EC Comics Archives: Tales From the Crypt Vol. 1
Quick Rating: Great
Collects: The Crypt of Terror #17-19 & Tales From the Crypt #20-22
Some of the greatest horror comics of all time – now in a new archive edition!
Writers: Bill Gaines & Al Feldstein
Art: Al Feldstein, George Roussos, Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen
Colors Based On: Marie Severin, Tracy L. Moore, Liz A. Rost, Joshua G. Jones, Leona D. Cahoj, Anna Bolhis
Forward: John Carpenter
Cover Art: Al Feldstein
Publisher: Gemstone Publishing
Marvel and DC Comics have been producing high-quality archive editions of their comics for years. Not long ago, Dark Horse started archiving not only some of their own comics, but classics by defunct publishers like Western. Now Gemstone joins the Archive race with great keepsake editions of the stories that some have called the greatest comics ever produced – Bill Gaines and EC Comics’ “New Trend” titles, including the most infamous of the lot, Tales From the Crypt.
Introduced in a back-up story in Crime Patrol #16, with the next issue the title changed and The Crypt of Terror took over. That only lasted three issues, though, before the title changed again to omit the word “terror,” which was offending some. (Bizarre, since it frequently appeared down the side of the cover anyway.) Fortunately, Tales From the Crypt is a much better title. What didn’t change with the title, though, was the quality of the stories. Al Feldstein wrote these classic tales of horror after collaborating on the stories with Gaines, and together they created the most popular horror comics ever made.
This volume collects all of the stories from the first six issues of the Crypt’s two incarnations – 24 stories in all. The stories, of course, vary in quality – but not as much as with some anthologies. Even the worst tale in this book is still extremely entertaining, with the sort of dark humor and grotesquerie that no doubt horrified people at the time, but seems downright tame by modern standards. The book includes dozens of thriller subgenres – the mysterious corpse, serial killers, revenants, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and more zombies (or zombie-like creatures) than you can shake a stick at. (If you do shake a stick at a zombie, aim for the head.) Fans of the TV show will also recognize a few familiar stories. The producers freely adapted tales from the comic, and you’ll find some of them here in a form that is, again, sort of tame.
To call the stories “tame” doesn’t mean that they’re bad, mind you. A lot of the dialogue is kind of campy, and the captions in particular seem overwritten (although, as you learn in the book, there’s a reason for it). But the sheer imagination packed into these stories is unimpeachable – the clever twists, the nature of the murders… you can see how these comics inspired generations of horror-meisters.
Al Feldstein is the most prolific of the artists in this book, but he’s not alone – Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Woods and others all do exemplary work. Gemstone had the book completely re-colored with modern techniques, but they used the original coloring as a guide, keeping the book’s original feel.
In addition to 24 great stories, Gemstone has put together a really nice package of extras. Horror director John Carpenter provides an introduction detailing how EC influenced him, and publisher Russ Cochran (sometimes with additional work by Feldstein himself) provides several articles detailing various elements of the comics. The two of them explain things like the shift in title and logo, how the scripts were written right on the page, with the art being added later (explaining the heavily expository captions) and how the color work was done. But that’s not all – they also include the short prose stories from each issue and the original letters pages! In some cases, they even include the original advertisements.
The only thing this book is missing that I would have liked is the first “Crypt of Terror” story from Crime Patrol #16, just to see exactly how it all kicked off. But based on what they put together, this volume is absolutely fantastic. I’ll definitely be picking up more.