Monthly Archives: March 2016

Lurid And Ludicrous, ‘Shock SuspenStories’ Will Make Your Eyes Pop


What’s the deal with EC Comics, anyway? In the modern crusade to improve comics’ reputation and win a place alongside “legitimate” art, this defunct early-’50s publisher would seem like a poor ambassador. EC’s offerings were unapologetically lurid and just as unapologetically ludicrous. “Brace yourselves for the impact of the shocking wind-up to this yarn!” bellows the first story in Dark Horse’s collection of the EC title Shock SuspenStories. In it, a woman cuts her husband into tiny pieces and labels them in jars. A later story features a woman flogged to death; its introduction reads, “Here is an electrifying story with solid impact in its startling conclusion!” Baaa-dump.

In fact, the tales in Shock SuspenStories aren’t all that shocking. Publisher Bill Gaines and his editor Al Feldstein returned repeatedly to similar tropes in such titles as Tales From the Crypt, Two-Fisted Tales and Weird Fantasy. In Shock SuspenStories the favorite outcome is poetic justice of the gory variety. A brutish lumberjack, having beaten a rival until he blinds him, is later hacked to death with an axe unknowingly wielded by the blind man. The cruel boss of an orphanage, refusing to let the kids celebrate Halloween, has his head turned into a jack-o-lantern. An avid hunter, his lodge decorated with a bearskin rug, is himself made into a human-skin rug.

Tales like these are even more puerile than the typical low-budget horror movie. It’s not too surprising that, a few years after EC began publishing, it became the focus of Congressional hearings and comic-book bonfires. All these years later, though, the censors look like jerks. This edition of Shock SuspenStories (notably, with a forward by Steven Spielberg) is only the latest of a raft of collector’s volumes issued by different publishers recently. In 2007 an all-new Tales From the Crypt comic appeared, and 2013 saw biographies of illustrator Wally Wood and editor/writer/artist Al Feldstein.

Part of the secret is the art; EC hired some of the top commercial freelancers of the day. In these pages Wood displays his gift for eloquent faces and clever layouts, Jack Davis presents gnarled visages and twisted forms, and Joe Orlando shows off a brilliant palette and angelic female features. Jack Davis and Graham Ingels are less remarkable, but it’s fascinating to see how each artist defines himself using such ridiculous raw material.

At least, it’s mostly ridiculous. From time to time Gaines and Feldstein published serious or semi-serious work, as when they illustrated Ray Bradbury stories. They also took on the issues of the day — albeit ones that lent themselves to violence and gore. “The Patriots!,” drawn by Davis, depicted violence at a political rally; it could almost be about our current election season. The Wood-illustrated “The Guilty!” concerns racist violence in a small town. By the time it ran, in the third issue, the editors knew their work mattered to readers out there. “I have always felt, somehow, that EC mags are ‘personally mine,'” wrote Ruby MacDonell of Raleigh, N.C., in one letter printed in SuspenStories 4.

Such letters point to the final ingredient of EC’s appeal through the years: It provided a sense of belonging stemming from a shared experience of culture. It’s no accident that Mad magazine was first published by EC. Gaines and his crew stumbled onto a mixture of humor, horror, melodrama and sheer absurdity that not only spoke to people, it made people feel they were one of a select group who “got it.” Strikingly, Playboy, with its complex promise of masculine camaraderie, was founded about the same time. But you didn’t need a pricey lifestyle to belong to EC’s world. You didn’t even need to be a man (though it’s true that women are rarely treated well in the comics). You just had to be attuned to Gaines and Feldstein’s unique frequency. You had to know that when they had one of their creations chew off his own leg to escape a bear trap, another get his innards removed because he kept telling his underlings they “got no guts!” and a third chop up his wife and squish her parts into model-train cars, they were kidding. Mostly.

Etelka Lehoczky has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com. She tweets at @EtelkaL.

For 19th Century French Artists, ‘Noir’ Was The New Black


In Eugène Delacroix's 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.i

In Eugène Delacroix’s 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum


hide caption

toggle caption

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum

In Eugène Delacroix's 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

In Eugène Delacroix’s 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum

In the 19th century, French artists started getting creative with black materials— chalk, pastels, crayons and charcoal — some of them newly available. Now, a show called Noir at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles celebrates the dark.

“Black can be intense and dramatic,” says Timothy Potts, director of the Getty. “I mean it’s dark, it’s the color of the night, of the unknown, of the scary.”

Manet, Redon, Degas, Corot, Courbet, and lots of lesser-known painters began putting black on paper in lithographs, etchings, drawings. Of course it’s not the first time black was used, but this was different because of Industrial Revolution technology and the times.

“Life was changing at a pace which it never had before,” Potts explains. “And it wasn’t all good — there was the poverty and the desperation of city life in a way that hadn’t existed before.”

“The air was terrible,” adds Lee Hendrix, Noir‘s curator. “Urban violence was becoming a regular thing. The city — and especially the night city, and the city of Paris itself — began to take on life as a kind of demonic domain.”

It's raining black in Odilon Redon's charcoal work, Apparition.i

It’s raining black in Odilon Redon’s charcoal work, Apparition.

The J. Paul Getty Museum


hide caption

toggle caption

The J. Paul Getty Museum

It's raining black in Odilon Redon's charcoal work, Apparition.

