Publication Dates: April-May 1950 – December 1954-January 1955
Number of Issues Published: 29 (#12 – #40)
Dimensions: standard Silver Age US
Publishing Format: was ongoing series
Publication Type: magazine
Numbering continues from War Against Crime! (EC, 1948 series) #11
Information thanks to the Grand Comic Database
Most issues are reprints with different numbering
The Vault of Horror was a bi-monthly horror comic anthology series published by EC Comics in the early 1950s. Along with Tales from the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear, it formed a trifecta of popular EC horror anthologies. The Vault of Horror hit newsstands with its April/May 1950 issue and ceased publication with its December/January 1955 issue, producing a total of 29 issues.
Horror comics emerged as a distinct comic book genre after World War II when young adult males lost interest in caped crimebusters and returning GIs wanted more potent themes in their reading. One-shot Eerie (1947) is generally considered the first true horror comic with its cover depicting a dagger-wielding, red-eyed ghoul threatening a rope-bound, scantily clad, voluptuous young woman beneath a full moon. In 1948, Adventures Into the Unknown became the first regularly published horror title, enjoying a nearly two decade lifespan.
In 1950, Gaines and his editor Al Feldstein discovered they shared similar tastes in horror and began experimenting with such stories in EC’s crime comic War Against Crime and its companion title, Crime Patrol. With issue #12 the War Against Crime title was replaced with The Vault of Horror. The Vault-Keeper became the title’s sardonic host and commentator, occasionally sharing duties with the Old Witch and the Crypt-Keeper. Due to an attempt to save money on second-class postage permits, characteristic of comics publishing of the era, the numbering did not change with the title; the first issue of The Vault of Horror was thus labelled “No. 12”. There is, however, evidence of an intention to reset the series’ numbering with the fourth issue (#15), as was done with The Haunt of Fear (the numbering of which was reset, yet also “continued” by Two-Fisted Tales: a few copies survive of the first issue of Crime SuspenStories with a different indicia on the inside front cover. As the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide explains: “#15 (formerly The Vault of Horror)” printed and blackened out on inside front cover with “Vol.1, No.1″ printed over it. Evidently, several of No.15 were printed before a decision was made not to drop the Vault of Horror and Haunt of Fear series. The print run was stopped on No.15 and continued on No.1. All of the No.15 issues were changed as described above.”
Like its horror companion titles, Tales from the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror had its own distinctive qualities and atmosphere—in this case, created by its main artist, Johnny Craig. Craig illustrated all the covers for the entire run and was responsible for the lead story of all but issues #13 and #33. He also wrote all his own stories (save two) in Vault, something rarely done at EC, and became editor with issue #35 (February, 1954). Gaines and Feldstein wrote almost every other story until late 1953/early 1954 when outside writers Carl Wessler and Jack Oleck were brought in. Other contributing artists to The Vault of Horror were Feldstein, George Evans, Jack Kamen, Wally Wood, Graham Ingels, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Sid Check, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, Bernard Krigstein, Harry Harrison and Howard Larsen.