Tales From the Crypt Vol. 1 by Harvey Kurtzman, et al.

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EC Archives: Tales From the Crypt Vol. 1
Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Graham Ingels, Harvey Kurtzman
Gemstone Publishing

Tales from the Crypt Vol. 1Mention Tales from the Crypt to anyone under the age of 30, and they’ll immediately recall the gory HBO horror series or the spin-off cinematic releases, but not the original, groundbreaking Entertaining Comics series that ran from 1950 to 1955. A shame really, as the series pioneered the horror comic genre that would go onto to influence some of the great horror minds such as Stephen King, George Romero, and John Carpenter.

Fortunately, Gemstone Publishing is reintroducing the dark tales to a new generation of readers with EC Archives: Tales From the Crypt Vol. 1. This wonderful hardcover reprints the first six complete issues of the horror series, featuring a whopping 24 stories of werewolves, the undead, psychotics, and twisted science experiments. The stories in this collection are solid and entertaining, and the twist endings that many employ hold up surprisingly well, despite a few ho-hummers that are somewhat predictable by today’s standards.

Back in the ’50s before televisions filled every room of the home, Tales From the Crypt was edgy entertainment. These were mature stories of murder, revenge, and unpunished criminal acts–a far cry from the family friendly fare of the day. So much so that critics of the day stated that EC’s brand of comics had no redeeming value to society, which eventually led to the genre’s death. But before the EC closed its doors, it churned out “Death Suits Him”, a story of envy taken to the extreme, “Death Must Come”, a morality tale detailing the folly of vanity, and “Impending Doom”, where a man discovers the date of his death – all of which are collected here.

Tales From the Crypt was known for its “SuspenStories”, but the series’ excellent art helped to convey the mood of each yarn with clean, highly-detailed pencils. Gemstone Publishing went through the trouble of recoloring the pages to return vibrancy to the fifty-year old pages.

Besides the horror tales, EC Archives: Tales From the Crypt Vol. 1 also contains several insightful behind-the-scenes looks at Al Feldstein (who wrote most of the stories), a forward by John Carpenter, a few Russ Cochran historical pieces, letter pages in which the Crypt-Keeper responds to readers’ mail, and the occasional all-text short story. These serve to give series newcomers a sense of the title’s importance in the history of the comics medium, and does an admiral job in doing so.

Gemstone Publishing should be commended for putting together this masterpiece of a tome that simultaneously entertains while giving readers a true sample of comics history. Fans of Poe, The Twilight Zone, or any other suspenseful or supernatural narrative will find EC Archives: Tales From the Crypt Vol 1. to be an invaluable resource. Grab a copy, curl up on the couch, and enjoy a true classic.

–Jeffrey Wilson

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