It’s raining black in Odilon Redon’s charcoal work, Apparition.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Artists reflected these shadowy changes. In 1827 Eugène Delacroix drew a demon — Goethe’s devil Mephistopheles. The lithograph shows him flying over a dark city, the incarnation of evil with his claw-like nails and his grinning leer.

“I think they are plumbing the depths of the frightening, unimagined evil in ways that had not happened before in art,” Hendrix says.

In Odilon Redon’s 1880 charcoal Apparition, it’s actually raining black, in long, dark, slanting lines. A dreamlike ghostly presence emerges from the dark. There’s a bit of light around him — artists rubbed squished-up bread onto the paper, to lift away the powdery charcoal.

There’s also an unusual Degas in the show: La Toilette is a monotype from 1885 which brought out the artist’s dark side. Usually Degas used vivid colors in his paintings and pastels of women bathing. But here he puts black ink on a metal plate — and wipes it off, to create a bather’s arms.

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.i

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum


hide caption

toggle caption

UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum

“[He’s] wiping her arms as she’s wiping her arms … so the subject and the matter are married in that respect,” says artist Alison Saar, who joined us at the Getty.

This Degas was a monotype — meaning there was only one copy of the work. But the Industrial Revolution brought ways to produce several copies of an artwork — mass-produced prints that were snapped up at art shows.

“These show were so well attended when you look at old engravings of them, they almost look like a department store,” Hendrix says.

It was around this time that art got democratized — ordinary people could afford it. And that’s something of a ray of sunshine piercing through the noir.

Ray Romano Gets Deep, Dark And Angsty For Martin Scorsese’s ‘Vinyl’


Ray Romano plays Zak Yankovich, a record company's head of promotions, in HBO's Vinyl.i

Ray Romano plays Zak Yankovich, a record company’s head of promotions, in HBO’s Vinyl.

Macall B. Polay/HBO


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Macall B. Polay/HBO

Ray Romano plays Zak Yankovich, a record company's head of promotions, in HBO's Vinyl.

Ray Romano plays Zak Yankovich, a record company’s head of promotions, in HBO’s Vinyl.

Macall B. Polay/HBO

Ray Romano became famous in the mid 1990s as the star of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, which was loosely based on his life as a married man with a daughter and twin boys. After that show ended in 2005, he co-created and co-starred in TNT’s Men of a Certain Age, about three friends dealing with middle age, and had a recurring role on NBC’s Parenthood.

Now, in the HBO drama Vinyl, Romano plays the head of promotions at a record company that’s in financial trouble. He tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that ever since Everybody Loves Raymond ended, his goal has been to try something different. “And when I say different, I mean something a bit dramatic.”

Vinyl was co-created by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter, and it’s set in the 1970s.

Interview Highlights

On how he got the role in Vinyl

So the luckiest thing in the world happened. … The casting woman, Ellen Lewis, she’s been [Martin Scorsese’s] casting partner for everything he does. … My agent actually went to her after he saw the script and said, “What do you think of Ray Romano?” And she said, “Well, that’s an interesting choice, but have him send in a tape.” …

I had to look from the 1970s and I went to my wardrobe — it was actually very easy to find a shirt in there that fit in that era. … I told my wife, who is constantly trying to throw those things out, I told her it would come in handy one day. I put that on; I did a couple scenes; we sent it. And the feedback we got from Ellen was, “Marty likes what he saw. … He knows this person,” meaning he knows the guy I was playing. “He knows this guy. But also, he’s never heard of Ray Romano,” and it turned out to be a blessing.

On how his work in Vinyl differs from his previous roles

It’s much darker, there’s more depth to it, there’s more angst, of course. In the very second episode of Vinyl, my character kind of contemplates killing himself — not kind of, he does.

It was very intimidating to me because I did the pilot and almost a year later we got the script for the second episode as we were about to start filming. And in the pilot my character is in a good place — he’s happy they’re selling the company. And I got to be honest, I didn’t even know my character was married in the pilot. Nine months later, I get the second script, and I find he’s married, he has children. And here he is sitting in the car in his garage when the sale of the company goes down, and he’s contemplating swallowing these pills. …

The difference between Men of a Certain Age [and Vinyl] is I’m writing Men of a Certain Age, so I know what’s coming and I know why it’s coming. And here it’s all having to process it and figure out and get myself to that place, so it’s different but it’s very exhilarating.

On having to cry on camera in an episode of Vinyl

Just from an acting standpoint, that was frightening to me and scary. And I was talking to my agent, like, “This is such a test for me. It’s the second episode and I want to make sure I can deliver what they think they’re writing for this character.” My agent was very sensitive — he was like, “Well, you better. You better.” …

By the way, I do in real life. I’m at an age where crying is easier for me now. I like it. I can cry at a poignant commercial; I can cry at a — this is a running joke in my house, but … a good “Star-Spangled Banner” can make me cry. I’m not kidding. I look them up on YouTube and I find the most emotional ones. And I like a good cry — it’s cathartic; it’s a release. But I’ve never been able to be so free to do that on camera the way some actors can.

On the story behind the title Everybody Loves Raymond

My brother is a New York police officer, or was then at that time. He actually coined … the title Everybody Loves Raymond. … In real life, he would come over and he’d see I got an award or I got something for stand-up comedy and he would jokingly, kind of tongue-in-cheek, he’d say, “Well, look at Raymond! Raymond gets awards when he goes to work. When I go to work, people shoot at me, people spit at me. But when Raymond goes, everybody loves Raymond.”

