WEIRD FANTASY #18 - JUDGEMENT DAY (Mar - Apr 1953)
EC COMICS (March - April 1953)
Written by: Bill Gaines & Al Feldstein Illustrated by: Joe Orlando Adapted from a story by: Ray Bradbury
Tarlton - 'You... differentiate between blue robots and orange robots?' Orange Robot - 'Of course! Otherwise there'd be trouble! Have to keep them in their place, you know...'
So the X-Men comics were about intolerance and EC comics were about.... horrror? Right? Nah! Although EC became notorious for its horror comics of the 1950s, there were many different stories that appeared in the pages of EC. Judgement Day was one of them and it did that clever thing of taking a simple story about robots not getting along together...that was really a tale about racial equality.
Years ago a handful of robots created by man were put on Cybrinia, and over time began to reproduce, recreating robot after robot all following the same pattern. As each robot was made, it was taught responsibility by maintaining the factory process by which others would be reproduced. After being of service for some time, the robots were given the opportunity to make their own choices and then the process would continue for the next series of robots. Tarlton a visitor to Cybrinia took a great interest in the robots way of life and soon discovered that they had divided themselves into those with orange outer casings and those with blue. The blue robots lived in 'blue town' and were denied some of the advantages that the orange robots shared; often being limited to menial jobs. When Tarlton's observations were complete he then had to make a choice as to whether the robots of Cybrinia were ready to become a part of his colony.
The issue of segregation and race relations was a difficult subject to cover during the 1950s and even more so in just seven pages; yet Judgement Day did it effectively by turning the story away from the simple notion of just 'black and white'. The robots of both colours were shown to be created using the exact same process, using the exact same alloy, with the only difference being their outer casing and yet they still treated each other the same way humans treat other humans of equal value - badly! What writers Gaines and Feldstein did (care of Bradbury), was show how a simple last minute change in outer appearance can drastically alter the way in which someone could be perceived and treated. By using robots and setting the story in the future it was able to be told without coming across as preaching an issue that at the time was an important topic. Of course the final icing on the cake was when Tarlton removed his helmet in the last panel to reveal that he was a black man. This added extra weight to the story as it demonstrated a future no longer trapped by issues of race on Earth, even if racism still existed in some form in the universe. It also showed that there was a hell of a lot going on buried deep within the pages of those EC stories. Maybe the true horror didn't actually take place in those classic EC horrors...maybe it was in the other tales that seemed so innocent! Looks like you may need to re-evaluate your comic collection.