Thursday, January 31, 2013

"The Howling Man"

The Howling Man (Robin Hughes) pleads for his freedom with
stranded traveler David Ellington (H.M. Wynant)
"The Howling Man"
Season Two, Episode 41
Original Air Date: November 4, 1960

David Ellington: H.M. Wynant
Brother Jerome: John Carradine
The Howling Man: Robin Hughes
Brother Christophorus: Frederic Ledebur
Housekeeper: Ezelle Poule

Writer: Charles Beaumont (based on his story)
Director: Douglas Heyes
Producer: Buck Houghton
Associate Producer: Del Reisman
Production Managers: Ralph W. Nelson and Sidney Van Keuren
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Ethel Winant
Sound: Franklin Milton and Charles Scheid
Music: Stock
Makeup: MGM Makeup Department (William Tuttle, supervisor)

And Now, Mr. Serling:
"Down this hall is a very strange individual locked in a room. He's known by various names and by various forms and next week on The Twilight Zone you'll be close to the elbow of the people who let him out. Our story is called 'The Howling Man' by Mr. Charles Beaumont. It's designed for the young in heart but strong in nerve. I hope we'll see you next week along with 'The Howling Man.' Thank you and good night."

 Rod Serling's Opening Narration:

"The prostrate form of Mr. David Ellington, scholar, seeker of truth, and, regrettably, finder of truth. A man who will shortly arise from his exhaustion to confront a problem that has tormented mankind since the beginning of time. A man who knocked on a door seeking sanctuary and found instead the outer edges of The Twilight Zone."

            "It's an incredible story. I of all people know this. And you won't believe me. No, not at first. But I'm going to tell you the whole thing. Then you will believe because you must. You must believe."
So begins David Ellington's story of how, after the first World War, he became lost in a storm during a walking tour of central Europe. Coming upon a remote hermitage, he begs entry and is allowed to see Brother Jerome, the leader of an order of monks who reside in the hermitage. Ellington is alarmed when he hears strange howling sounds from somewhere within the hermitage. When confronted by Brother Jerome, Ellington explains his situation and asks for shelter and food. Jerome firmly tells him that the brotherhood cannot help him and Ellington will have to leave the hermitage immediately. Shocked by Jerome's lack of empathy, Ellington slowly makes his leave but is unable to reach the door before collapsing unconscious upon the floor.
            Upon waking, Ellington again hears the strange howling and tracks the sound to a small cell with a barred door. Within the cell is a young, thin, bearded man who begs Ellington for help in releasing him. The prisoner tells Ellington that Brother Jerome and the others in the hermitage are insane and have imprisoned him here against his will. Ellington tells the prisoner that he will speak to Brother Jerome and this only sends the prisoner into panic. "Jerome," says the prisoner, "is the maddest one of all."

            When Ellington confronts Brother Jerome, the old monk attempts to convince Ellington that he has not seen or spoken to a man at all. The howling which Ellington hears again and again Brother Jerome pretends not to hear at all. It is only when Ellington threatens to involve the authorities in the matter that Jerome relents and tells Ellington the truth. The man in the cell is the Devil, himself!
            Ellington is reluctant to believe the incredible story but tells Jerome that he does believe. Jerome sees through the lie and attempts to explain to Ellington how he and the brotherhood came to be the wardens of the Devil. The herding staff which all the members of the order carry represent "truth," which is, in Jerome's words, the greatest weapon against the Devil. It is but a meager wooden staff which holds closed the door of the Devil's cell. Jerome pursued the Devil across the world and finally managed to trap him. Ellington again tells Jerome that he believes. This time, unfortunately, Jerome believes him.

