Goth Chick News: Crypt-Keeper Fans Rejoice for a New Generation of Horror Comics

Goth Chick News: Crypt-Keeper Fans Rejoice for a New Generation of Horror Comics

Epitaphs From the Abyss #1 (Oni Press, July 24th)

In past articles I talked about acquiring contraband horror comics from my older male cousins and reading them by flashlight. Though my dad deemed the black and white monster movies from Universal as “classic,” and therefore approved for my consumption, comics like House of Mystery or Strange Tales were verboten, meaning I worked all the harder to get my hands on them. Because of this, horror comics have always held a special place in my heart. From the trailblazing originals to modern tales like Twisted Dark and Nightmare World,, there’s no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than flipping through the horror section of my local comic vendor Graham Crackers Comics.

Tuesday morning this week, entertainment site The Wrap dropped exclusive info that brought joy to the hearts of horror comic fans worldwide. EC Comics is making a highly anticipated return with a horror anthology series Epitaphs From the Abyss.

The Crypt-Keeper, EC Comics

For a bit of background, EC Comics, or Educational Comics, was a major publisher of horror, crime, and suspense comics in the 1940s and 1950s including titles like Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science, and Two-Fisted Tales. The company folded in 1956 due to a moral panic over comic book content and the creation of the Comics Code Authority, a regulatory group that created guidelines to remove EC’s comics from newsstands. EC’s final comics were published in 1956, except for MAD, which was reformatted as a magazine to avoid scrutiny.

Today, the Gaines family still owns the copyright/licensing rights to all titles and stories published by EC Comics. This week’s announcement is that they have partnered with Oni Press who is behind this revival, for the purpose of reinvigorating the legendary brand. In its heyday, EC pushed boundaries and tackled taboo subjects, making them the chroniclers of an era in some respects.

Per their press release earlier this week, Oni Press President and Publisher Hunter Gorinson stated,

It’s both a huge honor and immense responsibility to be entrusted to work alongside the Gaines family in inhabiting EC’s indomitable spirit for a new generation. At a moment when we find ourselves confronting the same reactionary forces – injustice, inequality, and of course, censorship – that EC challenged head-on, we intend to write a new and powerful chapter that honors and expands one of the most important legacies the comic book medium has ever produced.

Insert fangirl squee here.

The EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt, Volume 1
(Dark Horse Books, May 18, 2021)

Admittedly, I came to EC Comics late. My first introduction was via the Tales From The Crypt TV series in the 1980s, and I only ever came across the comics in flea markets and second-hand bookstores. I’m now ashamed to admit that to a young me, they looked kind of cheesy compared to the show. So it wasn’t until much later, via the collections published by Dark Horse, that I became a fan, and regret passing up what I’m now sure would now be highly collectable issues.

So, back to the relaunch.

It kicks off with a double-sized first issue of Epitaphs From the Abyss on July 24, coinciding with Comic-Con International in San Diego. This issue features contributions from acclaimed creators such as writers Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Wonder Woman) and Stephanie Phillips (Harley Quinn, Grim), and artists Jorge Fornes (Batman, Rorschach) and Phil Hester (Green Arrow, Family Tree). Future issues promise more big names, including Jason Aaron, Matt Kindt, Klaus Janson, and Corinna Bechko.

Oni Press plans to introduce three new horror hosts in Epitaphs, designed by artist Dustin Weaver, who are set to become the faces of the series: the Grave-Digger, the Tormentor, and the Grim Inquisitor. These new characters step into the shoes of our beloved Crypt-Keeper, each bringing their unique flair and horror-show charm.

The Grave-Digger will set the stage for the tales, bringing a playful yet dark tone reminiscent of the classic EC edge. The Tormentor, described as a “bloody Victorian-era butcheress,” wields a variety of gruesome tools and implements, adding a bloody dimension to the stories, and The Grim Inquisitor operates within a nightmarish bureaucracy, promising both horror and dark humor.

The series will feature self-contained short stories, with each issue connected via the common thread of the hosts. These stories, described as “perfect units of comic book entertainment,” harken back to the original EC Comics’ ability to convey powerful messages within a narrow narrative.

Cruel Universe #1 (Oni Press, August)

Oni Press has a robust multi-year plan for the EC Comics line, with Cruel Universe, a sci-fi anthology in the tradition of Weird Science, slated as the next release. While Epitaphs will consistently focus on horror, other titles will explore various genres. In the 1950s, EC tackled issues like racism and segregation head-on, well before mainstream media did. The new series aims to reflect modern times and the ongoing cultural and political struggles, ensuring the stories remain relevant and provocative.

For horror comic fans, Epitaphs From the Abyss is a celebration of the genre as well as what made EC Comics great, while introducing novel elements to keep things fresh. It’s available for preorder at Stadium Comics, or check your local comic retailer.

I, for one, will be waiting outside Graham Crackers on July 24th.

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Thomas Parker

I think I have just about all of the EC comics reprinted in one format or another, either in the Gemstone reprints of many years ago or in the fabled Russ Cochran oversize black and white hardback sets. (I only managed to get three of those – Crypt, Vault, and Weird Science). I also have three of the original EC issues of the fifties; now and then I take them out and just flip through the pages and inhale; nothing else in the world has quite that wonderful, seventy-year-old comic book smell.

The EC stories had great energy; on the other hand, I remember what my son said when he started reading through my Russ Cochran sets when he was about eleven or twelve. He handed back the Tales from the Crypt volume he had been reading through and said, “They’re kind of repetitive, aren’t they? I mean, it’s just the same story, over and over.” I had to say, “Yep – pretty much.”

The source of EC’s power and the cause of its catastrophe was the same – the stories’ transgressiveness. Trying to bring them back now, even in spirit, begs the question: what is there left to transgress?

Thomas Parker

You might be right at that, GC – but we might wind up with four pages of comics preceded by twenty pages of trigger warnings…

K. Jespersen

(I’m probably not supposed to be wondering why that pile of skulls is not shifting and dumping the Grave-Digger on his posterior, on that first cover, huh?)

Best wishes to all on this revival! If it succeeds, we’ll probably see yet another revamp of the Swamp Thing comics shortly after.

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