So I told this story to [Everybody Loves Raymond executive producer Phil Rosenthal]. Phil said, “We have to use that … as the title.” And I said, “Please don’t.” He said, “Well, let’s just use it as the working title, and then we’ll change it when it comes time to go to pilot.” And of course Les Moonves, the head of CBS, fell in love with the title and he would not — I tried desperately to change that title. … It’s just asking for trouble. … Even if they don’t take it at face value, to this day someone will start an article with, “Well, not everybody loves Raymond!”

On Everybody Loves Raymond ending and figuring out what to do next

The show was ending and it was a bit of a cool feeling in the beginning because now, all of a sudden, you’ve got all this time, you’ve got this money and this fame now. But it was like coming out of a submarine — it was like, “What is this now? My kids are teenagers and I live here? I live in L.A?” It was kind of an odd new feeling.

At first I liked it. I kind of said, “Let’s see what’s next!” I was going to a therapist — I’ve been going to a therapist forever — but my therapist then said, when the show was ending, he says, “You want to start coming twice a week?” And I said, “No, I’m running out of things to talk about now, I’m not going to come twice a week.” Sure enough, in three months after the show ended, I was going twice a week. It was really a hard adjustment all of a sudden because I’m not really doing stand-up now. Before the show, I was doing stand-up every night, writing new material. It was this void. It was this big, big void. And I realized I need to do stuff, I need to continue. … I went through a little rough patch there.

I finally talked with my buddy Mike Royce, who was also a writer on Raymond and he said he’s got the same feeling. It’s kind of this weird, “Where am I? What am I doing now? Where’s my next passion and purpose? I’m at a time in my life where I accomplished what I wanted to.” We said, “Let’s write about it. That’s what Raymond was — Raymond was about writing what you know. Let’s do that. We’re not going to do a sitcom, of course, we want to do it real and keep it funny. But let’s do a single-camera and write about it.” And that’s where Men of a Certain Age came out of. We won a Peabody Award and then they canceled us.

On how fame has changed his life

When Everybody Loves Raymond started, I remember the first person [who recognized me]. We had gone back to Queens, [New York]. It was during a hiatus week and I went to a gas station, and I was pumping my gas and a woman said, “Hey, aren’t you on that show?” I said, “Yeah, I am. Thank you.” And that was it. It was still a long ways off before I ever had to worry about being somewhere — not that I have to worry, I mean I’m not Justin Bieber. I can outrun my fans, I’ll put it that way. …

It doesn’t really affect my life too much, really. Yes, it does in some sense. Here’s what I say: Before I thought my cab driver hated me; now I think my limo driver hates me. I think it’s all the same. … I’m just as neurotic. If I had never gotten famous or rich, I think I’d be equally neurotic.

Lurid And Ludicrous, ‘Shock SuspenStories’ Will Make Your Eyes Pop


What’s the deal with EC Comics, anyway? In the modern crusade to improve comics’ reputation and win a place alongside “legitimate” art, this defunct early-’50s publisher would seem like a poor ambassador. EC’s offerings were unapologetically lurid and just as unapologetically ludicrous. “Brace yourselves for the impact of the shocking wind-up to this yarn!” bellows the first story in Dark Horse’s collection of the EC title Shock SuspenStories. In it, a woman cuts her husband into tiny pieces and labels them in jars. A later story features a woman flogged to death; its introduction reads, “Here is an electrifying story with solid impact in its startling conclusion!” Baaa-dump.

In fact, the tales in Shock SuspenStories aren’t all that shocking. Publisher Bill Gaines and his editor Al Feldstein returned repeatedly to similar tropes in such titles as Tales From the Crypt, Two-Fisted Tales and Weird Fantasy. In Shock SuspenStories the favorite outcome is poetic justice of the gory variety. A brutish lumberjack, having beaten a rival until he blinds him, is later hacked to death with an axe unknowingly wielded by the blind man. The cruel boss of an orphanage, refusing to let the kids celebrate Halloween, has his head turned into a jack-o-lantern. An avid hunter, his lodge decorated with a bearskin rug, is himself made into a human-skin rug.

Tales like these are even more puerile than the typical low-budget horror movie. It’s not too surprising that, a few years after EC began publishing, it became the focus of Congressional hearings and comic-book bonfires. All these years later, though, the censors look like jerks. This edition of Shock SuspenStories (notably, with a forward by Steven Spielberg) is only the latest of a raft of collector’s volumes issued by different publishers recently. In 2007 an all-new Tales From the Crypt comic appeared, and 2013 saw biographies of illustrator Wally Wood and editor/writer/artist Al Feldstein.

Part of the secret is the art; EC hired some of the top commercial freelancers of the day. In these pages Wood displays his gift for eloquent faces and clever layouts, Jack Davis presents gnarled visages and twisted forms, and Joe Orlando shows off a brilliant palette and angelic female features. Jack Davis and Graham Ingels are less remarkable, but it’s fascinating to see how each artist defines himself using such ridiculous raw material.

At least, it’s mostly ridiculous. From time to time Gaines and Feldstein published serious or semi-serious work, as when they illustrated Ray Bradbury stories. They also took on the issues of the day — albeit ones that lent themselves to violence and gore. “The Patriots!,” drawn by Davis, depicted violence at a political rally; it could almost be about our current election season. The Wood-illustrated “The Guilty!” concerns racist violence in a small town. By the time it ran, in the third issue, the editors knew their work mattered to readers out there. “I have always felt, somehow, that EC mags are ‘personally mine,'” wrote Ruby MacDonell of Raleigh, N.C., in one letter printed in SuspenStories 4.