            Later in the night, Ellington leaves his room against Jerome's orders by stealing the key to the locked bedroom door from the neck of the sleeping Brother Christophus. Ellington rushes to the prison cell to free the man within. In a moment before he frees the prisoner, Ellington notices that it is only a thin piece of wood, the staff of truth, which holds the door closed. It is something which can easily be removed by the prisoner. It is the last questioning moment that Ellington will have and to remove the staff seems to be a difficult act. Once the staff is removed, Ellington learns the terrible truth. The man in the cell really is the Devil and he quickly escapes from the hermitage.
            Years later, after the second World War and the Korean War and the development of new weapons of mass destruction, Ellington manages to recapture the Devil. He keeps the prisoner locked in a room in his home, barred only by a small wooden staff. He plans on transporting the Devil back to Brother Jerome at the hermitage. It is not to be. Though the whole tale has been a tale of warning to Elllington's housekeeper, whom he leaves in charge of his home while he is off making arrangements to move the Devil back to Brother Jerome, the housekeeper, upon hearing the howling from behind the closed door, cannot resist removing the staff once Ellington has left. The door opens to darkness but we know what waits there in the dark.

 Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"Ancient folk saying: 'You can catch the Devil but you can't hold him long.' Ask Brother Jerome. Ask David Ellington. They know, and they'll go on knowing to the end of their days and beyond, in The Twilight Zone."


           “A man was in the cell. On all fours, circling like a beast, his head thrown back, a man. The moonlight showed his face. It cannot be described – not, at least, by me. A man past death might look like this, a victim of the Inquisition rack, the stake, the pincers: not a human in the third decade of the twentieth century, surely. I had never seen such suffering within two eyes, such lost, mad suffering. Naked, he crawled about the dirt, cried, leaped up to his feet and clawed the hard stone walls in fury.
            Then he saw me.”

