#26: THE CRYPT-KEEPER

cryptkeeper.jpg (16655 bytes)

Any comic book historian, or horror afficianado will agree that Tales from The Crypt, published in the 50s by EC Comics, is one of the cooler examples of scary fiction, comic book or not, ever produced.  The anthology, along with similar titles like The Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear, were canceled after they were determined to be the corrupting influence of America's youth (granted this was before videogames, rap music, and heavy metal got their chokehold on kids), by an overly conservative government who were looking at anything other than shitty parenting and lousy schools to blame. 

Under the face of growing pressure, an organization called "The Comics Code Authority" was formed in 1954 to regulate the content of the industry.  Of course, books like Superman and Batman weren't the problem, it was those darn EC Horror and Crime books!  As this section of the Comics code shows, it was clearly designed to put EC out of business.

General Standards Part B

1. No comics magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.
2. All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
3. All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
4. Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
5. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism and werewolfism are prohibited.

EC Comics was toast.  This was before independent distribution (and comic book stores, for that matter) existed, so if you had a comic that wasn't approved by "The Code", no store would have a chance to sell it.  EC tried to stay around with medical fiction, some war books, and even a cool series called Piracy, but they were decimated.  If it weren't for a little book called Mad Magazine, they would have disappeared forever.

But I digress.  This is about The Crypt Keeper, who you can see in this picture, in his original incarnation.  The Crypt-Keeper is important as was the prototype horror comic host.  His introductions and witty wrap ups to the stories worked tremendously well and were copied like crazy throughout the years.  Not only did The Crypt Keeper lead the way for other hosts like The Old Witch, and Vault Keeper in his own company's books, but DC comics followed suit with Cain and Abel in the House of Mystery and House of Secrets comics respectively. 

The Cryptkeeper was making wiseass spooky comments like, "It looks like these Goblin Seamen will soon be Gobblin SEMEN!" long before Vampira and Elvira ever did.  He even beat Rod Serling to the punch, 7 years before The Twilight Zone went on the air.  TThe film Creepshow by Stephen King and George Romero is a great homage to the comic, and you could even argue that Freddie Krueger's wisecracks were influenced by CK.

In 1972 a Tales From The Crypt movie was made with Peter Cushing and Joan Collins, but The Crypt-Keeper was nowhere to be seen.

Despite his legacy, he wasn't heard from again for nearly 35 years until HBO launched the remarkable Tales From The Crypt series which featured many A-list directors adapting the original stories (which were so damn good when they first came out, they were barely even changed).

The Crypt-Keeper got more popular than ever before!  There were toys, cookie jars, pinball machines, rap CDs, an Christmas album, and even soap holders.  At one point, he even got his own Saturday Morning Cartoon "Tales From the Cryptkeeper", which despite being toned down for kids, kept his  wicked wit intact.

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And after a long run, the series gave way to Tales From The Crypt labeled movies like Bordello of Blood, and Demon Knight.  You just can't keep a good Cryptkeeper down!


Bizarro Shopping Zone

I highly recommend this great paperback collection of Bizarro stories from Amazon, at $3 off the cover price for $11.95 .  I bought it a year ago and have read it several times already, it's great laugh out loud comedy that hasn't been in comic books for decades.  And the Jaime "Love and Rockets" Hernandez cover is an added treat!

 

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