Tales from the Crypt

“Gutter of Horror” is a Brazilian column from Dinamo Studio website about horror comics.
This is a translated version of the articles.

After World War II, the heroic acts of the fictional superheroes were not so relevant anymore and most superhero comics ended up falling into oblivion. Many titles were cancelled and only a decade later some of it would come back. In its place, a spirit of cynicism and tension (already warming up the Cold War) took over the American people and another kind of genre became popular: horror and crime comics. In this context we got Tales from the Crypt which, along with The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror, formed the trifecta of bimonthly E.C.Comics horror titles.

The origins of Tales from the Crypt and its frightening host, the Crypt-Keeper goes back to crime comics published by E.C. in the end of 1940, when Willlian Gaines and his editor Al Feldstein started to experiment in their stories a genre that both liked very much: horror. Those experiments led to the story “Return from the Grave”, published in “Crime Patrol”. Return from the Grave was a straight up horror story which also introduced for the first time the Crypt-Keeper. An issue later Crime Patrol already had more horror stories than typical crime stories, so the title was rename to “Tales from the Crypt of Horror”, keeping its original format for 4 more issues. After that, it became the horror title we know.

Although the Crypt-Keeper was the official host, he was also a character in some of the stories, which revealed details of your biography. One of these stories was “The Lower Berth”, that tells the circumstances surrounding the birth of the character. But his stories were also published in his sister titles: The Vault of Horror #34 featured the story “While the Cat’s Away”, where we know a little more about him; and “Horror beneath the Streets”, featured in The Haunt of Fear #17 in which we know how he and the other two horror hosts got their “contracts” to be published by E.C.

The creative process for the stories were simple, but efficient: William Gaines read a great amount of horror stories and used it as a template for the scripts. Among the stories that influenced Tales from the Crypt were H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Outsider” (the base for stories such as “Reflection of Death” and “Mirror, MIrror on the Wall”); Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr (base for “Shadow of Death”); Edgar Allan Poe’s The The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (base for “The Living Death”); among others. They also published an unauthorized adaptation of Ray Bradbury, which made the author got in contact with E.C. and arrange a deal to published authorized adaptations of his stories, which included “There Was and Old Woman” and “The Handler”, published in Tales from the Crypt #34 and #36 respectively.

The artists and writers that did Tales From The Crypt included Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Jack Davis (they did covers an inside art), George Evans, Jack Kamen, Graham Ingels, Harvey Kurtzman, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, Bernard Krigstein, Will Elder, Fred Peters and Howard Larsen.

To have an idea of the success that this stories had back then, E.C. published in 1954 “Three Dimensional Tales from the Crypt”, a quarterly title that recycled stories already published in the main title, but printed in Anaglyph 3D (the one in which you have to use paper eyeglasses with blue and red lens). Each issue came with a 3D glasses and the sales were very high. Despite the success, the title didn’t last long, not just because of the Comics Code, but for technical factors, like the printing cost of the title.

Tales From The Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear were very successful during the 1950s, but unfortunately, they didn’t pass 30 issues. All because of the witch hunt lead by Fredric Wertham that led to the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, whose main target were horror and crime comic from E.C. We know the end of this story: the creation of the Comics Code and subsequent shut down of  E.C Comics (more on that here and here)

So E.C. Comics and his titles, including Tales from the Crypt sadly came to and end. But it was not the last time we would see the Crypt-Keeper and his scary stories. In 2007, a puslisher called Papercutz decided to revive the title with new stories. The first issue had a cover by Kyle Baker and brought back the 3 most famous E.C. horror hosts: The Crypt-keeper, The Vault-Keeper and the Old Witch. The title lasted 13 issues through 2010.

Tales from the Crypt is not remembered only for his presence in horror comics, but also his many adaptations for TV an film. And that’s what we will see in the next article.
Rafael Algures is a Bachelor of Philosophy specialized in Neurosciences of Language. He is also a copywriter, content and science writer, and a comic book creator. His latest work, “Gutter of Horror: Transition”, a short horror comic about Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence are available at Amazon – digital and paperback.
                              The Peak of E.C. Comics  (Gutter of Horror)
                              The Fall of E.C. Comics  (Gutter of Horror)