• (The) EC Archives: The Vault of Horror Volume 3



    Published by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: Jan. 29, 2014
    Writers: by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein
    Artists: various (see breakdown)
    Cover: Johnny Craig on all
    Purchase at Amazon

    This collection, Volume 3, of the classic EC horror series The Vault of Horror is the first volume published by Dark Horse Comics. Issues #24 through #29, originally published in 1952 and 1953, fill the pages of this full-color book of pre-code carnage, starting with an introduction and brief history by Grant Geissman, and followed by a forward by Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson, providing further history on the books, EC, and Bill Gaines. From there the tales of murder, the supernatural, and revenge drip off the pages. The issues breakdown like this:
    • Issue #24: Cover by Johnny Craig, plus a one-page biography on the artist; “A Bloody Undertaking” by Johnny Craig; “With All the Trappings” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein with art by Graham Ingels; “Impressed by a Nightmare” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein with art by Joe Orlando; “The Death Wagon!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Jack Davis
    • Issue #25: Cover by Johnny Craig; “Séance!” by Johnny Craig; “Kickin’ the Gong a Round!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein with art by Jack Davis; “Practical Yolk!” by B ill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Jack Kamen; “Collection Completed!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein with art by Graham Ingels
    • Issue #26: Cover by Johnny Craig; “Two of a Kind!” by Johnny Craig; “Graft In Concrete!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Jack Davis; “Half-Way Horrible!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Sid Check; “Hook, Line, and Stinker!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Graham Ingels
    • Issue #27: Cover by Johnny Craig; “Silver Threads Among the Mold!” by Johnny Craig; “People Who Live In Brass Hearses…” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Jack Davis; “Strictly From Hunger!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by George Evans; “A Grim Fairy Tale!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Graham Ingels
    • Issue #28: Cover by Johnny Craig; “Till Death…” by Johnny Craig; “The Chips are Down!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Jack Davis; “For How the Bell Tolls!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by George Evans; “We Ain’t Got No Body!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Graham Ingels
    • Issue #29: Cover by Johnny Criag; “The Mausoleum!” by Johnny Criag; “Let’s Play Poison” written by Al Feldstein from a Ray Bradbury story, art by Jack Davis; “A Sock for Christmas” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Jack Kamen; “Pickled Pints!” by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, art by Graham Ingels

    If you know EC material at all, then you pretty much know exactly what to expect. Short stories, mostly involving shit-heads doing rotten things and getting their comeuppances, while really bad jokes are being cackled at breaks in the story by the host of the tale. In this title, The Vault-Keeper, the Crypt-Keeper, and The Old Witch spin the yarns and trash talk each other during the story changes. Johnny Craig, who does all the covers and the first story in each issue of the collection, makes for the most consistently enjoyable reads overall. And Jack Davis…he invented the correct way to draw a walking corpse and gives us plenty to ogle at. But it’s the works by Graham Ingels that are the standouts, art-wise, for this reader. His artwork is rich with detail and obviously influential on artists like Bernie Wrightson and Tim Vigil (as only two examples of probably hundreds if not thousands of comic artists). The story in #24 titled “…With all the Trappings!” isn’t all that great of a tale, but his artwork makes it an awesome tale. The very first panel of The Old Witch leaning on a gigantic skull opening up the twisted story is the type of drawing that sucks you in and makes your eyes dance all over the page. The way he draws that witch…you can almost smell her horrid breath and musty old clothes. But the art is incomplete on all accounts without Marie Severin’s coloring. She handled most of the coloring chores for EC according to the forward, and her work is visually striking. So simplistic compared to the computerized coloring of today’s books, yet so attractive and commanding of your attention.

    EC didn’t have to show all the violence to make its impact on the reader. Take for example the end segment from “The Death Wagon”. In the story, two pieces of shit used car salesmen rook the people they buy cars from, and then rip off the people they sell them to by selling them cars with major problems. People die, they come back as walking corpses with an agenda (even five little kid corpses!), and they fix up a car with pieces of the crooks. It is described in great detail: their skulls for headlights, tongues for windshield wipers, eyeball parking lights, severed hands and door handles, skin seat covers, blood in the gas tank…you get the picture. It paints such a delightfully ghastly picture to go along with the two cigar chomping skull headlights that we don’t even need to see the horror that ensued or the after effects. In this tale, the writers gave the reader what they needed (and then some) to create their own images of horror, rather than hand it to them on a bloody platter. Sometimes that is better.

    Favorite story in the collection? Hard to chose. But one of this readers favorites is the Graham Ingels illustrated story “We Ain’t Got No Body”, where a man is murdered by his own brother and two conspirators for insurance money. They push him off a train, and his head, feet, and hands were severed from his body but never recovered. The dead brother gets his revenge by using the portions of his body not recovered and buried, stealing a paper-mâché mannequin and attaching said pieces to the torso, and then messing up the murdering slime balls but good. It doesn’t end there, though. The five pieces then make their way to the cemetery, dig up his body, and then lay themselves to rest with it. Yeah, Gaines and Feldstein wrote it, but Ingels’ art makes it his story. It’s insane and the stuff of nightmares. And the use of irregularly shaped panels and text boxes makes it all the more enjoyable. And best cover goes to issue #29, which also contains a tale adapted from a Ray Bradbury story. The image is of seven corpses shoving a guy into a coffin in a crypt. He’s screaming while they are all smiling.

    On top of all the fantastic artwork, stories, and general awesomeness, the letters pages are great too. A great slice of time that has a lot of information about the witch hunt to keep the comics from making the kiddies delinquent and reactions for the readers, who obviously weren’t kids writing in to give their support. Letters from soldiers in the Korean War can be found, and it makes the book that much more amazing to read. It is pure fun from cover to cover.