Welcome, fellow ghouls and ghastly comic aficionados, to another fright-filled Fridays In The Crypt, our weekly jaunt through the cemetery of EC Comics’ classics. If you fear what lurks beneath the watery depths of the ocean, or – in the case of the tale we’ll be looking at today, an ordinary swimming pool – I implore you to stifle your screams. The blood-soaked panels of this chilling story perfectly epitomize the lurid brilliance of EC’s golden age. The tale in question is a yarn called ‘Piecemeal,’ which first graced the pages of Shock Suspense Stories #8 in the shuddersome year of 1953.
Here’s a bit of a teaser for you:
Conceived by the twisted minds of the iconic duo Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein and brought to grisly life by the masterful strokes of the legendary Jack Kamen, ‘Piecemeal’ is a horrific tableau of treachery, passion, and murder that begins, as all the best nightmares do, in medias res. Our unfortunate protagonist, the dashing yet hapless Eric, finds himself drawn into the opulent web of his wealthy brother Sidney’s world. But the sparkling glamour of Sidney’s life masks a toxic undercurrent, one that rapidly ensnares Eric when he lays eyes on Sidney’s beguiling new bride, Sally. What follows is a forbidden dance of desire and deceit, culminating in a crimson swimming pool scene that is as shocking as it is gruesome.
However, before we unpack the events that make this tale a superb shocker by even the highest standards of Shock Suspense Stories, let’s cast a brief spotlight on the man who brought the horrors to vivid life with flair and panache – the one and only Jack Kamen.
Jack of Darkness
Born in 1920, Kamen honed his craft during the Golden Age of Comics, working for various comic book publishers before making his mark with EC Comics in the early 1950s. As one of the company’s preeminent artists, Kamen’s distinctive style—marked by polished lines, expressive faces, and a flair for the dramatic—became synonymous with EC’s brand of chilling storytelling.
Beyond the world of horror and suspense, Kamen was also a key contributor to EC’s science fiction and romance titles, demonstrating an artistic versatility that rivaled his contemporaries. Yet it’s in the realm of the grisly and grotesque that his work truly resonates, evoking terror and fascination in equal measure.
His sublime skill at rendering beautiful women and handsome men, placed amidst the most hideous of horrors, established a unique juxtaposition that lent an even more chilling edge to the stories. The allure of Kamen’s art lies in this ability to disturb our sense of normalcy, pulling us into a world where beauty coexists with the beastly in an uneasy alliance.
A titan in the field of comic art, Kamen’s legacy stretches far beyond his time at EC Comics. His work has inspired countless artists, shaping the visual lexicon of horror comics for generations to come. As we delve into ‘Piecemeal’, let’s take a moment to appreciate the meticulous detail and unsettling beauty of Kamen’s artistry, a truly integral part of this horrifying masterpiece.
So, fright fans, tighten your grip on your armchair and make sure the lights are on. We’re about to dive headfirst into the heart of a watery darkness. As the grandmasters of horror themselves would say: “Remember, this is an EC Comic – expect the unexpected, but be prepared for the wickedly fantastic!”
And so, without further ado, we plunge into…
Synopis: The Pool of Blood
Our story unfolds with the petrifying sight of a terrified young man, Eric, staggering away from an unnervingly still swimming pool, his hand frantically clasped around the grotesque remains of his left arm, blood surging relentlessly from the severed appendage. He stumbles towards the palatial mansion sprawled out before him, desperately seeking sanctuary. The back door, however, proves unyielding to his bloody hand, locked tight by an obstinate latchkey. In the end, he’s overwhelmed by the relentless, gruesome blood loss. As his consciousness falters, the fading echoes of memory take over – a bewitching siren named Sally, radiant in her beauty, enticing him for a midnight rendezvous within the very aquatic hellhole he had narrowly escaped.
At this point, the narrative elegantly dips into the backstory, immersing us in the thrilling past that brought Eric to this terrifying juncture. Eric had been an invited guest in the extravagant residence of his affluent elder brother, Sidney. It was here he encountered Sally, Sidney’s beguiling new bride, and their mutual attraction was a tempestuous force, impossible to deny or conceal. Sidney, ever engrossed in his exotic collection of marine creatures, seemingly overlooked the simmering romance between his younger brother and his captivating wife.
In the shadow of the moonlit nights, Sally and Eric began a clandestine dance of desire by the poolside, their meetings shrouded by the veil of darkness as Sidney slumbered, lulled to sleep by the effect of the pills Sally surreptitiously slipped into his drink. Weeks unfolded with their secret nightly rendezvous, till the sinister plan took shape in their minds – to free themselves of the oblivious Sidney via a lethal overdose of the very sleeping pills that enabled their trysts.
On that dreadful day of their macabre plan’s execution, Sidney proudly showcased a fresh, bizarre addition to his aquatic collection. Sally, however, quickly dismissed him, sending him to his impending doom under the cover of the night and the effect of the excessive sleeping pills. Rejoining Eric by their familiar meeting spot, they plunged into the pool one last time, believing they were diving into a future unburdened by Sidney.
However, they were blissfully ignorant of the horror lurking beneath the tranquil waters – The pool’s newest inhabitant! Without mincing words, well, it savagely devoured Sally and left Eric severely maimed.
As Eric struggles out of the pool, our narrative returns to its grisly beginning. With his dying breath, Eric ponders the possibility of Sidney’s awareness of their secret affair and the horrifying vengeance he’d orchestrated, leaving a lethal welcome in the form of the monstrous MAN-EATING SHARK in the pool for their final, fatal rendezvous…
I hope you enjoyed our rundown of that sordid little tale of lovers found and lovers devoured, readers. But before I let you go, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say “Happy Shark Week” to you all! That’s right, the inspiration for this particular post is now laid bare. I mean, who doesn’t associate sharks with horror, right? You, me, and the rest of the world do, at least since 1975, if you catch my ‘drift’…;) But for the folks over at EC Comics, it started a whole two decades before Spielberg scared the tar out of the rest of us.
Thanks for reading, fright fans. Be kind to our fanged finny friends in the briny depths, and remember to tune in to the Longbox of Darkness again for more watery murder as we cover the tail-end of Shark Week with two more upcoming posts. Subscribe to the blog if you haven’t yet to be notified of new posts, and remember to leave comment below.
Until next time, keep it creepy, and beat the heat, Summer Swimmers. This is the Longbox of Darkness, signing off. Cheerio!
*If you want to read along with our Fridays in the Crypt coverage, you can find the above tale and others like it in the following collection. Click on the image to learn more…
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