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Creator / EC Comics

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EC Comics' publisher William Gaines, flanked by the Crypt Keeper, the Old Witch, and the Vault Keeper.

"You should know this about our horror books. We have no ghosts, devils, goblins, or the like. We tolerate vampires and werewolves, if they follow tradition and behave the way respectable vampires and werewolves should. We love walking corpse stories. We’ll accept the occasional zombie or mummy. And we relish the tales of sadism. Virtue doesn’t always have to triumph."
"EC Comics Horror Guidelines", from a 1950s Help Wanted ad

A short-lived but influential publisher of Anthology Comic books.

EC Comics, aka "Entertaining Comics" and "Educational Comics", was founded in 1944 by Maxwell Gaines with the aim of producing fact-based comic books aimed at churches and schools. After his death in 1947, his son William Gaines inherited the business, producing comic books in typical genres: western, crime, romance. Starting in 1949, the younger Gaines began introducing the "New Trend" series focusing on horror (Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear), crime (Crime SuspenStories), realistically depicted war (Two-Fisted Tales, Frontline Combat), Science Fiction (Weird Science, Weird Fantasy), or some mixture of the above (Shock SuspenStories). The horror, science fiction and crime stories almost invariably had a Twist Ending. EC made extensive use of the Karmic Twist Ending before The Twilight Zone (1959) ever aired. (They stayed clear of the Cruel Twist Ending.)


A combination of evocative (if sensationalistic and florid) writing and excellent art by some of the top comic book artists of the time, combined with outreach to the fans, quickly caused EC's sales to skyrocket. In addition to a strong theme of often gruesome poetic justice, EC's titles often tackled social issues of the day, especially in their science fiction and suspense books.

At its height its roster included the legendary Harvey Kurtzman, Al Feldstein, Wally Wood, Bernard Krigstein, Bill Elder, Jack Davis, and several other legendary talents who revolutionized the history of comics. The style of EC Comics, with its personalized editorials created a sense of give and take between readers and creators that would later be imitated by the Marvel Bullpen. EC was also groundbreaking for featuring profiles of some of its creators in its pages and for its broad range of subject matter which made it perhaps the only major comics publishing imprint with a regular adult audience. They benefited greatly from the post-war climate which saw superheroes displaced in popularity. Put simply, the struggle for Alternative Comics to justify their existence in a market dominated by superheroes did not exist then. This allowed them to tackle a range of subjects and ideas with a freshness not seen in comics at that time and rarely afterwards.


EC was not shy about "borrowing" ideas from prose stories and were caught at it by Ray Bradbury, but they were able to negotiate a settlement, and published several fine and very faithful authorized adaptations of his work.

This was also the birthplace of a little comic book called Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD, a satire and comedy title. Its first issues sold poorly, but it soon found enough of a following to inspire a number of imitators, including one published by EC itself (Panic).

But it was too good to last. A groundswell of outrage from the Moral Guardians of the mid-1950s led to a Congressional investigation of possible ties between comic books and juvenile delinquency. To protect themselves from possible government censorship, the comic book publishers established The Comics Code in 1954, resulting in comics being forbidden to have sexual content, racial content, drugs and alcohol (unless it's for educational purposes) and graphic violence in them. William Gaines, although he'd initially been in favor of the idea, felt the code adopted was far too restrictive and gave the Code authorities too much opportunity for Executive Meddling.

After distributors refused to carry comic books without the Comics Code Authority stamp, Gaines reluctantly signed EC up to the service. This required canceling several series, some of them the company's best sellers, as the magazines' very titles violated the Code. Despite a valiant attempt at a "New Direction" focusing more on social realism than horror, EC remained blacklisted by many newsdealers, and found itself too frequently clashing with the CCA executives. Gaines tried to carry on the tradition of adult-oriented stories with the Picto-Fiction magazines, but they didn't sell.

Notoriously, EC was told to change the ethnicity of a character in a reprint of the classic Does This Remind You of Anything? story "Judgment Day." This was the last straw, and the story was reprinted unchanged in the final comic book published by the company.

The black-and-white MAD, which had switched from the color-comic medium for reasons unrelated to the Code, ultimately became the sole surviving EC publication and went on to decades of success as a satirical/parodical magazine for children, preteens, and immature adults. But the influence of EC has continued through multiple reprints, homages by subsequent horror and SF writers, a pair of early-'70s British feature films titled Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror, and the television series Tales from the Crypt.