                                    -“The Howling Man” by Charles Beaumont 

            With "The Howling Man," The Twilight Zone ventured directly into Gothic horror in bravura style, complete with an old European abbey, a thunderous storm, a lost traveler, and a confrontation with the ultimate enemy of mankind. "The Howling Man" succeeds on every level, from the script, direction, photography, and casting to the makeup and set design. Even the stock music, which includes pieces from regular series contributors Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann, is used effectively. Its imagery makes it one of the most recognizable episodes of the series, with its unusual atmosphere, a memorable monster, and its frequent broadcasts in The Twilight Zone syndication packages. The episode remains one of the crowning achievements not only of the second season but of the entire series. It is a triumph for writer Charles Beaumont and director Douglas Heyes, and definitively displayed, with its early second season broadcast, that Rod Serling's series was capable of producing engaging fantasy on television that held appeal across a range of viewer demographics. The episode is not flawless but it is one of a handful of episodes that maintain the show's unique cultural identity, familiar as it is even among those who have never seen the episode.
            The genesis of the episode begins with Charles Beaumont's original short story, published in the November, 1959 issue of Rogue, a men's magazine (one of many that appeared in the wake of Hugh Hefner's Playboy) that was fortunate enough to briefly have as its editors a pair of talented American writers who specialized in speculative fiction, Harlan Ellison and Frank M. Robinson. The story was later reprinted in Beaumont’s collection Night Ride and Other Journeys (Bantam, 1960). The story has become a classic of its type, its influence boosted by its adaptation on The Twilight Zone. It has often been reprinted and served as the title story of Beaumont's career retrospective, Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories, when that limited edition volume was published in paperback as The Howling Man by Tor Books in 1992. It is a core work in Beaumont's relatively small but highly influential body of work.
            At the time the story was published, Beaumont was on a monthly retainer from Playboy for first refusal rights to his fiction. Ray Russell, a fringe member of the group of writers who coalesced around Beaumont, was the fiction editor of Playboy at the time. Beaumont was also writing nostalgic essays for Playboy, many of which were written in collaboration with Twilight Zone writers Jerry Sohl and OCee Ritch and later collected in Remember, Remember? (Macmillan, 1963).                 
           Because of his close association with Playboy, Beaumont was strongly discouraged from submitting his work to competing periodicals if he hoped to continue to sell to Hefner's high-paying magazine. Beaumont resorted to using pseudonyms to place his work with other periodicals. Beaumont had already sold several nonfiction pieces to Rogue, including personality profiles under the uniform title, "Rogue of Distinction" (a series Beaumont shepherded from 1956-1959), and articles on automobile racing (in collaboration with William F. Nolan), all written without a byline or under the pseudonym Michael Phillips. "The Howling Man" was first submitted to Playboy but the magazine turned it down (Hefner allegedly didn't care for the story). Beaumont took the story from the Chicago offices of Playboy to the nearby offices of Rogue in Evanston, Illinois. Fiction editor Harlan Ellison (recently discharged from the Army and well into his professional writing career) knew the Beaumont story was a gem and published it in the November, 1959 issue of Rogue under the pseudonym "C.B. Lovehill," a play on Beaumont's name. Other Beaumont stories appeared in Rogue under the Lovehill pseudonym. The December, 1960 issue saw the Lovehill byline on a story titled "Dead, You Know," and, some months earlier, in the April, 1960 issue of Rogue, another story appeared by Lovehill, the short fantasy "Gentlemen, Be Seated." Beaumont later adapted this story into a teleplay for the fifth season of The Twilight Zone before William Froug, the show's final producer, shelved it. The script can be read in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One, edited by Roger Anker (Gauntlet Press, 2004).
            Though the original plot of "The Howling Man" short story is retained for the adaptation on The Twilight Zone, the differences between the two versions are numerous. Generally speaking, Beaumont, and the production crew, improved upon the short story with nearly every change incorporated into the adaptation. There are subtle changes, such as Father Jerome in the story becoming Brother Jerome in the episode. The shepherding staffs which the inhabitants of the hermitage carry do not exist in the story. The door to the prisoner's cell is therefore kept closed using a simple lock and not the "staff of truth," the one barrier the Devil cannot pass. Beaumont's original script described the members of the hermitage as carrying large crosses but director Douglas Heyes was against using this because he did not think it wise to use a distinctly religious symbol for fear of a backlash among viewers. The image of the staff was substituted for the cross. The sounds of the Howling Man are referred to as screams in the short story. Due to the nature of the literary medium, a reader need not dwell on the specific nature of the sound as that aspect is left purely to the reader's imagination. The Howling Man is, in fact, seen howling, or screaming, in the short story and director Douglas Heyes wisely avoided showing Robin Hughes making the howling noises in the episode as this would have not only been incredibly difficult to convincingly execute, but would certainly have destroyed the carefully built tension and atmosphere. 
            Other changes are more significant. As originally written, the true nature of the prisoner in the cell is more ambiguous. Beaumont chose to reveal the Devil only as a single cloven hoof descending over the abbey wall as the Devil makes his escape. Even with this approach it is never clear, even at the end of the story, whether Ellington has truly released the Devil upon the world or simply been the victim of strong suggestion by the religious fanatics that live in the abbey. It is, however, suggested that Ellington did indeed release the Devil as what follows is World War II and all the horrors resultant of that terrible conflict. The ending of the short story, equally ambiguous, concludes with Ellington receiving a postcard from Brother Christophorus which reads: "Rest now, my son. We have him back with us again." Elllington, as filmed for The Twilight Zone, becomes obsessed with recapturing the Devil and getting him back to Brother Jerome and accomplishes the feat himself.
            For The Twilight Zone, Beaumont wanted, with the appearance and escape of the Devil, to retain the original story's version. He wanted the glimpse of a cloven hoof descending over the wall and the look upon Ellington's face to be confirmation enough for the audience. Douglas Heyes felt this was not enough and disliked the ambiguous nature of the ending. Heyes began his career while still a teenager working as an artist for Walt Disney Studios. The visual artist within knew that they needed to show and not merely suggest what the entire episode built toward. The result was a literal transformation of actor Robin Hughes into the archetypal image of the Devil using makeup and photographic techniques. The result has split many viewers, some of whom do not like the literal transformation. Though most viewers agree, including us here in the Vortex, that a transformation needed to happen and not simply be suggested, some writers have criticized the makeup as too literal and unimaginative. It's really a pointless argument as the entire episode is filmed and acted in an exaggerated manner and if the viewer accepts John Carradine's wonderful, yet over-the-top, performance as the staff wielding, white bearded, bass-toned Brother Jerome, then the viewer should accept the literal version of the Devil.

