Having heard about the infamous line of EC Comics for years, I was thrilled to finally get a chance to read some of them in the early 1990's, when Gladstone Comics began reprinting them in conjunction with Russ Cochran (who owns all of the EC artwork). Sadly, Cochran soon "took his ball and went home" before the entire line could be reprinted, but I had collected enough of them to get a good taste of what those old stories were like (without spending an arm and a leg).
On the whole, I enjoyed the sense of dread and the dashes of dark humor that permiated EC's horror, crime, and weird science fiction comics. Of course, the hallmark of the stories were their shock endings, often accompanied by a stiff jolt of irony or poetic justice.
Although most of the six to eight-page stories were soon forgotten, one of them managed to make a lasting impression. With a little judicious editing, I think it'll make a perfect addition to the Halloween season's Highlight Reel!
Originally published in The Vault of Horror #34 (1953) and illustrated by the great Johnny Craig, "Star Light, Star Bright" is the horror story I've never quite fogotten. At the outset, it should be noted that the story was created in an era when views toward the mentally ill were "uncharitable" to say the least. Still, even today, attitudes toward severe mental illness are conflicted...and it's this degree of mystery and unpredictability surrounding it that I think still fuels the horror of this story. This is exactly the kind of "taboo" subject matter that rocketed the EC stories into the public imagination (and eventually got them into trouble), and why this particular story continues to creep me out like no other."Star Light, Star Bright" opens on the grounds of Dethmoor Asylum at the funeral of its most recent administrator. Attending the funeral are the new administrator Hartley Quimb, various staff members, and a host of the asylum's inmates...who pay their respects in a very disturbing manner (click on the left hand set of panels for a larger view).
In the right hand set of panels, Hartley returned to the asylum and learns that his predecessor was killed by the inmates after he took away their "funeral privileges". Understandably, the news sends Hartley's mind reeling, as the "hate-filled eyes" of the inmates drive him to the peace and calm of his private quarters...
Visions of the funeral Hartley had witnessed earlier that day flashed through his mind as the busy inmates continued with their shocking, bizarre ritual...
The macabre procession continued their march through the asylum grounds, ending up just where the frantic Mr. Quimb feared he would. Was this real...or only a nightmare? Read the last two excerpts to find out!
That leering, gap-toothed maniac peering into the "skylight"?
Yeah....now can you see why this tale has haunted me all these years?