Such letters point to the final ingredient of EC’s appeal through the years: It provided a sense of belonging stemming from a shared experience of culture. It’s no accident that Mad magazine was first published by EC. Gaines and his crew stumbled onto a mixture of humor, horror, melodrama and sheer absurdity that not only spoke to people, it made people feel they were one of a select group who “got it.” Strikingly, Playboy, with its complex promise of masculine camaraderie, was founded about the same time. But you didn’t need a pricey lifestyle to belong to EC’s world. You didn’t even need to be a man (though it’s true that women are rarely treated well in the comics). You just had to be attuned to Gaines and Feldstein’s unique frequency. You had to know that when they had one of their creations chew off his own leg to escape a bear trap, another get his innards removed because he kept telling his underlings they “got no guts!” and a third chop up his wife and squish her parts into model-train cars, they were kidding. Mostly.

Etelka Lehoczky has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com. She tweets at @EtelkaL.

For 19th Century French Artists, ‘Noir’ Was The New Black


In Eugène Delacroix's 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.i

In Eugène Delacroix’s 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum


hide caption

toggle caption

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum

In Eugène Delacroix's 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

In Eugène Delacroix’s 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum

In the 19th century, French artists started getting creative with black materials— chalk, pastels, crayons and charcoal — some of them newly available. Now, a show called Noir at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles celebrates the dark.

“Black can be intense and dramatic,” says Timothy Potts, director of the Getty. “I mean it’s dark, it’s the color of the night, of the unknown, of the scary.”

Manet, Redon, Degas, Corot, Courbet, and lots of lesser-known painters began putting black on paper in lithographs, etchings, drawings. Of course it’s not the first time black was used, but this was different because of Industrial Revolution technology and the times.

“Life was changing at a pace which it never had before,” Potts explains. “And it wasn’t all good — there was the poverty and the desperation of city life in a way that hadn’t existed before.”

“The air was terrible,” adds Lee Hendrix, Noir‘s curator. “Urban violence was becoming a regular thing. The city — and especially the night city, and the city of Paris itself — began to take on life as a kind of demonic domain.”

It's raining black in Odilon Redon's charcoal work, Apparition.i

It’s raining black in Odilon Redon’s charcoal work, Apparition.

The J. Paul Getty Museum


hide caption

toggle caption

The J. Paul Getty Museum

It's raining black in Odilon Redon's charcoal work, Apparition.

It’s raining black in Odilon Redon’s charcoal work, Apparition.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Artists reflected these shadowy changes. In 1827 Eugène Delacroix drew a demon — Goethe’s devil Mephistopheles. The lithograph shows him flying over a dark city, the incarnation of evil with his claw-like nails and his grinning leer.

“I think they are plumbing the depths of the frightening, unimagined evil in ways that had not happened before in art,” Hendrix says.

In Odilon Redon’s 1880 charcoal Apparition, it’s actually raining black, in long, dark, slanting lines. A dreamlike ghostly presence emerges from the dark. There’s a bit of light around him — artists rubbed squished-up bread onto the paper, to lift away the powdery charcoal.

There’s also an unusual Degas in the show: La Toilette is a monotype from 1885 which brought out the artist’s dark side. Usually Degas used vivid colors in his paintings and pastels of women bathing. But here he puts black ink on a metal plate — and wipes it off, to create a bather’s arms.

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.i

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum


hide caption

toggle caption

UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum

“[He’s] wiping her arms as she’s wiping her arms … so the subject and the matter are married in that respect,” says artist Alison Saar, who joined us at the Getty.

This Degas was a monotype — meaning there was only one copy of the work. But the Industrial Revolution brought ways to produce several copies of an artwork — mass-produced prints that were snapped up at art shows.

“These show were so well attended when you look at old engravings of them, they almost look like a department store,” Hendrix says.

It was around this time that art got democratized — ordinary people could afford it. And that’s something of a ray of sunshine piercing through the noir.

Lurid And Ludicrous, ‘Shock SuspenStories’ Will Make Your Eyes Pop


What’s the deal with EC Comics, anyway? In the modern crusade to improve comics’ reputation and win a place alongside “legitimate” art, this defunct early-’50s publisher would seem like a poor ambassador. EC’s offerings were unapologetically lurid and just as unapologetically ludicrous. “Brace yourselves for the impact of the shocking wind-up to this yarn!” bellows the first story in Dark Horse’s collection of the EC title Shock SuspenStories. In it, a woman cuts her husband into tiny pieces and labels them in jars. A later story features a woman flogged to death; its introduction reads, “Here is an electrifying story with solid impact in its startling conclusion!” Baaa-dump.

In fact, the tales in Shock SuspenStories aren’t all that shocking. Publisher Bill Gaines and his editor Al Feldstein returned repeatedly to similar tropes in such titles as Tales From the Crypt, Two-Fisted Tales and Weird Fantasy. In Shock SuspenStories the favorite outcome is poetic justice of the gory variety. A brutish lumberjack, having beaten a rival until he blinds him, is later hacked to death with an axe unknowingly wielded by the blind man. The cruel boss of an orphanage, refusing to let the kids celebrate Halloween, has his head turned into a jack-o-lantern. An avid hunter, his lodge decorated with a bearskin rug, is himself made into a human-skin rug.

