Writers: Mark Bilgrey, Rob Vollmar, Neil Kleid, Don McGregor, Jim Salicrup
Artists: Mr. Exes, Tim Smith 3, Laurie E. Smith, Steve Mannion, Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman, Rick Parker
It’s difficult to believe that E.C.’s Tales from the Crypt only lasted from 1950-55, given the infamy of its legacy. Often held accountable, amongst others, with the end of the horror comic genre, the children’s book burning frenzy of 50s USA, the creation of the comic code, and the resurgence of superhero books, the series is strangely enough now adored by more than it is reviled. That’s nostalgia for ya.
Papercutz, a new children’s comic publisher formed by former Marvel editor Jim Salicrup, seem to have a good idea of who Tales form the Crypt is aimed at, and this anthology series definitely benefits from being directed at a younger audience. Whereas the Crypt TV show and homages such as Creepshow took the premise to gratuitous extremes, here the stories must rely on inventive ideas and off-screen/panel suggestion; which in my mind has always been the more effective approach to horror.
Presented in a small digest format, Ghouls Gone Wild! features four 20 page tales, strung together by the cosily familiar Crypt Keeper links, which self-depreciatively strive for new levels of cringe-worthy punnery. The tales vary in quality and tone but are consistently entertaining in the way that only these kinds of horrid parables could possibly be.
First up is ‘Body of work,’ in which a couple plot to steal their artist neighbour’s valuable but lifeless portraits – lifeless in that they are paintings of corpses, muwhahaha! Sorry, that won’t happen again. The weakest of the four tales, it doesn’t really have any point to it, but Mr. Exes’ art plays the thing like some crazy, drug-fuelled Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Next we have ‘For serious collectors only,’ in which Donnelly Will, a grown man living in his mother’s basement who collects action figured and model kits, goes to vile extremities to obtain a rare Japanese toy. I can only imagine that younger readers will scoff at Donnelly’s objectives, while secretly wanting a basement full of crap themselves. Take it from someone who learnt the hard way, kids, staying at home so you can spend your extra disposable income on colourful plastic tat will only lead to a life of solitude and misery.
The most conventional of this quartet, ‘Tenant’ sees the sort of gleefully cheapskate landlord who could only exist in a book like this spend a month in one of his own buildings after one of his elderly tenant dies from hypothermia. Naturally, an educational haunting ensues. Wonderfully illustrated by Sho Murase, the inappropriately tiled ‘Runaway Roadkill’ rounds off the bunch. It’s an odd Devil Wears Prada inspired morality play, as a bitchy fashion designer resorts to murder to keep at the top of her game.
This first volume in Tale from the Crypt’s revival is disposable fun that’s as agreeable as it is underwhelming. Papercutz definitely has the right idea with the franchise, and at just under $8 these tiny tomes are pretty good value.