If you are part of my generation, you caught an episode or two of HBO's Tales From The Crypt. Those horrible, grotesque and sometimes hilarious shows opened with the decaying Crypt Keeper jumping out from his coffin and then telling us a gory tale full of violence, passion and most importantly comeuppance. Being a horror fan from a young age, I loved this show more than any words could truly express and I would watch every new episode with anticipation! Then, around the third season, I learned that the show was based on a series of comic books from 1950 to 1955. Being a comic fan as well, I was excited and wanted them more than anything. Luckily, with the shows popularity, the comics were being reprinted under publisher Russ Cochran and my local comic shop carried them!
The cover was the reason I bought it. Look at that artwork! It's spooky, gory and flat out cool. you don't see this kind of stylish art in comics anymore. Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein were both fans of the old, Horror radio shows of the early 20th Century. After many attempts at different sorts of comics, they decided to go for Gothic Horror. In two of their crime comics, they introduced two creepy characters, The Crypt Keeper and The Vault Keeper. The sales jumped overnight, so they decided to change the titles of the comics to Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. They were followed shortly by The Haunt of Fear with The Old Witch and Shock Suspenstories and Crime Suspenstories. These comics were amazing and when I found out about them, I devoured them. It was truly my first foray into literary horror. If it wasn't for EC comics, I would never have read Edgar Allen Poe or Ray Bradbury. They were scary, they were gory and they were funny.
I was even more happy to learn that there were different horror comics out of the EC Universe hosted by more creepy ghouls. They were there to break up the story and toss some humor in when it got to intense. Each one would "guest host" in the other comics and poke jabs at one another. It was great and you just don't see that anymore. It was horror heaven for young me as every week I would go to the comic store to by another issue. Eventually, I had them all. All of the Crypts, Vaults, Haunts, Shocks and Crimes. My EC library was complete, but I wanted more. Sadly, because of a certain "Doctor" Frederic Wertham and his book, "Seduction of the Innocent," Gains and Feldstein decided to end their horror comics and focus on Mad Magazine. It was upsetting to learn I couldn't get anymore, that the EC Universe was finite killed me.
Sure, I had the show and the films to help my Crypt craving, but nothing will ever beat the comics. The art, storytelling and atmosphere was just perfect. I think the 1972 film came close to capturing the atmosphere and the oddness of the stories while the 1990's show nailed the gore and the humor. I still have my EC comics and I read them on a regular basis, especially around Halloween.
Have any of you read these amazing stories? What were your favorite stories?