EC Crime & Horror Comics: Key Issues & Classic Covers
With so many ECs (Entertaining Comics) out there, it’s tough for folks to know what to look for, what is available and what is considered a key or classic cover. I will try and address these questions and provide a basic guide to the Horror Titles put out by EC Comics in the 1950s before the Senate Hearings, SOTI and the formation of the Comic Book Code put an end to it.
While purists consider Crypt of Terror/Tales from, Haunt of Fear and Vault of Horror to be the true EC Horror comics, I am including a few others as well as the reprint annuals and 3-Ds as there is just too much great material in there to be ignored. Some issues are “Keys” due to a classic cover, a first appearance or were referenced in Seduction of the Innocent (SOTI, published in 1954 by German-American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, claiming Comics were contributing to juvenile delinquency). This along with a series of US Senate Hearings on comics led to the formation of the Comics Code Authority (as an alternate to government regulation), censoring everything from the gruesome to the mild. This included everything from the extreme subject matter such as decapitation panels to things as mild as Vampires and Werewolves. EC Comics played a major role in the forming of the CCA, thus there are a lot of books referenced in either SOTI or the US Senate Hearings.
Crime Patrol :: Formerly International #1-5, International Crime Patrol #6, 10 Issues
A must have Key 1st App for any EC collector. This book rarely comes to market and when it does.. The sky’s the limit.
Issue 16 features the 2nd appearance of The Crypt Keeper and the series changes its title to Crypt of Terror for issue #17.
Crime Suspenstories :: Formerly Vault of Horror, 27 Issues
#22. Probably the most iconic of all the EC Classic Covers, it features an amazing Johnny Craig Decapitation cover. An absolute must have for Pre Code Horror(PCH) collectors and EC collectors.
Collectors also seem to like issue #15(1) a few copies were released with “#15 formerly Vault of Horror” blackened out and “No.1” printed over it. The rest were printed as #1 and No.1 on the inside front cover.
Lots of other great material in this run, but those are the 2 keys.
Crypt of Terror :: Formerly Crime Patrol, 3 Issues
Issue 17 is officially the first of the “New Trend” comic to hit the stands, tied with Vault of Horror #12(#1) and the first Horror Comic by EC.
Issues 18 and 19 are tough finds as well.
All 3 books command decent money when brought to market, especially in mid grade or higher.
Haunt of Fear :: Formerly Gunfighter, 28 Issues
Issue 16(#2) features the debut of the Old Witch who is the host of the HOF.
#14 Features the Origin of the Old Witch and a classic Ingels cover.
Some other classic covers in here depending on your taste, but the issues listed above are the true gems of the series.
Shock Suspenstories :: 18 Issues
#6 is another iconic “KKKish” bondange cover.
#7 is another classic cover featuring an intense “Face Melting”.
#12 is the classic hypodermic needle junkie cover for the feature story “The Monkey”
Again, depending on your taste, lots of other great covers in here that can be had for a fraction of what you will pay for the 3 books listed above.
Tales from the Crypt :: Formerly The Crypt of Terror, 27 Issues
Issue #20 is the first of the series.
Issue #28 Classic “Buried Alive” Cover.
Issue #33 features the origin of The Crypt Keeper.
Issue #37 is a great Zombie Cover
Issue #42 sports a great vampire staking cover.
Tons of great covers in this run, easy to grab some of the non keys, but tough to complete this run.
Tales of Terror Annual , 3 Issues : 1951, 1952, 1953
It should be noted, the first 2 are IMPOSSIBLE to find, while the third issue from 1953 seems somewhat common but still expensive compared to some other issues.
In my opinion a must have for true EC collectors, good luck finding these though.
Three Dimensional EC Classics :: 1 Issue
Again, reprints here, but reprinted in “3-D” format. Just tough to find outside of low grade and incomplete.
Three Dimensional Tales From the Crypt of Terror :: Formerly 3D EC Classics, 1 Issue
Same as it’s predecessor very tough to find any copy outside of the very low grades, complete copies are near impossible without paying big money for this one shot due to the glasses.
Though I like the cover to 3-D EC Classics more, this is still worth grabbing if you can find it.
Vault of Horror :: Formerly War Against Crime, 29 Issues
Of note would be issue #12(#1) which is not only scarce in all grades but also ties Crypt of Terror #17 as the first Horror Comic.
Issue #17 sports a classic werewolf cover by Johnny Craig.
#30 has a classic dismemberment cover.
#35 has a classic but really fucked up Johnny Craig Christmas Cover.
The rest of this run, like the other main 3 titles, has some great covers and is certainly worth checking out.
One last thing to note, a few years ago the Gaines File Copies of EC’s hit the market, almost all slabbed by CGC. This resulted in a quick market correction on almost all high grade EC books as Gaines had been stashing more than 10 of almost every comic printed under his watch. Prices are starting to rebound though and just like Silver Age Superhero books, it is driving the price of the low graders up.
For those interested, Bill Gaines was a publisher and Editor for EC Comics in the 1950’s through the Mad Magazine boom.