Nine years after Bill Gaines was forced to shelve EC Comics’ horror, crime, and sci-fi titles due to creative restrictions enforced by the Comics Code Authority, Ballantine reprinted a number of the original tales in five volumes published between 1964 and 1966: Tales from the Crypt (1964), The Vault of Horror (1965), Tales of the Incredible (1965), The Autumn People (1965), and Tomorrow Midnight (1966). Frazetta, who had worked briefly for EC in the ’50s, painted the covers for the whole series. Original art for The Autumn People and Tomorrow Midnight are below. You can see all the volumes together here.
Although the stories were in black and white and awkwardly laid out due to the smaller paperback format, the series is notable because it marked the first time the comics had been anthologized, thus introducing a new generation, already developing a taste for what would eventually be called speculative fiction, to the visceral and groundbreaking (pun intended) work of EC.
The following year, Ballantine would release the first authorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings, probably the single most important event in the popularization of the fantasy genre. Starting in 1969, Ballantine struck again with the remarkable Adult Fantasy series, which gave H.P. Lovecraft, William Hope Hodgson, Clark Ashton Smith, William Morris, Lord Dunsany, and several other genre pioneers the lofty status they hold today.