by BK Munn
News of the passing of science fiction and fantasy grandmaster Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) trickled out earlier today. I’m sure in the days to follow there will be many lengthy obits and memorials of the author, noting his many contributions to literature and film. It’s worth noting here that Bradbury also made his mark in the comic book field, most famously with an unwitting contribution to the efforts of 1950s powerhouse publisher EC Comics.
As the story goes, EC editors William Gaines and Al Feldstein began swiping Bradbury’s short stories for their horror and science ficton comics in 1951, plagiarizing the plots and not crediting the writer. Bradbury, being a voracious devourer of all things sci-fi, and a fan of EC comics to boot, soon caught on and politely asked for a $50 fee. Along with a cheque, Gaines sent a note asking for permission to officially adapt more of Bradbury’s stories, and quickly began featuring the writer’s name prominently on the cover, beginning with an adaptation of “There Will Come Soft Rains” in Weird Fantasy #17, with a cover by Feldstein and story art by Wally Wood. In all, 27 of Bradbury’s short stories were adapted by EC for Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, Shock SuspenStories, Weird Science, and Weird Fantasy, and illustrated by EC legends like Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, George Evans, Graham Ingels, Bill Elder, John Severin, Al Williamson and Jack Kamen. 16 of them were collected in the Ballantine paperbacks, The Autumn People (1965) and Tomorrow Midnight (1966), with new covers by Frank Frazetta. Bradbury was a perfect fit for EC’s style of twist-ending, atmospheric comics and the deal was a win-win situation, with EC getting a “name” author to write (very good) comics and Bradbury getting some extra change, classy illustrations, and newsstand billing as “America’s Top Science-Fiction Writer”.
While Bradbury never wrote any fiction specifically for comics, his favoured medium of the short story, matched with his visually descriptive prose style and fanciful plots were seemingly tailor-made for comics adaptation. He later lent his name to several eponymous anthology comics series in the 1990s, including 3 issues of The Ray Bradbury Chronicles in 1992 (Byron Preiss Visuals/Bantam Spectra Books) featuring art by P. Craig Russell, Daniel Torres, Dave Gibbons, and Tim Truman, select EC reprints, and new introductions by the author. The series was continued for four issues by NBM, and then picked up by Topps for another 5 issues as Ray Bradbury Comics, with contributions from Kenneth Smith, Harvey Kurtzman, Matt Wagner, Richard Corben, Mike Mignola, Dave McKean, Moebius, and Jon Jay Muth, among others. Topps followed up with two one-shots in 1994, The Illustrated Man (Guy Davis) and The Martian Chronicles (Steranko, Kaluta).
go read: “Outcast Of The Stars” illustrated by Joe Orlando