            Though the makeup is a bit pedestrian (in concept if not execution), the transformation of Robin Hughes into the Devil is one of the finest technical achievements of the series. Though Douglas Heyes has been interviewed on the subject more than once, his version of the design and genesis of the effect varied. In an early interview with Marc Scott Zicree, conducted in the late 1970s, while Zicree was researching his pioneering book, The Twilight Zone Companion (1982), Heyes does not credit any major film source for the technique, though it is obvious to those well-versed in the genre which films the director and his crew borrowed from. Heyes would amend his statements on the effects for "The Howling Man" in later interviews and would rightly credit the two films from which the techniques were derived, 1931's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Paramount (starring Fredric March, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, with makeup by Wally Westmore and cinematography by Karl Struss) and 1935's Werewolf of London from Universal Studios (starring Henry Hull, directed by Stuart Walker, with makeup by Jack Pierce and photographic effects by John P. Fulton). Heyes does make two small errors when he further states that Dr. Jekyll's transformation into Mr. Hyde (in the 1931 film version) was a stationary, lap dissolve technique in the mold of Universal's The Wolf Man from 1941 (it was not), and that Henry Hull walks up a staircase for his transformation in 1935's Werewolf of London (he begins by descending a staircase but the transformation occurs while the actor walks through a garden, concealed and then revealed by a line a trees). Heyes does not take credit for the idea to use these specific techniques, however, and credits the achievement to photographer George T. Clemens and makeup supervisor William Tuttle.
            The transformation effects in the episode were achieved two-fold. The first part of the transformation occurs immediately after Ellington has released the Devil from his cell. A distinct physical change comes across the facial features of actor Robin Hughes. This effect was achieved using the same method that changed Kevin McCarthy from a young man to an old man in a matter of seconds in Beaumont's first season episode, "Long Live Walter Jameson." This is a process by which makeup is applied to the actor is a specific hue and color filters are used to first conceal and then reveal the makeup. In this case, red makeup was applied to Hughes's face. A red filter over the camera concealed the makeup until the transformation was scripted to happen. The red filter was then removed and replaced with a green filter, thus revealing the red makeup in a dark hue and giving the illusion of a transformation. This also allowed the actor to be in motion at the time of the transformation and did not require the technique of a stationary lap dissolve with photographic editing to be used. The color filter process, which is only effective in black-and-white cinematography, was perfected by makeup artist Wally Westmore, photographer Karl Struss, and director Rouben Mamoulian for the aforementioned 1931 horror classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The transformation of Fredric March (co-winner of a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in the film) from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde is still one of the most impressive transformations and makeups in the history of film.
            The second portion of the transformation was a technique taken from another horror film of the 1930s, a production from the preeminent horror film studio, Universal Studios, and their first foray into lycanthropy, the 1935 film Werewolf of London. The film featured a minimal werewolf makeup designed by head of the Universal makeup department Jack Pierce. The reason for the minimal makeup design is often erroneously given as the fact that actor Henry Hull was not a willing participant for heavy makeup and Jack Pierce was forced to alter his vision for the werewolf, not unveiling his full version for another six years, in 1941, with The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney, Jr. In truth, Hull was more than willing to undergo heavy makeup and often used his own makeup designs to turn himself into Edgar Allan Poe or Mark Twain for a stage production or a film. The true reason the werewolf makeup is minimal in Werewolf of London is that Hull's character was supposed to be recognized by the other characters in the film when he was in werewolf form and Pierce's heavy makeup would have made that recognition all but impossible. 
            Werewolf of London displayed an innovative transformation sequence designed by Academy Award-winning special effects photographer John P. Fulton. Henry Hull began his first transformation into a werewolf as he exited his home and began to make his way to his private laboratory across a garden. The transformation occurred as the actor's image was first concealed and then revealed as he moved across a line of trees. It was achieved by photographing the actor in progressing stages of makeup while walking the same path and using the same camera speed for multiple takes. The effect was completed by editing the footage together to create the appearance of one continuous take, thus creating the transformation. Director Heyes and photographer George T. Clemens did the same thing for "The Howling Man." Actor Robin Hughes walked down the abbey corridor behind a line of pillars, first concealed and then revealed. Heyes and Clemens's version is much faster and cleanly edited but they had nearly thirty years to perfect the process. John P. Fulton, a two-time Academy Award winner, also created the astounding photographic effects for Universal's The Invisible Man series of films. Jack Pierce created numerous makeups for Universal in the 1930s and 1940s, including Boris Karloff's makeup for Frankenstein and The Mummy, and Lon Chaney, Jr.'s makeup for the aforementioned The Wolf Man. Pierce was unceremoniously fired by Universal in the late 1940's and replaced with Bud Westmoore as head of the makeup department. This was primarily because Pierce held on to the technique of using outmoded methods of makeup appliance and displayed a general reluctance to use innovations such as foam rubber appliances. Still, it is telling that when it came time to recreate the makeup effects achieved by Lon Chaney, Sr. in films such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925) for the biopic Man of a Thousand Faces (1957), the foam rubber appliances from the Universal Makeup Department were in no way as effective as Chaney's makeups of over thirty years earlier. 
