« Got to get into my pajamas… quickly! Got to… oh, Lord… NO! »
High time for some grue! I couldn’t reasonably be expected to shy away from EC’s 50s horror line, now could I? Of Entertaining (formerly “Educational”) Comics’ infamous/legendary trio of “New Trend” horror anthologies, The Vault of Horror surely was the finest. The deciding factor? The meticulous editorship, writing and artwork of Johnny Craig. While Tales From the Crypt and the The Haunt of Fear fed us a steady diet of Jack Davis, ‘Ghastly’ Graham Ingels and *choke* Jack Kamen (grandfather of the Segway, incidentally), with the fourth tale generally handled by Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando or George Evans, or if you got *really* lucky with your dime, Bernie Krigstein, things got stale. It didn’t help that the writing of the Bill Gaines / Al Feldstein duo, despite sporadic excellence, was quite formulaic and oh-so-verbose. Things got kind of claustrophobic for the artists. The Vault of Horror was different enough: Johnny Craig took care of the opening story, and wrote it himself, sparely and with great intelligence. A true breath of fresh air, though I’ll admit it’s an odd thing to say about EC’s gory tales.
This particular cover (depicting a scene from Al Feldstein and Jack Davis’ « Out of His Head ») wasn’t originally slated for publication this way: EC’s attorney wisely insisted that it be toned down. The original version had appeared in house ads, so astute readers knew what they were missing.
To give you a sense of how far along things went before the punch was pulled, here’s the original, circa 1953, Silverprint cover proof in its original version, before being altered for publication. The proof was shot from the original negatives, with the image area reduced to printed size. Marie Severin used watercolours to specify the ink colours to be used.
Finally, the version below was recoloured (from cool to warm!) for Russ Cochran‘s deluxe hardcover reprint set of the 1980s and retained for subsequent Gladstone and Gemstone reprints.