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The firm, first known as Educational Comics, was founded by Max Gaines, former editor of the comic-book company All-American Publications. When that company merged with DC Comics in 1944, Gaines retained rights to the comic book, Picture Stories from the Bible, and began his new company with a dubious plan to market comics about science, history and the Bible to schools and churches.
EC had success with its fresh approach and pioneered in forming relationships with its readers through its letters to the editor and its fan organization, the National EC Fan-Addict Club. In contrast with uncredited arists, EC Comics promoted its stable of illustrators, allowing each to sign his art and encouraging them to develop idiosyncratic styles.
EC published distinct lines of titles. Most notorious were its horror books, Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear, which frequently had grimly ironic fates in its endings. The company's war comics Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales often featured weary-eyed, unheroic stories out of step with the jingoistic times. Shock SuspenStories tackled weighty political and social issues such as racism, sex, drug use and the American way of life. EC always claimed to be "proudest of our science fiction titles", with titles such as Weird Science and Weird Fantasy.
EC's most enduring legacy came with Mad, which started in 1952 as a side project for Harvey Kurtzman before buoying the company's fortunes and becoming one of the country's most notable and long-running humor publications. When EC's national distributor went bankrupt in 1955, Gaines dropped all of his titles except Mad.
Gaines sold his company in the early 1960s to the Kinney Parking Company, which also acquired National Periodicals (a.k.a. DC Comics) and Warner Bros. by the end of that decade. Once Gaines died in 1992, Mad became more ingrained within DC itself, leading to the magazine's offices moving into DC in the mid 1990s.
Republications of the old EC titles are ongoing.