Al Williamson & Frank Frazetta cover, issue #21
|Publication date||May/June 1950 – November/December 1953|
|No. of issues||22|
|Created by||William Gaines|
|Written by||William Gaines, Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Harry Harrison, Wally Wood|
|Artist(s)||Frank Frazetta, Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Marie Severin, Will Elder, Joe Orlando, Bernie Krigstein, Al Williamson, John Severin|
Weird Fantasy is a dark fantasy and science fiction anthology comic that was part of the EC Comics line in the early 1950s. The companion comic for Weird Fantasy was Weird Science. Over a four-year span, Weird Fantasy ran for 22 issues, ending with the November–December 1953 issue.
The bi-monthly science-fiction comic, published by Bill Gaines and edited by Al Feldstein, replaced romance comic A Moon, A Girl... Romance with the May/June 1950 issue. Although the title and format change took effect with issue 13, Gaines and Feldstein decided not to restart the numbering in order to save money on second class postage. The Post Office took note, and starting with issue #6, all the issues were numbered correctly. Because of this, "Weird Fantasy #13" could refer to either the May/June 1950 issue or the actual 13th issue of the title, published in 1952. The same confusion exists for issues #14–17, #17 being the last issue published before EC reset the numbering.
Artist/writer Harry Harrison claims credit for originally turning Gaines on to the idea of publishing science fiction. Harrison has stated that he and fellow artist Wally Wood were interested in science fiction and supplied Gaines with a lot of science fiction material to read. Harrison had no editorial control over the contents of the comic aside from his own stories, and he left EC by the end of 1950.
Artists and writers
Cover illustrations were by Feldstein with the exception of two by Joe Orlando, one collaboration by Feldstein and Al Williamson, plus another collaboration by Williamson with Frank Frazetta. Artists who drew stories for this EC title were Feldstein, Frazetta, Williamson, Orlando, Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman, George Roussos, Harrison, Reed Crandall, Will Elder, Bernard Krigstein, Jack Kamen, John Severin and Mac Elkin. Writers in the early issues included Feldstein, Gaines, Kurtzman, Harrison and Gardner Fox. Gaines and Feldstein wrote nearly all stories from 1951–53.
Stories and themes
Creators Gaines and Feldstein made cameos in the stories "Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion" (14, July–August 1950), "7 Year Old Genius" (7) and "The Expert" (14) and "The Ad" (14).
Issues 14 and 15 in 1952 ran EC Quickies, a format featuring two similarly themed stories, each three or four pages, in the space usually devoted to a seven or eight-page story.
In Weird Fantasy 17 (1953), Al Williamson illustrated "The Aliens". Three aliens head for Earth to prevent a nuclear war, but they arrive too late. Amid the devastation they find a copy of Weird Fantasy 17. When they read "The Aliens", they see that it had predicted their arrival. On the last page they see a picture of themselves looking at a comic book with a picture of themselves looking at... ad infinitum.
Quite possibly the comic's most controversial story was published in issue 18 in 1953. "Judgment Day" featured an astronaut who comes to a planet populated by orange and blue robots who hope to join the Galactic Republic. As he tours the planet, the astronaut, named Tarlton, realizes that blue robots are treated horribly and given fewer rights than the orange robots, despite the fact that they are identical except for the color of their exterior. Tarlton decides that because of this, the planet will not be allowed in the Galactic Republic. In the final panel Tarlton removes his helmet, revealing that he is black. This story was chosen for reprinting approximately three years later in Incredible Science Fiction, which resulted in an argument that caused Gaines to quit comics altogether.
Influences and adaptations
As with the other EC comics edited by Feldstein, the stories in this comic were primarily based on Gaines reading a large number of science fiction stories and using them to develop "springboards" from which he and Feldstein could launch new stories. Specific story influences that have been identified include the following:
- "Martian Infiltration" (issue 15 ) – Martin Pearson's "The Embassy"
- "The Last City" (issue 16 ) – Arthur L. Zagat's "The Lanson Screen"
- "Deadlock!" (issue 17 ) – Murray Leinster's "First Contact"
- "The Duplicates" (issue 9) – William F. Temple's "4-Sided Triangle"
- "A Timely Shock" (issue 10) – Fritz Leiber's "Nice Girl With Five Husbands"
- "The Thing in the Jar" (issue 11) – Ralph Milne Farley's "Liquid Life"
- "A Lesson in Anatomy" (issue 12) – Ray Bradbury's "The Man Upstairs"
- "The End" (issue 13) – Damon Knight's "Not With A Bang" and Miriam Allen deFord's "The Last Generation"
- "Home to Stay" (issue 13) – Ray Bradbury's "The Rocket Man" and "Kaleidoscope"
- "The Long Trip" (issue 15) – A.E. van Vogt's "Far Centaurus"
- "He Who Waits" (issue 15) – Manly Wade Wellman's "The Kelpie"
- "Mass Meeting" (issue 16) – Malcolm Jameson's "Tricky Tonnage"
- "The Green Thing" (issue 16) – John Campbell's "Who Goes There?"
