Howard Nostrand brought artistry to non-E.C. horror comics like Chamber of Chills and Witches Tales by consciously copying E.C.’s greatest artist, Jack Davis. The approach was contrived, but it worked because Nostrand’s stories were utterly bizarre in ways that E.C.’s often-formulaic morality and thing-rises-from-the-grave tales rarely were. There is a child’s rambling logic to things like “Zodiac”, in which a pair of astrologers conjure zodiac icons to do their evil bidding, “Search for Evil”, in which a Crypt Keeper lookalike brings a mad scientist’s “see no evil, hear no evil” monkey statues to life to procure victims for his experiments, and “TerrorVision”, in which a space octopus forces some dudes to build a TV. In pieces such as the corpse-narrated “The Lonely” he approached E.C.’s yucky gruesomeness and did the same for its intelligence and humor with the vampire-narrated “I, Vampire” (while also using vamps as metaphors for prejudice half-a-century before “True Blood”).
And as much as artists Sid Jacobson and Craig Yoe underline Davis’s influence in their introductory essays to the new anthology Howard Nostrand’s Nightmares, Nostrand had an eye for detail that was all his own. Marvel at the intricacy of the opening splash panel of “The Rift of the Maggis” before guffawing at the gleeful nastiness of the story that follows. And when Nostrand out-and-out rips off E.C., as he does when employing that comics’ trademark first-person pov device or redrawing its most famous character in “Zodiac”, you at least have to admit that the guy was smart enough to steal from the very best.
Get Howard Nostrand’s Nightmares on Amazon.com here: