Publication Date: March – April 1953
Writer(s): Al Feldstein
Artist(s): Joe Orlando
I know I’ve probably said this before, but this is truly one of my favorite comics! I was FINALLY able to purchase a copy and am extremely proud to have it in my collection. Max Gaines founded EC Comics (nee Eastern Color, Educational Comics, Entertaining Comics) but the company came into prominence under his son, William Gaines. EC was primarily a publisher of horror, suspense and science fiction comics.
EC’s themes were targeted by Dr. Fredric Wertham who published his book, Seduction of the Innocent. Wertham’s book blamed comic books for juvenile delinquency and claimed that they had a harmful effect on children. In response, William Gaines helped form a self-policing organization that would fight censorship, The Comics Magazine Association of America, which gave us the infamous Comics Code Authority. Ironically, a story from this very issue, reprinted 3 years later, would lead to one of the first and most famous challenges to the CCA.
EC Comics adapted Ray Bradbury’s Zero Hour in this issue, but takes a backseat to our main story. Writer Al Feldstein and artist Joe Orlando created Judgment Day. The story starts off as innocuously as any other EC Comic. Tarlton, an astronaut from the Galactic Republic (years before Star Trek or Star Wars) arrives on a planet inhabited by robots.
Humans created this robotic society after they evolved into a star spanning race and Tarlton had come to check on their progress, in hope that they were ready to join The Galactic Republic. The robots, although the same in every way, are different colors, Orange and Blue. The Orange robots enjoy freedoms, rights and liberties that are denied the Blue robots. Scenes of bias are presented in heartfelt and poignant ways without preaching to the reader.
Tarlton determines that the planet of robots should not be admitted to the Galactic Republic because of the prejudiced treatment inflicted upon the Blue robots. As he enters his spacecraft, settling in for the long journey home, the Astronaut removes his helmet and we see for the first time, that Tarlton is a Black Man. From the Comic…
The End of EC Comics
This was really big deal when originally published in this book in 1953, think about it. In 1953, America wasn’t ready for Judgment Day. This story was published during the height of Jim Crow and two years before the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, here was a Black Man admonishing another culture about racism and bias. This story was light years ahead of it’s time. This was a seminal moment, not just in comics, but in literature.
It was a punch in the face to the people who wanted to keep the status quo of the “simpler time” of the 1950s. In February 1956, EC Comics reprinted Judgment Day in Incredible Science Fiction #33. EC Comics ended their comic books publishing with this issue because of the fierce criticism of the book and push back from the executive director of the CCA.
Things you may not know about EC Comics or the Comics Code Authority (or maybe you do)…
- EC’s MAD Magazine is the company’s lone title still being published today.
- William Gaines testified before Congress for engaging in “Anti-American Activities” because of Wertham’s book.
- EC Comics inspired the movies Creepshow and Creepshow 2.
- The Comics Code Authority had no real power. Publishers could create what they wanted, but distributors would not carry the comics without the code seal affixed to them.
- Archie Comics was the last participant still using the Comics Code Authority, submitting their last comic in 2011. The CCA is now defunct.
Thanks for reading! If you love it or hate it…let me know. Hit me if you have any suggestions or if there’s a particular character you’d like to hear about. Thanks!!