- "...For Us the Living" (issue 20) – Ward Moore's "Bring the Jubilee"
After their publication of "Home to Stay", Ray Bradbury contacted EC about their plagiarism of his work. They reached an agreement for EC to do authorized versions of Bradbury's short fiction. These official adaptations include:
- "There Will Come Soft Rains" (issue 17)
- "Zero Hour" (issue 18)
- "King of the Grey Spaces" (issue 19)
- "I, Rocket" (issue 20)
- "The Million Year Picnic" (issue 21)
- "The Silent Towns" (issue 22)
EC's science fiction comics were never able to match the popularity of their horror comics like Tales from the Crypt, but Gaines and Feldstein kept them alive using the profits from their more popular titles. In the EC Library reprints, comics historian Mark Evanier theorizes that the short story format, where no story was longer than eight pages helped contribute to poor sales because the horror comics were much better suited for very short stories with shock endings than the science fiction comics. Evanier also ponders whether the very similar logo style of Weird Science and its companion comic Weird Fantasy, as well as similar cover subjects contributed to lower sales due to customers thinking they already owned the issues on sale. Historian Digby Diehl wondered whether having host characters like EC's horror comics would have helped the comics be more commercially successful.
When the poor sales became too much to handle, Weird Fantasy combined with companion comic Weird Science in 1954 to become Weird Science-Fantasy. As discussed in an "In Memoriam" feature in the final issue, every issue for the previous year and a half had lost money, and EC had no choice but to combine the two comics into one. Weird Science-Fantasy ran for seven issues before a title change to Incredible Science Fiction for four issues.
As with many other EC titles, Weird Fantasy has been reprinted numerous times over the years. Ballantine Books reprinted selected stories in a series of paperback EC anthologies in 1964–66. All 22 issues were published in black and white in four hardbound volumes in 1980 as part of publisher Russ Cochran's The Complete EC Library. In addition, all 22 issues were reprinted in comic form in the mid-1990s by Cochran and Gemstone Publishing. This complete run was later rebound, with covers included, in a series of five softcover EC Annuals. Cochran and Gemstone planned to publish hardcover, re-colored volumes of Weird Fantasy as part of the EC Archives series, but Gemstone's financial troubles left this project in limbo. But the project may soon be revived under a new publisher. GC Press LLC, a boutique imprint established by Russ Cochran and Grant Geissman, announced in a press release dated September 1, 2011 that it is continuing the EC Archives series, with the first new releases scheduled for November 2011.
|#||Date||Cover Artist||Story||Story Artist|
|13(1)||May/June 1950||Al Feldstein||Am I Man or Machine?||Al Feldstein|
|Only Time Will Tell||Wally Wood & Harry Harrison|
|The Men of Tomorrow||Jack Kamen|
|...Trip into the Unknown||Harvey Kurtzman|
|14(2)||July/Aug 1950||Al Feldstein||Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion!||Al Feldstein|
|The Black Arts||Wally Wood & Harry Harrison|
|The Trap of Time!||Jack Kamen|
|Atom Bomb Thief!||Harvey Kurtzman|
|15(3)||Sept/Oct 1950||Al Feldstein||Martian Infiltration||Al Feldstein|
|Henry and His... Goon Child||Harvey Kurtzman|
|I Died Tomorrow!||Jack Kamen|
|Dark Side of the Moon||Wally Wood|
|16(4)||Nov/Dec 1950||Al Feldstein||The Last City||Al Feldstein|
|The Mysterious Ray From Another Dimension||Harvey Kurtzman|
|Second Childhood||Jack Kamen|
|A Trip to a Star!||Wally Wood|
|17(5)||Jan/Feb 1951||Al Feldstein||Child of Tomorrow!||Al Feldstein|
|The Time Machine and the Shmoe!||Harvey Kurtzman|
