While we certainly appreciate the longform horror tale around here, there’s nothing quite like the short bursts of terror that a great anthology can provide. In the world of horror comic anthologies, there have been many aspiring books that never found their audience. But every now and then, a special one comes along with the power to influence generations. These are the titles that do just that!
So unfortunate that we only got one Creepshow comic — the film adaptation, essentially — but the artwork of Bernie Wrightson (and Michele) and that fantastic cover by EC legend Jack Kamen make it a must for this list. The entire thing ran 64 pages, and like the old ECs, which you will encounter further along in this article, each tale was bookended by a hideous ghoul, in this case The Creep. It would still be awesome to see a comic book company take this idea and run with it, but it’s been 32 years and counting, so we’re not holding our breath.
4. The Witching Hour
The Witching Hour was considerably more prolific than the Creepshow one-shot. Started in 1969 by DC Comics, it had a healthy nine-year run, wrapping up with issue number 85. Since that time, it was brought back in its original form once via a 2013 one-shot. The series gave us the witchy host characters of Mordred, Mildred, and Cynthia (modeled after the Weird Sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth). The trio would later figure in prominently to Neil Gaiman’s legendary Sandman run.
Creepy was Warren Publishing’s first horror anthology hit. Shortly, it was joined by Eerie, based solely on the fact that Jim Warren thought Creepy needed an “adversary.”
“The Laurel and Hardy syndrome always appealed to me,” Warren said. “Creepy and Eerie are like Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre.” (Or the Crypt-Keeper and his two adversarial GhouLunatics.)
Each issue of both these series had multiple stories, usually punctuated by the twist ending you would expect from such titles. Dark Horse has since relaunched both with new stories. They’ve also published some collected editions of the original releases.
2. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Epic Comics released a number of Hellraiser and Hellraiser-related comics, but for our purposes, we’re referring to the original series that began in 1989 and ended in 1992 (20 issues total). Barker served as a consultant on the series, and it shows in the dense storytelling and rich visualization. While you will recognize some of the creatures from the films — yes, Pinhead included — the books focused on individual short stories, many of them straight adaptations of Barker’s own work. If you were expecting something along the lines of the schlocky horror films, you would be surprised (though not disappointed). The series has since made a comeback via BOOM! Studios, with Barker once again involved. (That makes it a must-buy for those of you keeping score.)
1. Tales From The Crypt/The Vault Of Horror/The Haunt Of Fear
EC’s entire horror line were absolute essentials. While each book was distinguishable based on the GhouLunatic in charge and whichever artist was responsible for illustrating the stories, the Crypt-Keeper, Vault-Keeper, and Old Witch, guest-starred in each other’s books, so it was really like getting three issues of the same title every release date. In all, there were 87 issues (30 of Crypt, 29 of Vault, and 28 of Haunt) before the holier-than-thous convinced store owners to stop carrying the books for fear that they would create juvenile delinquents. Crypt came back in 2007 through kids’ publisher Papercutz, but only made it to issue 13. The originals did influence a generation of authors and filmmakers, though, and eventually led to the successful seven-season series on HBO as well as three feature films and a Saturday morning cartoon.
Those are our picks for the best ever horror comic anthologies. Did we leave any off?