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WALLY WOOD: TAKE FOUR

Came the Dawn and Other Stories Illustrated by Wallace Wood
Edited by Gary Groth with an Introduction by Bill Mason
208 pages
7 x 10
b/w
Fantagraphics hardcover
$28.99

Came the Dawn coverThis volume reprints 26 of Wood’s EC Comics stories, including the sexually charged title story in which a shapely blonde is depicted in a way that suggests her sweater and jeans are pasted (or painted!) on. The stories are printed in chronological order, running the gamut of Wood’s EC career, beginning with “The Werewolf Legend” from The Vault of Horror No.12, April-May 1950, and ending with “The Confidant” in Shock SuspenStories No.15, June-July 1954. With the evidence laid out in this fashion, we can watch Wood mature as an artist, and Mason’s introduction is a discerning guide. The earliest of the stories here are Harry Harrison-Wood collaborations, and it isn’t until “Death’s Double-Cross” from 1950 that characteristic Wood marks begin to emerge; still, some of the art looks more like primitive Johnny Craig that Wood. But by the spring of 1951 in ”So They Finally Pinned You Down,” it’s all Wood.

All these tales are horror and supernatural, plus some of the famed sociological screeds—the latter (publisher Bill Gaines called them “preachies’), mostly from Shock SuspenStories (notably, “The Guilty,” about racism, and “Hate,” about anti-Semitism). In late 1952's “Hate,” we see at last the characteristic Wood shading and highlighting of facial features and seductively draped female figures, wearing nearly transparent gowns.

The artwork in the stories is carefully, faithfully, reproduced, and Mason’s guidance is expert and thoughtful. The book’s only flaw — a minor one — is that the Table of Contents does not date the stories; and the dates don’t appear on each story’s first page either. The dates and the titles of the comic books in which the stories were first published appear in a tiny type list on the reverse of the title page. Adequate for historical purposes, no doubt; but it should be easier to find dates in a chronological compilation, one of the appeals of which is to watch the artist’s skill grow over years.

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