Despite this, EC Comics wasn't forgotten by its readership who sustained its influence through a cult like devotion. Many of them, indeed became underground comics artists as well as original talents who later worked on mainstream comics bringing the EC influence with them, among them Robert Crumb, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman and Alan Moore to name a few. Indeed this cultlike popularity played a role in the development of comics fandom and today EC endures as one of the greatest contribution to the comics industry.

Not to be confused with DC Comics, although their properties are now both owned by Warner Bros..

Comics Published By The Company:

  • Pre-Trend Comics (1946-1950):
    • Animal Fables (1946–1947) #1-7
    • Animated Comics (1947) #1
    • Blackstone the Magician Detective Fights Crime (1947) #1
    • Crime Patrol (1948–1950) #7-16 (continued as The Crypt of Terror)
    • Dandy Comics (1947–1948) #1-7
    • Fat and Slat (1947–1948) #1-4 (continued as Gunfighter)
    • Gunfighter (1948–1950) #5-14 (continued as The Haunt of Fear)
    • Happy Houlihans (1947) #1-2 (continued as Saddle Justice)
    • International Comics (1947) #1-5 (continued as International Crime Patrol)
    • International Crime Patrol (1948) #6 (continued as Crime Patrol)
    • Land of the Lost (1946–1948) #1-9
    • Modern Love (1949–1950) #1-8
    • A Moon, a Girl...Romance (1949–1950) #9-12 (continued as Weird Fantasy)
    • Moon Girl (1947–1949) #2-6 (continued as Moon Girl Fights Crime!)
    • Moon Girl and the Prince (1947) #1 (continued as Moon Girl)
    • Moon Girl Fights Crime! (1949) #7-8 (continued as A Moon, a Girl...Romance)
    • Picture Stories from the Bible (1944–1946) #1-3 (New Testament edition, Old Testament edition published by DC Comics)
    • Picture Stories from American History (1945–1947) #1-4
    • Picture Stories from Science (1947) #1-2
    • Picture Stories from World History (1947) #1-2
    • Saddle Justice (1948–1949) #3-8 (continued as Saddle Romances)
    • Saddle Romances (1949–1950) #9-11 (continued as Weird Science)
    • Tiny Tot Comics (1946–1947) #1-10
    • War Against Crime! (1948–1950) #1-11 (continued as The Vault of Horror)

  • New Trend Comics (1950-1955)
    • The Crypt of Terror/Tales from the Crypt (April/May 1950 to February/March 1955, 27 issues)
    • The Vault of Horror (April/May 1950 to December/January 1955, 29 issues)
    • The Haunt of Fear (May/June 1950 to November/December 1954, 28 issues)
    • Weird Fantasy (May/June 1950 to November/December 1953, 22 issues)
    • Weird Science (May/June 1950 to November/December 1953, 22 issues)
    • Crime SuspenStories (October/November 1950 to February/March 1955, 27 issues)
    • Two-Fisted Tales (November/December 1950 to February 1955, 24 issues)
    • Frontline Combat (July/August, 1951 to January 1954, 15 issues)
    • Shock SuspenStories (February/March 1952 to December/January 1955, 18 issues)
    • Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD (October/November 1952 to May 1955, 23 issues)note 
    • Three Dimensional E.C. Classics/Three Dimensional Tales from the Crypt of Terror (Spring 1954 to March 1954, 2 issues)
    • Panic (February–March 1954 to December/January 1956, 12 issues)
    • Weird Science-Fantasy (March 1954 to May/June 1955, 7 issues)
    • Piracy (October/November 1954 to October/November 1955, 7 issues)

  • New Direction Comics (1955-1956)
    • Impact (March/April 1955)
    • Valor (March/April 1955)
    • Extra! (March/April 1955)
    • Aces High (March/April 1955)
    • Psychoanalysis (March/April, 1955)
    • M.D. (April/May 1955)
    • Incredible Science Fiction (July/August 1955)
    • Confessions Illustrated (1955-1956)
    • Crime Illustrated (1955-1956)
    • Shock Illustrated (1955-1956)
    • Terror Illustrated (1955-1956)

Tropes associated with EC Comics include:

  • Absence of Evidence: In "Fall Guy for Murder" from Crime SuspenStories #18, a man hires a detective to find his wife who he claims took everything she had and ran out on him. The gumshoe immediately becomes suspicious when he sees that literally every last thing she had ever owned was missing; every piece of clothing, every single pair of shoes, every last hat, all of her luggage, etc. As he notes, a lady running away from her husband on the quick would leave behind something she wouldn't bother taking. It turns out to be a set-up.
  • Absurdly Dedicated Worker: In one story a man's Robot Wife keeps protecting him long after he's dead and his flesh has rotted away.
  • Actually Not a Vampire — a resolution in one "guess what this person is" story. Since this was a story in EC Comics, it didn't end there.
  • Adipose Rex: Seen frequently in the "Grim Fairy Tales" and any other medieval-themed story involving a wicked king.
  • Anthology Comic
  • Asshole Victim: See Karmic Death.
  • Back from the Dead: Many stories in the horror titles have the victim(s) pulling this off in order to ensure that justice will be served.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In "A Kind of Justice", its revealed that the rapist the townsfolk are hunting for was in fact the sheriff who consoles and intimidates his victim that he'll kill her family if she doesn't comply and its implied will continue to act the same way. Extremely dark stuff.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: In Vault of Horror story "The Pit!" (#40, 1954) has competing cockfighting and dogfighting rings; the money-hungry women who run them are jealous of each other's profits and goad their Henpecked Husbands into escalating the fights to draw more customers until the two men decide to pit the women against each other. Got a No Animals Were Harmed adaptation for the Tales from the Crypt TV show, where the husbands are MMA fighters whose wives are their overcompetitive managers.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: "Wish You Were Here"
  • Big Damn Heroes: "The Thing from the Grave" ("Tales from the Crypt #22") features the protagonist, Jim, getting killed off and buried by Bill, a jealous rival, who then tries to kill Jim's girlfriend after she rejects his advances. But because Jim made a promise to save Laura from any danger, no matter where he is, Jim promptly rises from the grave in time to save Laura from the burning building Bill trapped her in (and then drag Bill back into his own grave with him).
  • Black Comedy: A frequent staple of all the titles.
  • Blob Monster: The stories "Ooze in the Cellar", "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes", and "Strictly From Hunger" involve one.
  • Body Horror: The climax of "Horror We? How's Bayou?" (Haunt of Fear #17) ends with three victims of the murderous Everett reassembling their bodies in the swamp (including Max Forman's head attaching itself to a dead womans body) in order to take revenge on Everett's brother Sidney, who directed his victims to his murderous brother—but not by killing him, but by using Forman's surgery tools to reassemble Sidney's body into a horrific monstrosity, something even Everett is scared of. The narration sums it up.
    "Sidney, or what was ONCE Sidney but is now nothing, more than a confused reorganization of Sidney's dismembered body, stands before him...the upside-down head hanging from the left hip, sobbing...the left leg, sewn to the left shoulder, crooked awkwardly around a make shift crutch...the right leg swaying from the right shoulder...the left arm, erupting from the neck, gesticulating...and the right arm supporting the entire grisly sight..."
  • Brown Note: One story was about aliens so hideous that any human seeing them would be driven insane. It came with an editor's note explaining that the representation of the aliens on the page was deliberately toned down so as not to lose the readership.
  • Captain Ersatz: Animal Fables, one of EC's early Funny Animal comics, features a recurring bug character called "Freddy Firefly", whose design is obviously pilfered from Hoppity the Grasshopper, the lead character from Fleischer Studios Mr. Bug Goes to Town.
  • Cats Have Nine Lives: "Dig That Cat, He's Real Gone".
  • Circling Vultures: In the story "Carrion Death!" (Shock SuspenStories #9), a fugitive trudges through the desert for four days, handcuffed to the corpse of a state trooper he killed. The fugitive sees the vultures as his only chance to rid himself of the dead weight attached to his right arm, but after they have stripped the corpse clean, he finds out that they do eat live flesh, too.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Across their magazines, adaptations of various stories appeared. Two-Fisted Tales #36 featured an adaptation of the 19th and 20th chapters of I, Claudius sequel Claudius the God, The Vault of Horror #13 featured an adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game and The Haunt of Fear #9 featured an adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer of all things, just to name a few examples.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: "...And All Through The House" [[note]]which was adapted in the Tales from the Crypt film and again as an episode of the Tales from the Crypt television series takes place on the night before Christmas.