Tales like these are even more puerile than the typical low-budget horror movie. It’s not too surprising that, a few years after EC began publishing, it became the focus of Congressional hearings and comic-book bonfires. All these years later, though, the censors look like jerks. This edition of Shock SuspenStories (notably, with a forward by Steven Spielberg) is only the latest of a raft of collector’s volumes issued by different publishers recently. In 2007 an all-new Tales From the Crypt comic appeared, and 2013 saw biographies of illustrator Wally Wood and editor/writer/artist Al Feldstein.

Part of the secret is the art; EC hired some of the top commercial freelancers of the day. In these pages Wood displays his gift for eloquent faces and clever layouts, Jack Davis presents gnarled visages and twisted forms, and Joe Orlando shows off a brilliant palette and angelic female features. Jack Davis and Graham Ingels are less remarkable, but it’s fascinating to see how each artist defines himself using such ridiculous raw material.

At least, it’s mostly ridiculous. From time to time Gaines and Feldstein published serious or semi-serious work, as when they illustrated Ray Bradbury stories. They also took on the issues of the day — albeit ones that lent themselves to violence and gore. “The Patriots!,” drawn by Davis, depicted violence at a political rally; it could almost be about our current election season. The Wood-illustrated “The Guilty!” concerns racist violence in a small town. By the time it ran, in the third issue, the editors knew their work mattered to readers out there. “I have always felt, somehow, that EC mags are ‘personally mine,'” wrote Ruby MacDonell of Raleigh, N.C., in one letter printed in SuspenStories 4.

Such letters point to the final ingredient of EC’s appeal through the years: It provided a sense of belonging stemming from a shared experience of culture. It’s no accident that Mad magazine was first published by EC. Gaines and his crew stumbled onto a mixture of humor, horror, melodrama and sheer absurdity that not only spoke to people, it made people feel they were one of a select group who “got it.” Strikingly, Playboy, with its complex promise of masculine camaraderie, was founded about the same time. But you didn’t need a pricey lifestyle to belong to EC’s world. You didn’t even need to be a man (though it’s true that women are rarely treated well in the comics). You just had to be attuned to Gaines and Feldstein’s unique frequency. You had to know that when they had one of their creations chew off his own leg to escape a bear trap, another get his innards removed because he kept telling his underlings they “got no guts!” and a third chop up his wife and squish her parts into model-train cars, they were kidding. Mostly.

Etelka Lehoczky has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com. She tweets at @EtelkaL.

For 19th Century French Artists, ‘Noir’ Was The New Black


In Eugène Delacroix's 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.i

In Eugène Delacroix’s 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum


hide caption

toggle caption

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum

In Eugène Delacroix's 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

In Eugène Delacroix’s 1827 lithograph, Mephistopheles Aloft, 1827, a demon flies over a dark city.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/The J. Paul Getty Museum

In the 19th century, French artists started getting creative with black materials— chalk, pastels, crayons and charcoal — some of them newly available. Now, a show called Noir at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles celebrates the dark.

“Black can be intense and dramatic,” says Timothy Potts, director of the Getty. “I mean it’s dark, it’s the color of the night, of the unknown, of the scary.”

Manet, Redon, Degas, Corot, Courbet, and lots of lesser-known painters began putting black on paper in lithographs, etchings, drawings. Of course it’s not the first time black was used, but this was different because of Industrial Revolution technology and the times.

“Life was changing at a pace which it never had before,” Potts explains. “And it wasn’t all good — there was the poverty and the desperation of city life in a way that hadn’t existed before.”

“The air was terrible,” adds Lee Hendrix, Noir‘s curator. “Urban violence was becoming a regular thing. The city — and especially the night city, and the city of Paris itself — began to take on life as a kind of demonic domain.”

It's raining black in Odilon Redon's charcoal work, Apparition.i

It’s raining black in Odilon Redon’s charcoal work, Apparition.

The J. Paul Getty Museum


hide caption

toggle caption

The J. Paul Getty Museum

It's raining black in Odilon Redon's charcoal work, Apparition.

It’s raining black in Odilon Redon’s charcoal work, Apparition.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Artists reflected these shadowy changes. In 1827 Eugène Delacroix drew a demon — Goethe’s devil Mephistopheles. The lithograph shows him flying over a dark city, the incarnation of evil with his claw-like nails and his grinning leer.

“I think they are plumbing the depths of the frightening, unimagined evil in ways that had not happened before in art,” Hendrix says.

In Odilon Redon’s 1880 charcoal Apparition, it’s actually raining black, in long, dark, slanting lines. A dreamlike ghostly presence emerges from the dark. There’s a bit of light around him — artists rubbed squished-up bread onto the paper, to lift away the powdery charcoal.

There’s also an unusual Degas in the show: La Toilette is a monotype from 1885 which brought out the artist’s dark side. Usually Degas used vivid colors in his paintings and pastels of women bathing. But here he puts black ink on a metal plate — and wipes it off, to create a bather’s arms.

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.i

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum


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UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

Edgar Degas created his monotype La Toilette circa 1885.

UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum/The J. Paul Getty Museum

“[He’s] wiping her arms as she’s wiping her arms … so the subject and the matter are married in that respect,” says artist Alison Saar, who joined us at the Getty.

This Degas was a monotype — meaning there was only one copy of the work. But the Industrial Revolution brought ways to produce several copies of an artwork — mass-produced prints that were snapped up at art shows.

“These show were so well attended when you look at old engravings of them, they almost look like a department store,” Hendrix says.

