The earliest comic books were anthologies and their titles—Action, Adventure, Detective—reflected the content a reader could expect from each issue...at least, that was the intent in the beginning. What no one had counted on was that the superhero would capture the public interest. It wasn’t long before nearly every comic was devoted to superheroes. The comics were still anthologies, but for all intents and purposes, the title of the comic became rather meaningless since they all featured superheroes of one type or another. The only exceptions were the single character titles (Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel Adventures) where the reader knew by the title that they were getting multiple stories of their favorite character.
After World War 2, however, reader interest in superheroes began to decline and publishers, anxious to stay in business, looked again to the anthology format. The difference in these titles from their predecessors, however, was that their contents very rarely strayed from the genre reflected in the title (ie. Tales from the Crypt had horror stories, War Adventures had war stories, etc.). Crime, horror and romance titles, which rarely if ever had continuing characters, soon began to outsell superheroes by a wide margin and depended on strong covers and, more often than one would think, the creators working on the books to draw readers in. War, western and science fiction titles also had strong sales, but these titles, especially the westerns, tended to have continuing characters. Of even greater interest is that these titles contained stories that ranged in length from one page to (most of the time) a maximum of eight pages. EC was the leader of the pack in these genre anthologies, yet another strong contender, at least in terms of horror comics, was Harvey publications, who originally published the story at hand, “Evolution.”
“Evolution,” written by an unknown author, is pretty much a direct swipe of Hamilton’s “The Man Who Evolved;” condensing the original ten and a half page story into a mere 4 pages (the splash page has none of the mood of the story and is rather superfluous). The sequence of events are pretty much per Hamilton’s original with the ending being slightly changed. The major difference, however, is in the underlying theme of the two works. “The Man Who Evolved” is a cautionary tale along the lines of “there are some things man was not meant to know” idea—the man who is evolved, Pollard, pushes science to its limits and suffers an almost poetic end as a result of his pursuit of knowledge. In “Evolution,” Carl wants to evolve for his own ends and, in what is quite common for the comic stories of this period, comes to a rather grisly end as punishment for his aspirations.
The art by Manny Stallman and John Guinta moves events along well, with many odd angles and head shots that are consistent with Stallman’s comic work of the period. Both artists worked for most all the comic companies during their career, with Guinta known for both his pencilling and inking skills. Stallman did more pencilling than inking and went on to spend the last decade of his career as the writer, artist, colorist and letterer of the Big Boy comic books that were given away at the Big Boy chain of restaurants.
Exactly how our unknown author decided to “borrow” the plot from a story that was over 20 years old is a bit of a mystery. While Hamilton’s original story was reprinted twice after its initial appearance, the nearest reprint being in a 1949 anthology, so it could have been in our unknown authors collection, but that’s about the only connection that can be found. Comic writers of the era used both fiction and non-fiction as starting points for much of their inspiration, it’s just that some got a bit overzealous (as in this case) and hoped nobody would notice.
We also need to add that the scanned copy of “Evolution” we found online was in pretty sad condition. Pages were browned and the original printing contained a lot of off register colors and such. As a result, we pretty much recolored all the pages, using a best guess for our palette, and also cleaned up some of the messier parts. We would also be remiss if we didn't give a big round of applause to Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine, where we first encountered “Evolution.” We hope you enjoy it.