  • Conjoined Twins: Quite a few stories involve them, usually as part of an ending twist.
    • "Lower Berth" ("Tales from the Crypt #33") features a two headed twin as a central character, although he's an undead prop for most of the story.
  • Creator Cameo: The collectible "GhouLunatic" autographed photos of the Crypt-Keeper, the Vault-Keeper and the Old Witch were all portrayed by artist Johnny Craig.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Some of the artists, most tragically Ghastly Graham, specialized in horror imagery too much and were unable to adapt to more family-friendly material once horror was banned.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Mr. Drink, from "The Reluctant Vampire", is perhaps the only murderous individual who doesn't quite deserve his gruesome end - while he has begun to kill other people again, ostensibly to save his ass and keep him supplied in "liquid assets", he's also donating most of the plasma to the blood bank he works at to boost the inventory and keep it from being shut down. (Ironically, the TV series, usually known for being Darker and Edgier, makes him more sympathetic than his comics counterpart, and even gives him a happy ending.)
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: A staple of the horror comics.
  • Darker and Edgier: The post-1948 EC Comics, with particular regard to their horror comics, which were the studios biggest breadwinners, and a startling contrast from the lighter content their earlier educational and funny animal comics started with.
    • Shock Suspenstories in comparison to the other horror titles. While stories in the other titles would usually end with the death of an Asshole Victim, Shock had quite a few stories where The Bad Guy Wins, often due to a Cruel Twist Ending.
  • Deadly Prank: "A Fatal Caper" features some bored rich kids tricking their friend with a faked magic spell and trapping him in a coffin, with the intention to release him very soon. Not only does he get Buried Alive, but the corpse they removed from the coffin originally died of leprosy, and they likely contracted it themselves.
  • Decoy Protagonist: "Horror We? How's Bayou?" starts with Max Forman, a doctor, getting misdirected by a hermit named Sidney to his swamp-bound home, but he's killed off barely three pages in, in order to placate Sidney's murderous brother, Everett. He returns by the end, but not in one piece.
  • Digital Destruction: Some of the color reprints of the horror comics tended to completely alter the original colors and add elements that clearly weren't in the original comic art, such as photoshop gradients. They wised up and started using the original colors in later reprints.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In the Vault of Horror story "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime," a group of children murder another child by pushing him into live wire. Why? He stole a girl's doll and wouldn't give it back. After all, the local judge had told the kids that "kidnapping" was an offense punishable by death in the electric chair.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The ending of "Horror We? Hows Bayou?". Everett's victims come back from the dead and horrifically reassemble his brothers body into a bizarre monstrosity.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: More than one story ends with the nightmarish events within having been All Just a DreamAnd then they happen anyway.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "The Monkey" (Shock SuspenStories #12). The teenage protagonist starts with smoking a joint, eventually develops a heroin addiction and accidentally kills his own father for trying to take away his drugs.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Before EC made its iconic horror, crime, war and science fiction classics, its first three years were as a fairly standard comic label called Educational Comics, which had wholesome fare like Picture Stories From The Bible and Animal Fables, the total antithesis of the kind of stories and art that would put EC on the map from 1949 and on and the label was renamed Entertainment Comics.
  • Enclosed Extraterrestrials: In "Judgement Day" a human astronaut visits a planet of robots to determine their fitness to join the Galactic Federation and keeps his helmet on for the entire visit. He eventually decides that the robots are not ready to join because some robots discriminate against others because of the color of their casings. In the final panel he takes off his helmet, showing he is a black man.
  • Excited Show Title!: Many stories started with a few lines of narration which led to the... TITLE!
  • Fantastic Racism: "Judgement Day" is centered around a planet of racist robots who enslave other robots based on the color of their casings.
  • Final Solution: The strip, "Master Race" drawn by Bernard Krigstein was one of the few times American popular culture addressed the Holocaust in The '50s. It was also addressed in Frontline Combat.
