Last week, we brought you five of the most frightening
TALES FROM THE CRYPT covers and it seems that some of you AXED for more! Get it? Axed? Like how the Crypt Keeper always did those wordplay jokes? On the show?
Maybe I’ll leave the jokes to the professionals.
Today we’ll be looking at some great covers from VAULT OF HORROR. One thing that has always interested me about VAULT OF HORROR is how the stories were darker than the ones in TALES FROM THE CRYPT. TALES always had a sense of whimsy to it, where VAULT was straight up freaky. This is represented in the covers as well – where the TALES covers have a cartoonish glee to them, VAULT OF HORROR’s covers are sometimes almost too real in their depictions of evil.
Without any more blah blah blah from me, here are five of their most vicious, most insane, and most terrifying covers from THE VAULT OF HORROR!
Johnny Craig, whose work was used in Senate hearings on juvenile delinquency in the 50s, was the artist for every cover of VAULT OF HORROR, and issue 16 really shows off his talent. At a time when comic covers were all about color, Craig filled this one with black. A single, small figure stands in the center, bathed in yellow light. This figure, seeming to be a zombie coming out of its casket, creates million questions in those of us looking at the image.
Who is that guy? How long has he been dead? Why is his casket in the middle of a room like that? Why is he rising from the dead? We MUST know! And for ten cents, we could find out.
This cover is easily one of Craig’s best – the woman looks like she belongs in Riverdale with Archie, Jughead and the gang. The man looks like he just got caught cheating on his dead girlfriend. And there’s his dead girlfriend coming out of the wishing well!
Johnny plays on both horror and sex on this cover – notice the placement of the shadow of the man’s hand. It goes against where a shadow should be – we can see the moon in the background, which appears to the the only light source for all other shadows – but the shadow of the hand is carefully placed to look like it is grabbing the woman’s buttocks. That isn’t a mistake – EC sold itself on sex and violence without ever really showing much of either.
Speaking of sex and violence.
Craig once again knocks it out of the park. This time, the placement of the characters, as well as the color, tells us what we need to know.
This was the 50s, so we know that the redhead is evil (sorry Rebekah!). Redheads were always evil in crime and horror in the 40s and 50s. Redheads were pals with the Devil and all that jazz. Plus, she’s wearing red – more evil. I bet she’s the kind of evil redhead who would steal another woman’s man! Maybe she would even KILL for another woman’s man!
Pretty sure she did. Look carefully at those rotting hands in the foreground. The nails are long not because the skin is receding, but because they are manicured and purposely grown out. This redhead is about to get some vengeance laid out on her, likely from a woman she killed.
A great little piece that l love about this image – look at the hand on the railing. Check out the wrist – you can see that the skin has been eaten away and now the bone is clearly visible. Little touches like that are what made Johnny Craig so good.
I chose this one for two reasons. One, that dismembered arm in the foreground, and the reaction of the people on the train, is amazing. None of the passengers are having the same reaction to what they are seeing – the man in the yellow hat is fully freaking out. The woman next to him is shocked as hell. The man in the black hat is confused, and the older woman next to him appears to be swooning. The arm itself is so detailed – the tension on the knuckles is clear, whoever this arm belonged to was rather hairy, and the arm was clearly torn off, not cleanly cut. You have to wonder how it ended up there; was there a man attached to the arm a moment ago, or has it been there for hours but only now have the citizens of New York taken a moment to look at their surroundings?
The second thing I love on this cover is what may be the only joke on a VAULT OF HORROR cover – the ad in the background, “Stomach Upset?” Johnny Craig is calling out the reader, daring them to look deeper, calling them out on their weakness. I love it!
This is easily my favorite VAULT OF HORROR cover; every inch of it makes me beg to read the comic.
Five kids carry a homemade casket that looks to be child sized down an alley between homes. A girl, head down, walks next to the casket. Is she sad? Embarrassed? Guilty? And the boy in the front, walking with determination, his 50’s greaser style on full display. What is his role in all this? Is he a common hood, or is he the bad boy with a heart?
Adults, cut off by fences, watch the funeral procession. Some seem shocked, others act as if this is a show, still others stand in reverence. One man appears to be heckling the kids. But look closely at the heckler – he seems angry, doesn’t he?
This is a cover that pulls the viewer in. Johnny Craig centers the coffin, but it is everything around it that really make the reader interested. Imagine seeing this on a newsstand next to an issue of SUPERMAN. Which one would you grab?
I know what my choice is.
As an added bonus, I wanted to include what is Jonny Craig’s best cover. It wasn’t done for VAULT OF HORROR – it was from EC’s CRIME SUSPENSTORIES series. This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest comic book covers of all time…
Perfection in every way.
*Photos: EC Comics