The Crypt Keeper & EC Comics: A History in Horror
When you think of The Crypt Keeper, does it bring to mind a blue-eyed skeletal creepy puppet with an eerie cackle? You might be most familiar with the 1989 Tales from the Crypt television show that ran for 7 seasons until 1996.
And what's not to love? With a theme song by Danny Elfman, campy episodes featuring all kinds of famous faces including Christopher Reeve (What's Cookin', Season 4, Episode 6), Malcom McDowell (The Reluctant Vampire, Season 3, Episode 7), and Dan Ackroyd (Yellow, Season 3, Episode 14), and the amazing pun-filled voice acting of John Kassir, it deserves its cult following!
But did you know that this horror anthology was actually based on a comic series by EC Comics? You didn't? Well, as the Crypt Keeper would say, sit back boils and ghouls and enjoy tonight's deadtime story as we recount the origin story of Tales from the Crypt!
Entertaining Comics, better known as EC Comics and the publisher of Mad magazine, published Tales from the Crypt as a bi-monthly horror comic from 1950 to 1955. It was one of three horror anthology titles published by EC. The first of 27 issues with the Tales from the Crypt title was #20 as the series went through four other titles for issues #1-20.
The Main Characters
Each of EC's three horror magazines had a main horror host or GhoulLunatic who made appearances in each of the other two comic book series. For Tales from the Crypt, it was the Crypt-Keeper, for The Vault of Horror, it was the Vault-Keeper, and for The Haunt of Fear, it was the Old Witch.
So a single issue of Tales from the Crypt would have two stories told by the Crypt-Keeper, one narrated by the Vault-Keeper, and one introduced by the Old Witch. An ongoing gag in the comics was the professional rivalry between these three.
The Crypt Keeper was introduced in issue #15 (when the magazine was called Crime Patrol) as a frightening presence. He started out as a sinister hermit clutching a gnarled walking stick, almost hidden behind his long white hair, framed in the crypt's doorway.
As the character evolved into a more pun-filled horror host, his irreverent introductions served as a counterpoint to the horrific stories he introduced. He would also occasionally appear as a character in the stories including tales of his birth, a tour of his house, and the story of how he, the Old Witch, and the Vault-Keeper all got their EC contracts.
Much like the Cryptkeeper, the Vault-Keeper was introduced as a frightening inquisitor figure in the early issues before he too transformed into a comedic horror host. Hooded and robed in his dungeon, he delivered his quips solo until the final four issues of The Vault of Horror, when he was joined by Drusilla, the beautiful and silent co-host who bears a remarkable resemblance to Vampira.
The Old Witch
The Old Witch was the last of these three GhoulLunatics to make her appearance. The first issue of The Haunt of Fear had no host, the second issue introduced the warty, toothless witch in a feature called The Witch's Cauldron. It wasn't until after the third issue that she became the official horror host and delivered pun-filled one-liners to introduce the stories.
Demise of Tales from the Crypt Comics
In 1953, the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency was established to investigate juvenile delinquency and under age children participating in criminal acts. The committee held public hearings in April and June of 1954 to focus on graphic crime and horror comics to determine the extent of their negative influence on young people. During these hearings, the testimony of EC Comics' publisher Williams Gaines was highly publicized after he claimed he only published comics in "good taste" that included a horror title with the severed head of a woman on the cover.
The Comics Code Authority
Because of the bad press from these hearings, the comic industry created a self-regulatory body called the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA) and a Comics Code Authority (CCA) to self-censor and put restrictions on violent comic books. The code restricted the use of the words "crime," "horror," and "terror" in comic book titles and banned depictions of zombies, vampires, werewolves, or other gruesome creatures.
Cancelled by Censorship
After such strict censorship, Gaines decided to cancel Tales from the Crypt in September of 1954. The CCA remained active until it was rendered defunct in January 2011 when the final two major comic publishers still adhering to the code abandoned it.
Kreepsville Loves EC Comic's Tales from the Crypt
Now that you know the chilling tale of the history of Tales from the Crypt, you can see why we love it so much at Kreepsville! Be sure to check out our officially licensed merch from EC comics and wear your favorite horror host in style! From badges and pins to shirts and accessories, you can show off some fantastic horror comic art from the 1950s!