Tales from the Crypt is one of the most beloved horror franchises of all time. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most poorly managed.
Started as a horror anthology comic book series in 1950 by William Gaines and Al Feldstein, it inspired a generation of authors, artists, and filmmakers, including Stephen King, Richard Donner, and George Romero.
Submitted as evidence are Creepshow, the 1982 horror anthology film from King and Romero, and obviously, the HBO hit series of the 1990s.
— Tales from the Crypt (@CryptKeeper1225) April 19, 2017
It was the HBO version of the Crypt Keeper host, who would become a pop culture icon as the series spread into film with moderate feature-length successes Bordello of Blood and Demon Knight. That’s also when the comic books found new life as full-color reprints from Gladstone (later Gemstone) Publishing.
Unfortunately, after the seventh and final season of the series, everything took a turn for the worst. The series went away. The comic books dried up. A third and final feature in Tales from the Crypt Presents Ritual went largely unseen and unnoticed.
It wasn’t until the last two years that talk of a new series picked up steam with M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Split) taking the reins.
In the meantime, the comic imprint Papercutz attempted a reboot of the series in print with completely new stories. There was reason for hope.
But rights to Tales from the Crypt are notoriously sketchy. Earlier this year, TNT, the network behind the planned TFTC television reboot, graciously referred to the underlying rights as “complicated.”
“TNT and others have been pursuing a solution for more than a year, with significant progress being made. We look forward to the potential for further active development of this valuable franchise once the clearance process is fully resolved,” the network said in a statement reported here by BirthMoviesDeath.
Let that sink in. A major network (TNT) and a resurgent horror director with a string of critical and box-office hits behind him (Shyamalan), has to “look forward to the potential for further active development.”
While there has been “progress,” if you believe the statement, it does not change the fact that what once was a sure thing set to premiere as part of a horror programming block with a major director attached is now “delayed.”
And lest you think this is on the hopeful licensees, it is important to realize this statement came from them, not the actual rights holders of Tales from the Crypt.
They’ve been M.I.A., and it’s not even particularly clear who those people are.
Things are not much better on the print side.
Since the comic was “revived” in 2009, Papercutz has produced only 14 issues — 13 on the initial run ending in 2010 and one in 2016.
The first attempt was a well-meaning misfire aimed at all ages — a group that was even younger than the 1950s target demo. Super Genius, an associated imprint, attempted to right the wrong with last year’s inaugural reboot issue, but it’s been over five months and issue two still hasn’t turned up.
That is pretty much a death knell to a comic book series because readers demand and expect consistency. They want to know a book is going to be around longer than 30 days before investing their time and money and the risk of getting attached.
— Wayne@CrystalGhost (@Wcrystalghost) April 19, 2017
While you could lay blame at Papercutz’s door for this, rights holders — particularly rights holders of valuable and influential properties like Tales from the Crypt — hold a duty to the property to be urgent and vet partnerships properly. The fact Papercutz could be allowed to play in this sandbox with such a poor track record of consistency and success and an award-winning network and director cannot, despite their eagerness to do so, tells you everything you need to know about where the issues with Tales from the Crypt are.
But unfortunately for the Crypt Keeper and his legions of fans, owners can’t be fired.
[Featured Image by HBO]