Two-Fisted Tales

Two-Fisted Tales

title=Two-Fisted Tales

caption=Cover illustration by Harvey Kurtzman
publisher=EC Comics
date=November/December 1950 - February 1955
creators=William Gaines
Harvey Kurtzman

"Two-Fisted Tales" was a bi-monthly, anthology war comic published by EC Comics in the early 1950s. The title originated in November 1950 when Harvey Kurtzman suggested to William Gaines that they publish an adventure comic. Kurtzman became the editor of "Two-Fisted Tales", and with the advent of the Korean War soon narrowed the focus to war stories. The book often took an anti-war stance. The title hit newsstands with its November/December 1950 issue, and ceased publication February 1955, producing a total of 24 issues. Years after its demise, the title was reprinted in its entirety and was adapted to television.


As with most of the EC comics published at the time, "Two-Fisted Tales" did not start with issue number 1, since it was renamed from a previous title. "Two-Fisted Tales" was a renaming of "The Haunt of Fear" starting with issue 18. Wholesale problems had caused Gaines to consider dropping "The Haunt of Fear", but he changed his mind without skipping an issue. "Two-Fisted Tales" took over the numbering, and "The Haunt of Fear" then reverted back to the correct numbering for the remainder of its run. cite book | year=1980 | title=The Complete EC Library: Two-Fisted Tales Volume 1|publisher=Russ Cochran| language=English ] During the 1950s publishers would frequently change comic title names to save money on second class postage.

Artists and Writers

Artists who contributed included Kurtzman and other EC regulars such as John Severin, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, George Evans, Will Elder, Reed Crandall and Bernard Krigstein. Non-EC regulars that contributed to the comic included Alex Toth, Ric Estrada, Gene Colan, Joe Kubert, and Dave Berg.

Kurtzman wrote the majority of the comic's stories from 1950 through 1953, with Jerry De Fuccio contributing one-page text stories and the occasional regular story as well. Colin Dawkins provided the writing for the majority of the stories for 1954 and 1955, with contributions from Severin, Evans, Davis and John Putnam.

Anti-War Theme

The stories Kurtzman wrote for this title often displayed an anti-war attitude. Canadian journalist Mitchell Brown wrote about the impact and influence of Kurtzman's approach:cquote|Prior to "Two-Fisted Tales" #18, war comics were simple and jingoistic. Comic readers during the Second World War could look forward to stories about Captain America punching Hitler, or a group of preteen boys pulling pranks behind enemy lines, or a bumbling private up to his usual hijinks in the mess hall. There were plenty of stories that truly tried to capture the horror and senselessness of the battlefield, but comic books were not the place to find them.

Harvey Kurtzman changed all that... But unlike other magazines of the day, no one could accuse "Two-Fisted Tales" of being wartime propaganda. On the contrary, the magazine was a brutally honest look at battles and wars throughout history. Kurtzman, who had been drafted in 1942, knew warfare firsthand, and he was outraged by the gung-ho war comics that made war look like a glorious thing. In his stories, there were no heroes -- just soldiers trapped in situations beyond their control. Often, his stories weren't about soldiers at all, focusing instead on the lives of innocent people scarred by war... The title ended with its 41st issue in 1955, but its influence would later be seen in titles by other publishers that would pick up the torch -- for instance, in the 1960s Warren Publishing's "Blazing Combat" tried to deal honestly with war at a time when honesty about the Vietnam war was hard to come by. In later years, "Sgt. Rock" would be DC's answer to the call for realistic war stories.

By the end of the century, war comics that told the truth about war were all but forgotten by most readers, making way for movies like "Platoon", "Full Metal Jacket" and "Saving Private Ryan" to show the true face of war. But the spirit with which Kurtzman created some of the most masterful stories of their kind would, like the servicemen they commemorated, not easily be forgotten.

Kurtzman discussed his approach to Two-Fisted Tales in a 1980 interview:

Other Themes

In addition to contemporary stories about the Korean War and World War II, Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat contained a number of stories taking place in historical settings including the Civil War, Revolutionary War, Ancient Rome and other settings.

A series of special issues dedicated to the Civil War included issues 31 and 35 of Two-Fisted Tales and issue 9 of Frontine Combat. Although originally planned to be seven issues in total, the series was never completed.


Kurtzman's editing approach to Two Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat was a stark contrast to fellow EC editor Al Feldstein's style. Whereas Feldstein allowed his artists to draw the story in any way that they desired, Kurtzman developed detailed layouts for each story and required his artists to follow them exactly. [Diehl, Digby "Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives" (St. Martin's Press, New York, NY 1996) p. 52] Kurtzman's writing tended to have a lot less text in them than Feldstein's, which enabled the two war titles to be hand lettered rather than machine lettered like the remainder of EC's titles. [Diehl, Digby "Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives" (St. Martin's Press, New York, NY 1996) p. 46] Kurtzman was also dedicated to making the stories as historically accurate as possible and along with assistant Jerry De Fuccio put a lot of research into each story. As a result, where Feldstein took generally about a week to complete each issue he edited, Kurtzman took approximately a month.

Change in Format and Demise

"Two-Fisted Tales" was published with a companion title, "Frontline Combat", for most of its run. Towards the end of 1953, a decrease in interest due to the end of the Korean War, as well as Kurtzman becoming overwhelmed with his work on "Mad" required changes to be made. "Frontline Combat" was dropped entirely while "Two-Fisted Tales" was changed from bi-monthly to quarterly publication. The editorial duties were handed over to John Severin for the remainder of the comic's run, and it once again took on more of an adventure theme. Unfortunately, sales continued to drop, and Gaines was forced to fold the title. Over its four-year span, the comic ran for 24 issues, ending with issue 41, in February 1955.

Television adaptation

In 1991, the comic book was adapted for a TV pilot by producers Joel Silver, Richard Donner, Robert Zemeckis and others. Apart from an opening montage of covers from the comic book and use of comic's logo, this film had little connection with Kurtzman's creation. In imitation of EC's horror books, the hour-long anthology drama featured ghostly gunfighter Mr. Rush (Bill Sadler) as a host and a device to connect the segments, although Kurtzman's war-adventure stories had never been introduced by a host. Two of the stories, "Showdown" and "King of the Road," were original scripts and not adaptations from EC (although Showdown did share a title with a story from issue 37). The third story, "Yellow," was adapted from a story written by Al Feldstein and illustrated by Jack Davis for the first issue of EC's "Shock SuspenStories". The pilot had a single telecast, generating little interest, and all three segments were later extracted to become individual episodes of HBO's "Tales From The Crypt" television series.

Issue Guide


"Two-Fisted Tales" was reprinted by publisher Russ Cochran in 1980 as several slipcased hardcover volumes. Cochran and Gemstone Publishing began another series of reprints in 2007 with "The EC Archives: Two-Fisted Tales".



*Goulart, Ron. "Great American Comic Books." Publications International, Ltd., 2001. ISBN 0785355901.
*Overstreet, Robert M.. "Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide." House of Collectibles, 2004.

Listen to

* [ The Golden Age of Comic Books podcast (January 18, 2006)]

External links

* [ Mitchell Brown on "Two-Fisted Tales"]

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