• EC Archives: The Vault of Horror Volume 4

    Published by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: Jan. 28, 2015
    Writers: by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Jack Oleck, Ray Bradbury (adaptation)
    Artists: Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, George Evans, Graham Ingels , Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, Jack Kamen
    Cover: Johnny Craig
    Purchase at Amazon

    It’s been a year, almost to the day, since the last EC Archives collection of The Vault of Horror, this time covering issues 30 through 35 of one of the best pre-code horror titles. Johnny Craig’s graphic cover from issue #30 was worthy enough to earn the cover duties on volume four, and just a glance should make the reasons obvious. As if subways weren’t off-putting enough, imagine riding one with the bastard love-child of Thing and Cousin It, and dripping blood to boot. And the background signage is great too: one for an upset stomach (no doubt a joke), and one of a drunk sleeping at the bar. Not sure what product that’s advertising for, but it’s surely another subtle joke to reward those who do more than glance at the page.

    Not every story is a hit; some are downright dogs. For the most part though, EC consistently pumped out quality, if not in the story then certainly in the graphics. The stories contained herein cover a host of themes and with plenty of violence and terror to ruin the minds of the youth. Lovers sliced in half, cannibalism, vengeance from beyond the grave, child abuse…there’s even a little sexual titillation thrown in there (well, lots of cleavage anyway). If you’re familiar with EC material, then you know exactly what to expect: short stories, mostly involving bad people doing bad things and getting their just desserts, and with cornball jokes from a horror host introducing and closing up the stories.

    All the covers in this volume are from Johnny Craig and there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. His cover on the Christmas special, number 35, is vile. It’s totally bloodless and sans a rotted corpse, but that doesn’t make it any less horrific. It displays a woman (with great cleavage) shocked at the Christmas present from her husband. It’s a coffin, wrapped in a bow and he’s right behind her with an axe about to strike a blow and it’s a chilling visual. One can only imagine how it would look from the outside the window and looking in. Craig also contributed a story every issue which tend to be among the best EC had to offer.

    Jack Davis has a real presence in this volume and his style stood out then just as much as with his later work. In these pages he used less of a caricature style and used more of a realistic approach and it’s just fantastic looking stuff. Speaking of fantastic looking, Graham Ingels shines per usual. One grisly tale he penciled is called “Shoe-Button Eyes” and the first panel is truly wicked: as the Old Witch blabbers out the intro to the story, a man chained by the neck is next to her to provide light as she stirs her brew. He does this by having a lit candle jammed into every orifice his face has to offer. And then the story itself is just as wicked: a blind boy, his teddy bear, his complete douche bag of a step-father, and the horrible abuse the man puts the boy through. It’s very disturbing stuff and one where you can’t wait to see the guy cease to exist. Who could write such a heinous tale? Johnny Craig. He can write just as evil as he can draw.

    The Vault of Horror pushed the envelope and EC really went for the jugular with this title. Although far less impactful now then when they originally appeared, some of the stories still manage to cause a lump in the throat or a shake of the head in amazement. They went for broke and gave post-WWII readers what they were looking for and in spades. These old comics will never grow old and they will never fail to impress, entertain, and scramble the reader’s brains. Recommended with an exclamation point!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      One of the BEST covers in the entire E.C. horror run.