It was around this time that art got democratized — ordinary people could afford it. And that’s something of a ray of sunshine piercing through the noir.

Adopt A Beehive — Save A Beekeeper?


A beehive at Frangiosa Farms, in Parker, Colo. The farm introduced an adopt-a-hive program in 2012. The one-time adoption fees per hive range from $45 to $130 (the latter gets you three jars of honey.)

A beehive at Frangiosa Farms, in Parker, Colo. The farm introduced an adopt-a-hive program in 2012. The one-time adoption fees per hive range from $45 to $130 (the latter gets you three jars of honey.)

Courtesy of Nick French/Frangiosa Farms


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Courtesy of Nick French/Frangiosa Farms

Beekeeper Nick French never knows what he’ll find when he opens up his hives for the first spring inspections. Of the 40 hives he manages in Parker, Colo., French loses about one-quarter of his colonies every year.

“I work all summer long to raise healthy bees, but there are no guarantees they’ll make it through the winter,” says French, founder of Frangiosa Farm.

Recent years have been especially hard on beekeepers. The latest research shows that beekeepers have lost almost a third of their hives over the winter – and replacing them is expensive. “Losing bees is like watching dollar bills fly out the window,” says Tanya Phillips, beekeeper and founder of Bee Friendly Austin.

A few creative beekeepers have come up with a new source of funding: They’re inviting bee supporters to “adopt a hive.”

Most programs operate with similar models: Adopters pay a fee in exchange for honey from their “adopted” bees and an adoption certificate acknowledging their support.

The Adopt A Bee program at Frangiosa Farm was introduced in 2012. The one-time adoption fees per hive range from $45 to $130 (the latter gets you three jars of honey.) French signed up 25 adopters the first year; last year, the number of adopters jumped to 300.

Adopting a hive is about more than increasing honey sales – it’s a matter of survival, says French.

“In any other industry, you’d go out of business with the kind of losses beekeepers experience,” French says. “I couldn’t keep going without community support.”

The programs take advantage of public concern and raise awareness of the plight of bees.

Beekeepers are experiencing average annual losses of more than 30 percent, according to Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit collaboration of universities and research labs studying honeybee losses.

In managed colonies (hives raised by beekeepers), losses can be caused by a number of factors, including parasites, pesticides, loss of forage and Colony Collapse Disorder, according to David Tarpy, a professor and extension apiculturist for North Carolina State University.

Beekeeper Nick French of Frangiosa Farms loses about one-quarter of his colonies every year. Last year, he had 300 adopters sign up for his farm's adopt-a-bee program.

Beekeeper Nick French of Frangiosa Farms loses about one-quarter of his colonies every year. Last year, he had 300 adopters sign up for his farm’s adopt-a-bee program.

Courtesy of Nick French/Frangiosa Farms


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Courtesy of Nick French/Frangiosa Farms

Bees are essential to the health of the food supply. More than 100 different crops – about one-third of the foods we eat — depend on pollination from bees and other pollinators. While native bees do some of the work, it’s honeybees that do the bulk of the work to pollinate agricultural crops.

“Honeybees provide a service that native bees cannot,” Tarpy says. “And beekeepers face uncertainty every single year about whether or not they’ll have enough bees to match pollination demands.”

Of course, beekeepers can add more bees, but the options come at a great expense.

Packages of bees to populate a new hive are upward of $100 per hive. Splitting the bees from an existing hive into two new hives is free — but it curbs honey production as bees work to populate their new colonies and boost honey stores.

And when infectious diseases like American foulbrood strike, beekeepers often burn affected hives to prevent it from spreading, triggering expenses for new equipment.

The concept of adopt-a-hive programs is catching on. In addition to the four-year-old program at Frangiosa Farm, there is a similar initiative at University of Hawaii at Hilo.

In Jacksonville, Fla., the Bee Friends Farm program promises adopters will make 60,000 new friends when they adopt a hive for $35. The fee covers adoption benefits like a bottle of honey, adoption certificate and a photo of a hive with the adopter’s name on it.

Bee Friendly Austin introduced an Adopt-a-Beehive program this spring. Rather than use the $49 adoption fee to cover the cost of her bee losses — which Phillips estimates are just between 5 and 10 percent of her colonies per year, thanks to the temperate Texas climate — Phillips plans to use adoption fees to support new beekeepers. The fees from all hive adoptions will be donated to the launch of a local master beekeeper program.

“The only way to help the bees is to teach people how to raise them right,” Phillips says. Without the additional financial support, beekeepers would be forced to raise the price of honey to offset the costs of colony losses.

The combination of support for bees and beekeepers alike make Tarpy a fan of the programs.

“It’s a powerful means of giving everyday citizens a chance to support our beleaguered honeybee population by supporting those who manage their colonies,” he says. “It’s a lot easier to replace bees than to replace beekeepers.”

Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based journalist covering food and farming.

‘Girls & Sex’ And The Importance Of Talking To Young Women About Pleasure


Close up low section of two girls sitting side by sidei
Close up low section of two girls sitting side by side

Author Peggy Orenstein says that when it comes to sexuality, girls today are receiving mixed messages. Girls hear that “they’re supposed to be sexy, they’re supposed to perform sexually for boys,” Orenstein tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “but that their sexual pleasure is unspoken.”

While researching her new book, Girls & Sex, Orenstein spoke with more than 70 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 about their attitudes and early experiences with the full range of physical intimacy.