  • First-Person Shooter: Some panels of certain Korean War stories in Frontline Combat are drawn this way, from the point of view of the protagonist aiming and shooting, which is startlingly prescient for modern readers.
  • Found Footage Films: A very early example of the genre in "Television Terror", where a TV host resembling Allen Funt conducts a live tour of a haunted house, has a nervous breakdown, and finally hangs himself on air, all viewed through the lens of his portable camera.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Desert Fox a kind of biographical story of Erwin Rommel is an ironic portrayal of the famous general, especially deconstructing his Worthy Opponent status among the Allies. The panels, contrast his general nobility as a field general with various atrocities committed by the Nazis and ends up noting that Rommel, and other "decent" Nazis, couldn't escape the poisonous nature of Nazism.
  • Going Down with the Ship: "Prairie Schooner" has a forcibly retired sea captain move into his spinster sister's house, go insane from losing his ship and take over the house, making it his "ship" including remodeling the cellar into the bridge. Then his sister, who has to take in laundry due to spending all her money on the remodeling, has a heart attack upstairs while doing laundry in the tub and the water spills down and floods the cellar. Insisting that the captain must remain, he stays down there and slowly drowns in scalding water...despite the fact that he could simply walk up the stairs and out of danger.
  • Halloween Episode: The bulk of "The October Game" (Shock Suspenstories #9) is set during Halloween evening.
  • Hate Sink: Too many to list. Many a character the stories follow is a morally-bankrupt and often murderous piece of human garbage, which makes the reader feel all the more elated when they come to an inevitable and gruesome demise. Some stand out examples include Senor Tobosa from The Bath, Sam Bricker from Grounds For Horror, Milton from Bedtime Gory, and Mr. Lasch from A Stitch In Time.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Pipes up quite a few times, but nowhere more than a character in one of the prose stories named Petie Dildo.
  • Henpecked Husband: A number of them, most of who wished to end their marital strife once and for all. (Such plots were known colloquially around the offices as "Buster stories", mainly because the wives either called their spouses that, or looked like they could at any moment.)
  • Heroic Suicide: One story involves a surgeon who finds himself suffering from episodes of Missing Time during which he commits terrible acts of violence, even killing a cat at one point. When he feels an episode coming on during an operation, he throws himself out a window rather than harm his patient.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Subverted for horror in "Operation Friendship." The one friend cut out the interesting part of his friend's brain to keep their friendship alive, while the lesser part of the brain was left to be married to a woman.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard
    • One story has a gangster being brought Back from the Dead, by a professor who tells the gangster's colleagues that there may have been some brain damage. The gangster awakens, badly burned, shoots the scientist (was going to do some follow-up care) dead and then monomaniacally starts killing off the jurors who convicted him. He shoots the first two, but the police get wise to him and put the others under protection. He then goes after the judge, but as this point is a slow, rotting mass of flesh that goes down one strike from the poker and disintegrates. Maybe next time, don't kill the only guy who might keep you from decaying?
  • Horror Host: The Crypt Keeper in Tales from the Crypt, the Vault Keeper in Vault of Horror, and the Old Witch in The Haunt of Fear.
  • Human Head on the Wall: A variant occurs in the Vault of Horror story "Hook, Line, and Stinker!" where the victim is not a hunter but a fisherman—or so he says. When he claims to be out fishing, he's actually out cheating on his fiancee, and when she finds out she kills him and mounts his entire body on a plaque on the wall like a fishing trophy.
  • Humans Are Bastards: A running theme in many of the more preachier tales of Shock SuspenStories, particularly those that deal with mob violence. Notable examples include A Kind of Justice, Hate, In Gratitude... and The Patriots.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Horror Hosts were prone to these, in a tradition stretching back to Raymond, the host of Inner Sanctum.
