THE LAST MAN

EC Comics were never the biggest sellers even during their heyday, but they were consistently the market leader in terms of the quality of the material they were routinely putting out and the manner in which they attracted a dedicated audience of somewhat-older readers. There’s a reason why those five years’ worth of EC Comics have been reprinted again and again over the years–the work in them stands the test of time and appeals to new generations of readers just as much as it did when it was first printed.

Other publishers and creators in the field were also influenced by the work that EC was doing, and would occasionally attempt to apply some of their own sensibilities to the stories they were creating. Such would seem to be the case with this tale, “The Last Man”, from SPELLBOUND #20, published by Atlas/Marvel in late 1953. The writing credit on this story is uncertain, but the art appears to be by Bob Powell, a mainstay of the field who would eventually do a couple of Giant-Man and Human Torch stories in the Marvel Age.

It’s a simple morality tale with a twist ending and an underlying message that very much feels like somebody was studying the EC approach to things. Unfortunately, the other publishers were never able to consistently tap into that EC spirit (and perhaps they saw no particular upturn in sales when they attempted to do so), so such attempts tended to be short-lived. But man, that’s an Al Feldstein amount of narrative copy on that page up there.

The ending here evokes that of a couple different EC stories, but in particular that of the classic “Judgment Day” from WEIRD FANTASY #18. Of course, it also avoids visualizing that punch line in a manner that might have cost them distribution in certain racially-charged areas of the country, something that EC didn’t shy away from.

2 thoughts on “THE LAST MAN

  1. “…Bob Powell, a mainstay of the field who would eventually do a couple of Giant-Man and Human Torch stories in the Marvel Age.”
    — who, like Joe Orlando, left after only doing less than a handful of stories because issues with working Marvel style. IIRC, I believe the issue was breaking down a plot instead of a full script. Wallace Wood’s issue was of course credit and money.
    As for the Spellbound story: The legend is that Gaines and Feldstein plotted everything the didn’t adapt in Feldstein’s books with the latter scripting. Truth, though, is that other writers were used, specifically (IIRC) Jack Oleck and Carl Wessler. One or both also wrote for Atlas at the same time, so I wonder if either scripted this and it maybe started as an EC story. (I’m sure it’s unknown, but I wonder who paid more at the time, Atlas or EC.)
    And the GCD credits Powell for the full art, notwithstanding that I believe he always signed his art and although not common, I believe it was allowed at Atlas, so… an anomaly?

    Like

  2. A bit of trivia: There really is a Centerville in Louisiana–a tiny town off US 90 between New Iberia and Morgan City, a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder if the artist or writer was from there? It seems an odd choice for a remote locale where someone could survive a worldwide catastrophe.

    And it was no doubt a segregated community in 1953, when the story was published.

    Liked by 1 person

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