She says that pop culture and pornography sexualize young women by creating undue pressure to look and act sexy. These pressures affect both the sexual expectations that girls put on themselves and the expectations boys project onto them.

Peggy Orenstein has been chronicling the lives of girls for over 25 years. Her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter described the impact of "princess culture" on young girls.i

Peggy Orenstein has been chronicling the lives of girls for over 25 years. Her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter described the impact of “princess culture” on young girls.

Michael Todd/Harper


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Michael Todd/Harper

Peggy Orenstein has been chronicling the lives of girls for over 25 years. Her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter described the impact of "princess culture" on young girls.

Peggy Orenstein has been chronicling the lives of girls for over 25 years. Her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter described the impact of “princess culture” on young girls.

Michael Todd/Harper

Orenstein adds that girls she spoke to were often navigating between being considered “slutty” or a “prude,” and that their own desires were often lost in the shuffle. Girls, Orenstein says, are being taught to please their partners without regard to their own desires.

“When I would talk to girls, for instance, about oral sex, that was something that they were doing from a pretty young age, and it tended to go one way [and not be reciprocated],” Orenstein explains.

Orenstein recommends that parents examine the messages they send regarding girls and sexuality. “One of the things that I really took away from this research, is the absolute importance of not just talking about [girls] as victims, or not just talking about them as these new aggressors, but really surfacing these ideas of talking clearly and honestly to girls about their own desires and their own pleasures,” she says.

Interview Highlights

Girls & Sex

Navigating the Complicated New Landscape

by Peggy Orenstein

Hardcover, 303 pages |

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On the silence surrounding girls’ genitals

Parents don’t tend to name their infant baby’s genitals if they’re girls. For boys they’ll say, “Here’s your nose, here’s your shoulders, here’s your waist, here’s your pee pee, whatever.” But with girls there’s this sort of blank space – it’s right from navel to knees, and not naming something makes it quite literally unspeakable.

Then they go into puberty education class and girls have period and unwanted pregnancy, and you see only the inside anatomy, that thing that looks like a steer head, with the ovaries and everything, and then it greys out between the legs, so we never talk about the vulva, we never talk about the clitoris, very few girls explore, there’s no self-knowledge, and then they go into their sexual experiences and we expect them to be able to have some sense of entitlement, some sense of knowledge, to be able to assert themselves, to have some sense of equality, and it’s just not realistic that that’s going to happen.

On whether kids are having more sex at a younger age and the prevalence of oral sex

Kids are not having intercourse at a younger age, and they’re not having more intercourse than they used to. They are engaging in other forms of sexual behavior, younger and more often. And one of the things that I became really clear on was that we have to broaden our definition of sex, because by ignoring and denying these other forms of sexual behavior that kids are engaging in we are opening the door to a lot of risky behavior, and we are opening the door to a lot of disrespect. …

[Oral sex] is considered to be less intimate than intercourse, and something that girls say repeatedly to me would be, “It’s no big deal.” There’s an argument that some of the girls have in the book about exactly what it is. Is it sex? Is it not sex? Is it no big deal? … It was something that they felt that they could do that boys expected. That they could do to not have to do something else. It was a way that they could cultivate popularity, it was a way that they felt interestingly, they would talk about feeling more in control, than if it was reciprocal. …

They felt it was safer sex, which is true and not true, because the rates of STDs have actually shot up among teenagers, even though the rates of intercourse have not, because they think that oral sex is safer sex and things like gonorrhea are spreading much more quickly.

On talking to girls about their partners not reciprocating oral sex

I starting saying, “Look, what if every time you were with a guy, he told you to go get him a glass of water from the kitchen and he never offered to get you a glass of water. Or if he did he’d say, “Ugh, you want me to get you a glass of water?” You would never stand for it! Girls, they would bust out laughing when I said that, and they’d say, “Oh, I never thought about it that way.” I thought well, maybe you should if you think that being asked repeatedly to give someone a glass of water without reciprocation is less insulting than being asked to perform a sexual act over and over. …

On what “hooking-up” means

It can mean anything. It can mean kissing, it can mean intercourse, it can mean any other form of sexual interplay. It really is a nonphrase. But what the hook-up culture means, I mean, kids did not invent casual sex, right? But what has changed is the idea that casual sex is the pathway to a relationship, that sex is a precursor rather than a function of intimacy and affection. …

[In college] pretty much if you didn’t want to stay home with microwave popcorn calling your parents, especially for freshman and sophomores, that was kind of what they did. They went out, they got drunk, they hooked up.

On drinking and hook-up culture

More On Teen Girls And Culture

Hook-up culture particularly, it’s not just lubricated by alcohol anymore, it’s completely dependent on it. One sociologist told me that alcohol was what created this compulsory carelessness, so that it was a way to signal that the sex that they were having was meaningless. Alcohol, it was almost like it had replaced mutual attraction as kind of reason in and of itself to have sex, so it was a way to not care. It was a way to say, “We’re just doing this for one night.”

What was tricky was that both the thing that is held out for college students in particular, but high school students too, as “fun,” which is getting drunk and hooking up, also facilitated assault, because alcohol is really the No. 1 date drug. … We talk a lot about girls drinking and reducing girls drinking, and I think it’s very important to talk to girls about the particular effects of alcohol on their bodies, because drink for drink, we get drunker faster than boys do.

