Russ Cochran, comics historian, collector, and publisher known for his reprints of EC Comics, died on Sunday at age 82. Cochran brought his lifelong passion for the comics of his youth to the publishing industry, helping to breathe new life into decades-old lines throughout his career.
Cochran was born July 3, 1937, in West Plains, Missouri. He graduated first in his class from the University of Missouri with a Ph.D. in physics, after which he took up teaching and gained a tenured position at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Upon stepping down from his position as head of the physics department years later, Cochran dove into the publishing industry, beginning republishing classic works from EC Comics with EC Portfolio.
Cochran had a love of preserving the qualities and memories of the bygone era. He invested his time in renovating historic buildings in his hometown of West Plains, Missouri, and he brought that same passion to the reproduction of comics classics. Cochran developed a friendship with MAD Magazine publisher and EC patriarch Bill Gaines, and soon began his work preserving classic comics like “Tales from the Crypt,” “Weird Science,” “Weird Fantasy,” and “The Vault of Horror.”
“Before there were Absolute Editions or Gallery Editions or Artists Editions, there were Russ Cochran’s reproductions of the entire history of EC Comics,” said former DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz in a Facebook post. “Russ was a towering character in fandom, physically as well as in his effect on the rest of us, and a warm presence at cons and through his newsletters.”
The success of the EC Portfolio led to further publishing ventures, including the EC Library sets that showcased the amazing detail of the EC line, by publishing the original artwork in their black-and-white states. After publishing the final volume in that line, Cochran moved on to find a way to archive the entire EC collection for posterity with the EC Archives.
“Russ lived an idiosyncratic life, and a pioneering one,” said Levitz. “He’s left us at 82, but the beautiful slipcased volumes he curated so carefully with provide joy to many for many, many years to come.”