  • Identical Stranger: In "Double-Crossed" from Crime Suspenstories #24, a man by the name of David Volney arrives in town and is greeted with awe and respect from literally everyone he runs into, and learns that he looks exactly like a millionaire by the name of Edwin Jordon, who happens to be divorcing his beautiful wife. By sheer chance, he runs into Jordon's wife and the her new man, both of whom start insulting him. Volney stands up to the wife and slugs the other man when he takes a swing, and the wife is impressed with her "husband"'s sudden backbone and more manly personality. Volney sneaks into Jordon's house, kills him and completely destroys the body. In case someone tries to test him, he makes sure to put his own fingerprints on everything Jordon owns, trains himself to write like him, etc. It turns out that while Volney had been shmoozing it up with the wife that afternoon, Jordon had stormed upstairs to the other man's hotel room in front of a bunch of witnesses and shot him before fleeing back home. Volney can't prove the truth with no evidence and even if he could, he'd still be on the hook for murdering Jordon.
  • Infant Immortality: Subverted on numerous occasions; children were not spared in the stories "Tain't the Meat...It's the Humanity" (Tales from the Crypt #32), "Last Laugh" (Tales from the Crypt #38), "The Death Wagon" (Vault of Horror #24), "Let's Play Poison" (Vault of Horror #29), "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" (Vault of Horror #33), "Shoe-Button Eyes" (Vault of Horror #35), "Sugar 'n Spice 'n..." (Shock SuspenStories #6), and "The October Game" (Shock Suspenstories #9).
  • Karmic Death: Another staple of the horror comics.
  • Karma Houdini: It happened quite often in Crime SuspenStories and Shock SuspenStories but the darkest example has to be "A Kind of Justice".
    • The story "The Pen Is Mightier" is entirely based around this trope. A journalist uses his influence in the publishing world to steal, cheat, and seduce a woman away from her husband. The reader is led to believe he will eventually get his comeuppance; but the story ends abruptly with him literally getting away with the murder of his mistress's husband. An editorial note at the end states that the character was not punished because in the real world, a person like this really would get away with it.
  • Knife-Throwing Act:
    • In "Current Attraction" in Tales from the Crypt #41 the main character's daughter is attracted to the circus knife thrower, a married man.
    • In "One Last Fling!" in The Vault of Horror #21 the main character is a circus knife thrower and uses his skills to kill his wife onstage after she becomes a vampire.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: The Tales from the Crypt pinball, released by Data East in 1993 as a tie-in to both the EC Comics' title and the HBO series. Click here for details.
  • Loophole Abuse: Attempted with the Terror/Shock Illustrated magazines; they could get past the Code since they weren't comics, just heavily illustrated stories. Sadly they failed.
  • Lost Aesop: "Mau Mau!" with a message that can be best summarized as "racism is bad, colonialism is good".
  • Merlin Sickness: Arnold in A-corny Story! after he turns away an elderly employer, where he turns into a baby because of a Haiti tree's curse and then shrivels away to nothing.
  • Mondegreen: The twist of the Shock SuspenStories tale "Raw Deal". The man they rescued from sea? He's not screaming that he hates his wife, he's screaming that he ate his wife.
  • Narrator: The three Horror Hosts - the Crypt Keeper of Tales from the Crypt, the Vault Keeper of The Vault of Horror and the Old Witch of The Haunt of Fear, known collectively as "The GhouLunatics" - not only introduced the stories and provided epilogues, but also cracked jokes at the readers' and each other's expense.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: "That's a 'Croc'".
  • Only Six Faces: Not a whole lot a facial variety here, at least among the living characters.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Briarwood Orphanage Asylum, the setting of the story "Halloween". Conditions wouldn't be quite so bad if the director Mr. Critchit wasn't spending only the bare minimum on the facility's upkeep and pocketing the difference, though. Money's so tight that his skull has to be emptied out and carved up just so the orphan kids can have their Jack-o'-Lantern.
    • And a Home For The Blind Of Fear in "Blind Alleys."
  • Our Zombies Are Different: By todays' standards anyway; the mindless flesh-eating zombie wasn't really a thing yet, so zombies would be either traditional voodoo zombies or more often, corpses come back for revenge. The role of humanoid people-eaters usually went to...
  • The Parody: Mad and Panic.
  • Patriotic Fervor: The townspeople in "The Patriots" lean towards the worse side of this, suspecting a man who sneers at the town's military parade and fails to remove his hat in the presence of an American flag to be a "foreigner" and a "Commie". After they beat him to death, it turns out the so-called Commie was, in fact, a blind American war veteran with facial paralysis - he was actually smiling proudly knowing his old regiment was marching there.
  • Phlegmings: All three hosts had them, but Vault-Keeper in particular was usually depicted with a mouth full of sticky drool, in keeping with Johnny Craig's influential rendition of the character.