            One final note on the makeup. William Tuttle's aging makeup on actor H.M. Wynant was exceptional. Though Tuttle will always be remembered for his grotesque makeups for episodes of The Twilight Zone ("Eye of the Beholder," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "The Masks," etc.) and his Academy Award winning makeup for The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, Tuttle was also very skilled in subtle makeups and his work on aging H.M. Wynant is a notable example.
            Douglas Heyes appears to be the director that producer Buck Houghton preferred during the show's first two seasons for episodes which required more than the usual technical requirements. Heyes would direct some of the show's most impressive, technically challenging episodes, including "The After Hours," "Eye of the Beholder," "The Invaders," and "The Howling Man." Heyes and photographer George T. Clemens decided to use expressionistic camera work for the episode and the effects are impressive. From the beginning sequence, in which the camera zooms out of the window, through the pounding storm, and backwards in time for a rain-drenched exterior view of the partially ruined abbey (a miniature), the camera never seems to stand still or take a straight angle for the entire episode. It is especially frenetic in the early portion of the episode as Heyes attempts to use the camera to convey the disoriented mindset of H.M. Wynant's character, David Ellington, who arrives sick and weak at the door to the hermitage.
            Another effect which was integral to the show's success was the sound of the howling. Though Heyes and the crew decided on the sound of a traditional wolf or dog howl, the process for selecting the sound was apparently a dilemma. The prolific writer William F. Nolan, a close friend to Charles Beaumont, accompanied Beaumont to the set of "The Howling Man" during filming. Nolan relates the story to author Marc Scott Zicree of the crew spending a great amount of time listening to recordings of different screams and howls, trying to settle on the proper sound. The sound settled upon is certainly generic but it seems inconceivable that any sound would have sufficed when the readers of the original story could simply rely on their imagination to conjure the proper sound. In its adaptation, it was a difficult effect to achieve and, as noted before, Heyes wisely chose not to show Robin Hughes actually making the howling sound.         
            As with any episode with a small cast (for “The Howling Man,” only five principle characters and four speaking parts), the casting was very important to the success of the show. Heyes had previously worked with John Carradine and knew that the actor's range could extend from extremely reserved to extremely broad. Carradine was a Shakspearian trained actor and placed most of the his acting income into a largely unsuccessful Shakespeare company that traveled around America bringing the Bard to the masses. Heyes gave Carradine the go-ahead to let loose with the character of Brother Jerome and Carradine turns in a commanding performance, moving from reserved, holy-father figure to raving religious fanatic and back again. It has become one of the most memorable and recognizable performances in the show's entire run. Though Carradine starred in several highly regarded American films, such as director John Ford's films Stagecoach (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) (for which he would be typecast as a rugged, western type and thereafter find dozens of roles in western films and television series), and racked up some 340 film and television credits, he is best-remembered by horror and science fiction fans for his roles in Universal's horror films of the 1940's, including Captive Wild Woman (1943), The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944), The Mummy's Ghost (1944), and memorable turns as Dracula in House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945). Carradine also turned up as Dracula in the camp western/horror film Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966). He was also a familiar face in the Poverty Row horror films from the 1940's, finding roles in Revenge of the Zombies (1943), Voodoo Man (1944), Return of the Ape Man (1944), and as the title character in director Edgar G. Ulmer's Bluebeard (1944). Carradine was also all over television from the mediums earliest days right up until the end of his career. His genre television credits include episodes of Lights Out, Suspense, Thriller, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Munsters, Lost in Space, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, and the 1980's The Twilight Zone revival for the episode "Still Life." In 1953, he appeared in a segment of The Kate Smith Hour titled "The Hound of Heaven," opposite James Dean. The segment was written by Earl Hamner, Jr. and was an early treatment of the writer's Twilight Zone episode "The Hunt." John Carradine died in Milan on November 27, 1988.
            H.M. Wyant was born on February 12, 1927. He began acting at age 19, and has amassed over 140 film and television credits in his long career. Wynant began in television and worked virtually nonstop on numerous series before getting occasional roles in films in the late 1960's, finding a memorable part in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972). His genre credits include Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, Thriller, and Batman.
             Robin Hughes, the Howling Man, was born in Buenos Aires in 1920 and died in Hollywood in 1989. He worked until the early 1970's in both film and television. Genre credits include The Mole People (1956), The Thing That Couldn't Die (1958), and on television in Boris Karloff's Thriller and Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond.
            "The Howling Man" remains one of the finest episodes produced for The Twilight Zone. It displays a range of exceptional and innovative technical effects and shows the care and attention with which the talented crew afforded scripts and productions they considered worthy of such preparation and careful execution. It also displays the thematic range attainable on the series, from far flung science fiction to Gothic horror, and remains arguably the most famous show to emerge from the typewriter of Charles Beaumont, the series writer that created some of the most unique and innovative scripts of the series and whose career was sadly cut short from the early onset of a mentally debilitating disease.

