Book Review- Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition
Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition ($125.00 USD, 152 pgs.) has been a long time in coming. The book is the third in IDW’s Artist’s Edition line, though due to publishing issues it was actually the forth to be published (an edition featuring Spider-Man stories by John Romita, Sr. was released earlier in the month). The book has received a tremendous amount of hype and buzz in the months leading up to its publication. I’d wager that this Artist’s Edition got even more buzz than the Dave Stevens Rocketeer book (the inaugural book which launched this high-end line) or the Walter Simonson Thor book out last year (collecting one of the most acclaimed runs of a very visible character right now).
Wally Wood is easily one of the greatest pencilers, inkers, and letterers in the history of comics. A poll of artists is likely to find Wood’s name high on any “Best Of” list, and his influence is visible in everyone from Kevin Nowlan to Mike Mignola, who in turn influenced artists like Ryan Sook and Jim Lee (no seriously, look for it and you can definitely see it). I think that chain of influence is one reason why this volume, or rather, the art it contains, looks so vibrant and fresh. Wood has never really left the visual vernacular of comics. But how familiar are comics audiences with Wood himself, rather than say, the influence and legacy he left behind? Wood tragically took his own life in 1981 after issues with alcoholism and declining health.
When we look at the works by Wood that are accessible to modern readers (accessible in terms of scarcity and price), there’s his classic-but-brief run on the early issues of Daredevil (he created the near-perfect red costume we all know and love), “Superduperman” (a oft-reprinted parody of Superman that ran in the early days of MAD), and a handful of his more famous stories at EC, the legendary comic company run by Bill Gaines in the 1950s. The EC stuff is universally recognized (seriously, I think even Wizard, no paradigm of artistic integrity there, talked at length about it a few times), and it’s been reprinted in a variety of formats. That EC stuff is also what is being reprinted in this Artist’s Edition.
So, if that esteemed EC work has already been reprinted a lot, is the excitement for this particular collection justified, and is it worth the steep hundred and twenty-five bucks? Yes, and yes.
To answer both questions together, this collection is a testament to both the sweat and blood that IDW has put into bringing these Artist’s Editions to life and to Wally Wood’s genius as a clear, concise, yet powerfully dynamic storyteller. I don’t care how often you’ve read Wally Wood’s work, this collection will make it seem like you’ve just discovered him for the first time. There is honestly nothing like this.
The Artist’s Editions put out by IDW, for those of you unfamiliar with them, consist of full color scans of the original black and white pages by the selected artist. The high resolution, full color scanning allows you to see every pencil mark, white acrylic correction, and paste-up used and made by the artist. This is particularly amazing when you’ve got the virtuosity of an artist like Wally Wood. On one page you’re likely to find scratchboard, brushwork, duoshade and about a baker’s dozen worth of other techniques.
All of this is executed with a dedication and an ease which is breathtaking. The book itself is divided into his science-fiction work (featuring classics like My World and There Will Come Soft Rains, as well as the previously unpublished Spawn of Venus), his war stories (where the blending of Wood’s own sensibilities with those of Harvey Kurtzmann, who supplied the stories and often layouts, is sublime) and an assortment of his colors.
This book, tome, bible – whatever you wanna call it – is an excellent addition to any collection, a necessity I’d say if you’re a fan of Wally Wood. You just need to find a spot for it. (No seriously, you need to find a spot. It was really tough, the thing’s massively big!) A seminal artist in the comic field, presented with a level of meticulousness, care and love that any comic aficionado can be proud of. As I continue to pour over these pages finding new details, linework and craft to love, here are three more things I learned from this milestone release:
1. Wally Wood could do anything
I’ve talked about the variety of techniques on display in this collection already, but it bears repeating. Everyone has their favorite bit that an artist will do. The crosshatching of a Jim Lee, the dual light sources of a Kevin Nowlan, the extreme realism of a Bryan Hitch, and on and on… What separates Wood is the sheer range of his media. It’s such an amazing joy to see how he acheived some of the remarkable things he did on a comic page: bits of duoshade meticulously cut and glued to the board, an entire panel that’s done on scratchboard and then mounted to the page, or just some good ol’ perfection with a brush. It’s all on display here. It’s a bit like watching a masterpiece being created, the way you’re allowed behind the scenes.
2. There Are About Twenty Different Wally Woods, All Of Them Brilliant
I used that same line to describe Alex Toth in a review of the brilliant Genius, Isolated (also released by IDW), published last year, and it holds equally true for Wood, probably only the only comparable Golden Age genius to Will Eisner or Toth. There is such an incredible range of characters and emotion in these stories. It’s hard to say what type of story Wally Wood enjoyed drawing the most; every single one of these stories seems to have been given every single ounce of energy and focus that he had on that particular day. His war stories, his alien stories, his dystopian post-apocalyptic stories, his autobiography-by-way-of-dinosaurs story (that’s My Worl”, probably my favorite Wood story)… they’re all works of meticulous, energetic art.
3. … And The Hits Just Keep On Coming
IDW has made a name for itself with these amazing Artist’s Editions, and they don’t seem to be slowing down. If anything, they’re upping the pace. Joining the roster of fantastic artist given the Artist’s Edition treatment will soon be Wood’s fellow EC stablemate Jack Davis, the incredible humor artist and creator of Groo The Wanderer, Sergio Aragones, and, the one I’m most excited about, David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil (specifically the Born Again material). These works sell out instantly, so if you see something that catches your eye I’d grab it now. You’ll regret it if you don’t
This book gets my highest possible recommendation. It’s the type of collection that comic readers have long waited for, and it couldn’t have been done any better. Bravo to IDW and Wally Wood.