For the last few weeks, we’ve taken a look at some of the best covers from
TALES FROM THE CRYPT and VAULT OF TERROR. I would be remiss if I didn’t take some time to also share the beautiful, freaky art of the third of the trilogy of terror titles from EC Comics, THE HAUNT OF FEAR. I also wanted to be sure that everyone got a good look at some of the amazing work by ‘Ghastly’ Graham Ingels, one of the best horror artists of the 20th Century. So let’s jump in with one of his right away!
This is one of the few times where I think the three inserts of The Old Witch, The Vault- Keeper, and The Crypt-Keeper really get in the way of the way of the beauty of the art. Ingels, along with the colorist (I believe this was colored by Marie Severin but can’t find any definite confirmation on that) really brings the horror to life here. These undead freaks are not fresh corpses, their skin is rotting and possibly warped by water – they appear to be coming out of a swamp. In a rarity for the EC covers, the lead zombie’s head breaks through the title border, giving off the feeling that this creature is about to break free of the printed page and come into our world. Speaking of the lead zombie, look at that eye! Or rather, the lack of one! The open, empty socket is sickening, almost as sickening as the ear that is being held on by just a thread of flesh. All three of the monsters look like they are in pain – you get a sense that they don’t want to rise from the swamp, but that they must. Why must they come back to the world of the living? Only the story inside can answer that!
What in the living hell is that thing?! What has this poor woman stumbled upon, and where are her shoes?! You don’t want that living goop to get on your toes! Blerg! I don’t want to get optically obsessed, but I do want to take a moment to speak about eyes again. Where Ingels used the lack of an eye to give an added sense of gross in the previous cover, here, the inclusion of eyes on the… whatever that thing is, gives us (or at least me) a feeling of pity. This blob looks like it is scared and maybe in pain. Perhaps it was once a man, now cursed to be the largest wad of chewed gum ever seen. The thing appears to be spreading out, but maybe it is just trying to climb its way out of this subterranean pit of despair.
More than any other EC Comics artist, Ingels loved to play with oddities. None of the creatures on this cover look very human, but all of them are giving off clear emotions. There is a sense of fear not coming from the monsters we see, but within them. Look at the winged creature who is using its wing to cover itself – the eyes are wide, the ear wilts. It looks like it is scared to me. The small demon thing at the center of the art – is it crying out? And is that red-faced witch woman prepared to defend it?
I look at this cover and I can see that Ingels’ work was a major influence on other great artists like Bernie Wrightson, Kelly Jones, and Sam Kieth. Heck, if you look at the bottom left hand corner, you may notice a creature that looks kind of like the helmet of Dream from SANDMAN. Or maybe Marvel Comic’s Man-Thing.
The entire story is told on this cover, and told wonderfully. Look carefully at the falling newspaper and you’ll notice that the headline reads “WOMAN SUICIDE”. Based on the innocent pink bow in the monstrous woman’s hair and the look on that dude’s face, I’m betting it wasn’t suicide at all. The dead woman, as she comes to avenge her own murder, bringing the man his pipe and slippers, surely acting out what was a normal part of their life before he killed her, is full on EC Comics perfection. Ingels didn’t play with humor often on his covers, even dark humor, but this brings out more than a bit of a chuckle. Once again, I need to draw your attention to the eyes in the art. The monster woman’s are large, but unlike that of the gum creature of issue 24, and the winged creature of issue 14, here the eyes are filled with rage. With intense, unending anger. Nothing will keep her from her goal.
Johnny Craig is coming in to steal a spot! How could I not include this cover – it is so simple, so clean, and so perfect. You know that guy consoling the crying woman is a jerk, and you aren’t alone in this knowledge. Whoever is in that casket is looking to teach that jerk guy some manners, like don’t hit on a woman at her husband’s funeral!
This is a moment caught just before the panic would come in. No one has noticed the opening of the casket yet, no one sees the horror that is about to take place. Something that has always held my attention on the cover is the woman in the background reading. Who brings a book to a wake?
*Photos: EC Comics