  • Picked Flowers Are Dead: The story "Gee, Dad... It's a Daisy!" (Shock SuspenStories #2): "Flowers and plants are alive! Just because they don't cry out doesn't mean they don't feel pain!" This leads to a Space Whale Aesop, with Plant Aliens picking apart a human.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: In "Impending Doom!" (Tales from the Crypt #20), a man comes across a stonecutter cutting his name into a gravestone. The date of birth is his own, and the date of death is today's date, which turns out to be prophetic...
  • Prophecy Twist: In the story "Dead Right!" (Shock SuspenStories #6), a woman marries a rude, fat slob, because a Fortune Teller told her that he will inherit a large amount of money, and die violently soon after. Eventually, she wins twenty-five thousand dollars, and decides to leave her husband. When he hears this, he kills her in a fit of rage. Thus, he inherits her money, and dies violently soon after, when he's executed for the murder.
  • Prospector: One is the central character of "Gas-tly Prospects!", murdered by a claim jumper, he refuses to stay buried... without coming Back from the Dead!
  • Reality Ensues:
  • Robots Enslaving Robots: "Judgment Day" has robots who are prejudiced based on the color of their casings.
  • Second-Person Narration: This shows up from time to time, such as in "The Thing from the Sea", and perhaps most notably in "Master Race".
  • Self-Made Orphan: "The Orphan". She kills her abusive father and frames her mother, who was planning to abandon her.
  • Severed Head Sports: In the story "Foul Play", an evil baseball player is murdered by the members of the opposing team. After killing him, they play a game where they use his head for as the ball, his leg as the bat, his intestines to mark the base liner and his organs to mark the bases. They even use his scalp to dust off home plate.note 
  • Shout-Out: In "Tales from the Crypt #37", one of the stories is named "The Rover Boys", a title directly borrowed from a series of classic books.
    • In "The October Game" (Shock Suspenstories #9), during a family Halloween party, Mitch Wilder, the stories antagonist, invites the young guests into "The Tomb of the Witch" (his cellar), and quips "Abandon Hope...all ye who enter here."
  • Shrunken Head: Haunt of Fear #8 had the story "Diminishing Returns". Greedy New Yorker Vincent Beardsley goes to Ecuador to steal a tribal diamond. When the locals catch on, he sells out his friend, who is made into a shrunken head. Vincent gets his in the end, of course.
  • Spiritual Sequel: Warren Publishing's Creepy and Eerie titles, as well as Stephen King's and George A. Romero's Creepshow.
  • Splatter Horror: The stories used the visual medium to the fullest, illustrating gruesome themes such as cannibalism, murder, live burial, and body horror with the sort of loving detail that the pre-Comics Code era allowed.
  • Suddenly Ethnicity: "Judgment Day".
  • Take Me Out at the Ball Game: "Foul Play"
  • Take Our Word for It: In Crime SupenStories #5, a mystery writer discovers an airtight way to sneak in a house, commit a murder, and sneak out with all doors and windows shut in a locked room. Naturally, although it drives the ensuing plot, the method is never revealed.
  • Time Travelers are Spies: "...For Us the Living" (Weird Fantasy #20) begins with an atomic scientist being arrested as a spy for a foreign power. The scientist admits his identifying documents are all forged because he came from an alternate time-branch in which Abraham Lincoln escaped assassination and brought peace to the world.
  • Twist Ending: Almost all variations, to the point of being the Mandatory Twist Ending. Usually examples of the Karmic Twist Ending.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Although they'd deny it, the GhoulLunatics lean closer to this than anything
  • Walls of Text: Notoriously, the script was always written first, often directly on the storyboard, so that the art was stuck wherever it could fit.
    • This was averted, however, by Harvey Kurtzman who storyboarded his scripts before giving them to other artists. His work employs very different pacing and tone than the other stories.
  • Wham Line: "Caesar!" from Frontline Combat features Julius Caesar's wars and assassination with an emphasis on brutality. At the end, two Roman soldiers previously shown killing children and chopping hands off prisoners comment that it's so nice being civilized.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: "The Precious Years".
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The Bad Santa serial killer in "And All Through the House" is explicitly stated by the radio to never harm children, averting some Fridge Horror regarding the fate of the little girl who unknowingly lets him inside.
  • You Are Not Ready: The ending of "Judgement Day". The story depicts a human astronaut, a representative of the Galactic Republic, visiting the planet Cybrinia inhabited by robots, who are divided into functionally identical orange and blue races, one of which has fewer rights and privileges than the other. The astronaut decides that due to the robots' bigotry, the Galactic Republic should not admit the planet. In the final panel, he removes his helmet, revealing himself to be a black man.

Alternative Title(s): Tales From The Crypt


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