|Prediction of Disaster!||Jack Kamen|
|6||March/April 1951||Al Feldstein||Space-Warp!||Al Feldstein|
|The Dimension Translator||Harvey Kurtzman|
|...And Then There Were Two!||Jack Kamen|
|7||May/June 1951||Al Feldstein||7 Year Old Genius!||Al Feldstein|
|Come Into My Parlor||Jack Kamen|
|Across the Sun!||George Roussos|
|8||July/Aug 1951||Al Feldstein||The Origin of the Species!||Al Feldstein|
|It Didn't Matter||Jack Kamen|
|The Slave Ship||Bernard Krigstein|
|The Enemies of the Colony||Wally Wood|
|9||Sept/Oct 1951||Al Feldstein||Spawn of Mars||Wally Wood|
|The Duplicates||Jack Kamen|
|The Connection||Mac Elkin|
|A Mistake in Multiplication||Joe Orlando|
|10||Nov/Dec 1951||Al Feldstein||The Secret of Saturn's Ring!||Wally Wood|
|A Timely Shock!||Jack Kamen|
|The Mutants!||Wally Wood|
|Not on the Menu||Joe Orlando|
|11||Jan/Feb 1952||Al Feldstein||The Two-Century Journey!||Wally Wood|
|Shrinking From Abuse||Jack Kamen|
|The 10th At Noon||Wally Wood|
|The Thing in the Jar||Joe Orlando|
|12||March/April 1952||Al Feldstein||Project... Survival!||Wally Wood|
|A Lesson in Anatomy!||Jack Kamen|
|The Die is Cast!||Wally Wood|
|A Man's Job!||Joe Orlando|
|13||May/June 1952||Al Feldstein||The End!||Wally Wood|
|The Trip!||Jack Kamen|
|Home to Stay!||Wally Wood|
|Don't Count Your Chickens...||Joe Orlando|
|14||July/Aug 1952||Al Feldstein||The Exile!||Wally Wood|
|The Expert!||Joe Orlando|
|The Ad!||Joe Orlando|
|Close Call!||Jack Kamen|
|Mad Journey!||Al Williamson|
|15||Sept/Oct 1952||Al Feldstein||Revulsion!||Joe Orlando|
|The Quick Trip||Al Williamson|
|The Long Trip||Al Williamson|
|He Who Waits!||Jack Kamen|
|By George!!||Al Williamson|
|16||Nov/Dec 1952||Al Feldstein||Mass Meeting!||Joe Orlando|
|Skeleton Key!||Al Williamson|
|What He Saw!||Jack Kamen|
|The Green Thing!||Joe Orlando|
|17||Jan/Feb 1953||Al Feldstein||In the Beginning...||Joe Orlando|
|Ahead of the Game!||Bill Elder|
|The Aliens||Al Williamson|
|There Will Come Soft Rains...||Wally Wood|
|18||March/April 1953||Al Feldstein & Al Williamson||Counter-Clockwise||Bill Elder & John Severin|
|Zero Hour||Jack Kamen|
|Judgment Day!||Joe Orlando|
|19||May/June 1953||Al Feldstein||King of the Grey Spaces!||Bill Elder & John Severin|
|Time For a Change!||Joe Orlando|
|20||July/Aug 1953||Al Feldstein||...For Us the Living||Bill Elder & John Severin|
|I, Rocket||Al Williamson|
|...Conquers All!||Jack Kamen|
|The Automaton||Joe Orlando|
|21||Sept/Oct 1953||Al Williamson & Frank Frazetta||My Home...||Joe Orlando|
|Planely Possible||Jack Kamen|
|The Million Year Picnic||Bill Elder and John Severin|
|22||Nov/Dec 1953||Joe Orlando||The Silent Towns||Reed Crandall|
|The Freaks||Jack Kamen|
|The Fossil||Joe Orlando|
|Derelict Ship||Bernard Krigstein|
- The Complete EC Library: Weird Science Volume 1. Russ Cochran. 1980.
- Geissman, Grant. Foul Play, p. 124. Harper Collins, 2005.
- Von Bernewitz, Fred and Geissman, Grant Tales of Terror: The EC Companion (Gemstone Publishing and Fantagraphics Books, Timonium, MD & Seattle, WA, 2000) p. 135-140
- The Complete EC Library: Weird Fantasy Volume 4. Russ Cochran. 1980.
- The Complete EC Library: Weird Fantasy Volume 2–3. Russ Cochran. 1980.
- Von Bernewitz, Fred and Geissman, Grant Tales of Terror: The EC Companion (Gemstone Publishing and Fantagraphics Books, Timonium, MD & Seattle, WA, 2000) p. 226
- The Complete EC Library: Weird Fantasy Volume 3. Russ Cochran. 1980.
- The Complete EC Library: Weird Science Volume 4. Russ Cochran. 1981.
- The Complete EC Library: Weird Science Volume 3. Russ Cochran. 1981.
- Diehl, Digby. Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives, p. 34. St. Martin's Press, 1996.
- Michael Kronenberg posting at MarvelMasterworksFansite.Yuku.com, September 1, 2011. Accessed September 2, 2011