The death of Al Feldstein is a major cultural event. His sensibility, if not his work itself, helped inspire me to become a journalist and then a lawyer. While Mad Magazine was a wonderful achievement, the bigger story is Feldstein’s socially conscious and horrifying writing for Shock Suspenstories and the other EC “New Trend” titles in the early 1950s. These comics, almost all written by Feldstein and many of them illustrated in his familiar, emotionally-present, almost childlike lines, went for the jugular. At a time when such things were seldom discussed, ECs presented stories of drug abuse, suicide, rape, police brutality, KKK violence, anti-semitism and — over and over again — racism.
Two of the very best Shocks hang on the wall of my office: the one at left describes (in a mode that straddles the line between stereotype and icon) a teenager’s descent into heroin addiction, delusion, violent crime and patricide. The cover is an unforgettable drawing by Feldstein.
The other is the story of a false rape confession beat out of a stranger with the bad luck to pass through a small town. The shock comes at the end when we learn who the real culprit it. That cover, by George Evans, illustrates the old, unsubtle technique for extracting unrecorded “confessions” that continues to cast a shadow on my cases today.