We can’t forget to talk about the impact of alcohol on boys, because we know that alcohol at best loosens inhibitions, it reduces a person’s ability to read social cues, it gives young men who might not otherwise have it, courage is probably the wrong word, but the courage, I guess, to commit an assault, or to ignore “no,” and tend to be more aggressive when they do. Alcohol also makes boys less likely to step in as bystanders when they see something occurring, than they would be if they were sober. So we really have to address both sides of this equation, if we want to reduce assault.

On the notion of multiple “virginities”

One girl said to me, “Usually the opposite of a negative is a positive, but when you’re talking about girls and sex, the opposite of slut is prude, both of which are negative. So what are you supposed to do?” So they’re always trying to walk this line where they’re not considered slutty, but they’re not considered too [much of a] prude. It’s an ever-shifting kind of dynamic, so part of that was getting rid of virginity, which often was something they did drunk, not necessarily with someone they cared that much about, and you really have to ask, is that really experience? Is the person who rushes toward intercourse wasted getting more experience than the person who spends three hours making out with a partner sober and exploring ideas about sexual tension and pleasure and what feels good? We have this weird idea, and I think that our emphasis on virginity right now is not doing girls any favors, and of course it also completely disregards gay girls.

One of the things that was really great was in talking to a gay girl I asked her, “When did you think that you had lost your virginity?” And she said, “Well, you know, I really have thought a lot about that, and I’m not really sure.” She gave a few different answers and then she said, “You know what I think? I think a girl loses her virginity when she has her first orgasm with a partner.” And it completely knocked me out. I thought, “Wow.” I know we’re not going to dismantle the idea of virginity, but what if we could broaden it to think that there’s multiple virginities, and what if that was one of them? That would totally shift our ideas of how we thought about girls and boys and sex.

When You Become The Person You Hate On The Internet


Illustration of people communicating via computers.i
Illustration of people communicating via computers.

I was feeling cheeky one afternoon when I posted to Facebook that the ’90s hit, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” was the worst song of all time. It had been nearly two decades since the release of that single — about a bickering couple who reconcile thanks to an Audrey Hepburn film — but I heard the chorus in passing that day, and it got stuck on this crazy-making loop in my brain.

From the reaction to my post, I could see I wasn’t the only one who still held a grudge against a harmless ’90s earworm. My friends piled on, creating a delightful little bonfire of disdain, but I had forgotten one detail: A guy from the band was in my friend circle.

More From Author Sarah Hepola

That was unfortunate.

I didn’t know him very well. He lived in Dallas, like I did, and I’d met him years ago when I was the music editor for an alternative paper. He was something of a local hero, having turned that one-hit wonder into an indie record label, and he was known for being a good guy — all important details I remembered roughly 45 minutes after hitting the “post” button.

For years, I’ve complained about the random hatred of the Internet. It was the worst part of writing online: Show up with your heart in your hand, and a bunch of strangers line up to throw rocks in your face. I was so freaked out by comments on my own stories that I had once considered not writing at all anymore. I badly wanted a thicker skin, but I also knew I had become a writer because I was thin-skinned. I took on other people’s discomfort and I flinched at the tiniest finger flick of rejection. I was a sensitive person — but I had just done a very insensitive thing.

I would never have said this to his face. But technology is such a bait and switch, giving you the feel of anonymity at the very moment your words have the farthest reach. And my comment was exactly the kind of random stone-throwing that had wounded me over the years: Boo, you suck, go away. I had done this … why? For a tiny dopamine hit? For a few people to think, for 20 seconds, that I was clever?

More On Internet Civility

I should have just deleted the post. I can’t tell you why I didn’t do that, except I worried that deleting the post would draw more attention to the mistake. I was starting to shame spiral. I alternated between “how could I do this?” and “was it really that big of a deal?” Maybe he doesn’t check Facebook. Maybe he wouldn’t even notice! Facebook is such a swift-moving stream of drunken selfies and political outrage and adorable videos of baby elephants, and what were the chances this one guy would see this one dumb little post?

He did, of course. And he left a comment, although he didn’t sound angry so much as disappointed, like he’d thought I was a nice person. And I am a nice person, although I sometimes do not-nice things. I’ve long felt torn between the opinionated crank who wants to sneer at the world and the good little girl afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings.

I went to a comedy show that night. I didn’t laugh much. At one point, I excused myself to go to the restroom, but I sat in the lobby instead. I had deleted the post by now, but I still wanted to explain myself. And what was my excuse? In the past, I’d reached out to people who wrote nasty comments on my stories, and they often said the same thing: I didn’t think you would read that. I was embarrassed to find myself in the same place. I’d spent all those years complaining that people on the Internet could be such bullies. I had forgotten that “people on the Internet” included me.

I wrote him a message. It was short and imperfect. “All I can say is, 20 years after that song came out, people are still talking about it,” I said. “Also, I’m an idiot.”

He didn’t respond, but he also didn’t unfriend me, which I thought showed a nice restraint.

We hear a lot about how social media lets us present our glossy, perfect selves, but use social media enough and it will put you directly in touch with your own mistakes. Some clumsy opinion. Some joke you wish you could take back. We can all be thoughtless, we can all be cruel, which is good to remember the next time you find yourself on the receiving end of that random scorn.

I wish people would be more civil online. I wish they’d be more civil off-line, for that matter. But the messy human-ness of the Internet is part of what makes it so endlessly fascinating. I don’t think the mass of humanity will ever stop throwing rocks, but I’m trying to be a little smarter about when I chuck mine.