panel, with enough separation between the cels to produce the desired 3-D effect.
3-D comics had another challenge as well. A 2-D panel could be elaborately colored, but the limitations of Anaglyph printing of the time dictated that the 3-D panel remain monochrome brown and white.
Artists and writers
The recycled stories were completely redrawn for their 3-D incarnations. The artists who redrew these were all EC regulars: Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Bill Elder, George Evans, Graham Ingels, Bernard Krigstein, Joe Orlando and Wally Wood. Some of them had drawn the original versions of these stories, while others were interpreting them for the first time. This gives the reader with access to the originals a rare opportunity to see how different artists handled the same scripts, and how the same artists handled the same scripts to meet different requirements. The scripts were themselves at least partly rewritten. The writers were not credited but were usually either Harvey Kurtzman, the writer and editor of Frontline Combat, Two-Fisted Tales and Mad, and Al Feldstein, the editor, and writer in collaboration with Gaines, of practically every other EC comic book of the period.
The 2-D covers were new to these publications and perfectly embodied their 3-D theme. The first, by Kurtzman, showed a skull-littered corridor collapsing into the distance. The second, by Feldstein, showed a pair of hands reaching out of an open comic book to threaten its 3-D viewer-wearing reader, while the Crypt-Keeper and his friends look on approvingly.
The artists for 3-D No. 1 (EC Classics): "V-Vampires" (Mad #3) re-illustrated with new layouts by Wally Wood, "The Monster From The Fourth Dimension" (Weird Science #7, originally illustrated by Feldstein) now illustrated by Bernie Krigstein, "Frank Luke" (Frontline Combat #13) re-illustrated with new layouts by George Evans, and "Mr. Biddy...Killer!" (Crime Suspenstories #5, originally by Jack Davis) now illustrated by Graham Ingels.
The artists for 3-D No. 2 (Tales from the Crypt of Terror): "The Trophy!" (Tales From The Crypt #25) re-illustrated with new layouts by Jack Davis, "The Strange Couple!" (Vault Of Horror #14, originally by Feldstein) now illustrated by Bill Elder, "Bats In My Belfry!" ('Tales From The Crypt #24, originally by Jack Davis) now illustrated by Johnny Craig, and "The Thing From The Grave" (Tales From The Crypt #22, originally by Feldstein, who also co-wrote it with Gardner Fox) now illustrated by Joe Orlando.
Reception and Demise
A third issue of Three Dimensional E.C. Classics, with a science fiction emphasis (and six levels of depth), was prepared with finished story art work but never printed. The stories to have been included were 3-D versions of "Spawn of Venus" (Weird Science #6, originally drawn by Feldstein) now illustrated by Wally Wood, "Slave Ship" (Weird Science #8, originally by George Roussos) now illustrated by Bernie Krigstein , "Child of Tomorrow" (Weird Fantasy #17, originally by Feldstein) now illustrated by Reed Crandall, and "The Planetoid" (Weird Science #10, originally by Joe Orlando) now illustrated by Al Williamson & George Evans.
2-D b&w versions of those last four redrawn stories did finally see print in the late '60s - early '70s in the fanzines Witzend #6 (Spawn of Venus), Squa Tront #4 (Slave Ship, Child of Tomorrow), and Squa Tront #5 (The Planetoid) - up to now that set of fanzines are the only way to acquire any of the works done for this unpublished issue, the exception now being that Fantagraphics' 2013 EC Comics Library tome 50 Girls 50 and Other Stories Illustrated by Al Williamson contains "The Planetoid" story.
Although the EC books are today considered excellent, superior to most others in the field or even by far the best of their time, they came at a time when the market was oversaturated. The books barely sold at all, with only 300,000 copies of each being printed. But the 3-D comic fad itself lasted less than a year. A number of factors may have contributed to its demise. One factor was price: 3-D comic books commonly cost a quarter instead of the usual dime. Another was societal pressure: monochrome 3-D comics were better suited to darker stories at a time when these were beginning to attract unfavorable public attention. But the greatest factor may well have been the fact that it was a fad. Most people purchased only one 3-D comic book before concluding, "If you've seen one, you've seen them all."
EC 3-D Issue guide
|#||Date||Issue Title||Cover Artist||Story||Story Artist||Script Originally Used In||Original Artist|
|1||Spring 1954||Three Dimensional EC Classics||Harvey Kurtzman||V-Vampires!||Wally Wood||Mad #3||Wally Wood|
|The Monster from the Fourth Dimension||Bernard Krigstein||Weird Science #7||Al Feldstein|
|Frank Luke||George Evans||Frontline Combat #13||George Evans|
|Mr. Biddy...Killer!||Graham Ingels||Crime SuspenStories #5||Jack Davis|
|2||March 1954||Three Dimensional Tales From The Crypt Of Terror||Al Feldstein||The Trophy!||Jack Davis||Tales from the Crypt #25||Jack Davis|
|The Strange Couple!||Bill Elder||The Vault of Horror #14||Al Feldstein|
|Bats in My Belfry!||Johnny Craig||Tales from the Crypt #24||Jack Davis|
|The Thing from the Grave||Joe Orlando||Tales from the Crypt #22||Al Feldstein|
|3||Summer 1954 (unpublished)||(possibly) Three Dimensional Weird Science-Fantasy||not created||Spawn of Venus||Wally Wood||Weird Science #6||Al Feldstein|
|Slave Ship||Bernie Krigstein||Weird Science #8||George Roussos|
|Child of Tomorrow||Reed Crandall||Weird Fantasy #17||Al Feldstein|
|The Planetoid||Al Williamson & George Evans||Weird Science #10||Joe Orlando|
- Zone, Ray. "3-D Comics Skullduggery: Behind the scenes with Leonard Maurer during the 1950s 3-D comics crash".
- Stanley, John. "Do You Remember 3-D Comic Books?".
- This is an oversimplification, at least as regards EC. Ray Zone reports that "Most 3-D comics used three or four different levels. The EC 3-D comic books used as many as six levels."Zone, Ray. "Anaglyphs: A Survey of the 1950s 3-D Comic Books".
- Compare the caption and balloon of the panel illustrating this article to those of the corresponding panel in Tales from the Crypt #22. In the latter the caption reads: "THE SHADOWY FIGURE MOVED TOWARDS THE CAR...AND AS HE PASSED THE HEADLIGHT, A GLINT OF SHINY STEEL CAUGHT JIM'S EYE..." The balloon reads: "HE...HE'S GOT A KNIFE! HE'S...GOING TO KILL ME!"
- Zone, Ray. "Anaglyphs: A Survey of the 1950s 3-D Comic Books".
- 3deccomics.com. "EC 3-D". Retrieved 2011-07-02.
- Stanley, John (May 5, 2000). "Do You Remember 3-D Comic Books?". Retrieved 2011-07-04.
- Zone, Ray (June 2001). "3-D Comics Skullduggery: Behind the scenes with Leonard Maurer during the 1950s 3-D comics crash". 3D News. Stereo Club of Southern California. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
- Zone, Ray (1981). "Anaglyphs: A Survey of the 1950's 3-D Comic Books". Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (No. 11). Retrieved 2011-07-02.