Grade: A+

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following for information contained in the commentary:

-The Work of Charles Beaumont, An Annotated Bibliography and Guide by William F. Nolan (2nd edition, Borgo Press, 1990)

-The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree (2nd edition, 1989)

-Marc Scott Zicree interview with Douglas Heyes (included as a commentary track on "The Howling Man" on the Definitive Edition DVD of The Twilight Zone, season 2)

-"The Howling Man" by Charles Beaumont (The Howling Man, Tor, 1992)

-Harlan Ellison's introduction to "The Howling Man" by Charles Beaumont (The Howling Man, Tor, 1992)

-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (

--Charles Beaumont originally published the short story “The Howling Man” in the November, 1959 issue of Rogue under the pseudonym C.B. Lovehill. It has been reprinted in the author's collection Night Ride and Other Journeys (Bantam, 1960) and Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (Dark Harvest, 1988), titled The Howling Man in paperback (Tor Books, 1992), a career retrospective edited by Roger Anker.
-Director Douglas Heyes also directed several classic episodes of the series, including "The After Hours," "Eye of the Beholder" and "The Invaders." Heyes wrote and directed the first segment of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "The Dead Man" (based on the Fritz Leiber story), and also wrote the segments "The Housekeeper" and "Brenda" (based on the story by Margaret St. Clair) under the pseudonym Matthew Howard.
-John Carradine appeared in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "Big Surprise."
-"The Howling Man" was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama by Dennis Etchison, starring Fred Willard. 
-H.M. Wynant also appeared in two Twilight Zone Radio Drama episodes, "The Trade-Ins" and "Deaths-Head Revisited."


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Twilight Zone in Four Colors

The first Twilight Zone comic book
Four Color #1173 (1960)
Cover artist unknown

A Look at The Twilight Zone Comic Books
        From the inception of the original television series through today, The Twilight Zone has been featured in books, radio, film, theater, magazines, a theme park ride, board games, soundtrack albums, toys, and novelty items ranging from T-shirts to posters. It has inspired documentary films and been released numerous times on home video packages from VHS tapes to Blu-ray discs. It has been imitated and parodied and has been the subject of numerous books, articles, and online resources. It should come as no surprise that The Twilight Zone has also been adapted multiple times for the comic book format, as three ongoing series of traditional comic books, a little-known literacy education book, and a line of graphic novels from an American college of art and design. The Twilight Zone in comic book form displayed its own trends and illustrated the versatility with which the show lent itself to an alternative visual format.
The first Gold Key issue (Nov, 1962)
Cover art: George Wilson
            By the early 1960s, science fiction had moved from the pulps and paperbacks into an established genre on television, evolving from early programs aimed primarily at children (Buck Rogers, Space Patrol) to pioneering anthology series (Tales of Tomorrow, Science Fiction Theatre). Comic book publishers began to consider science fiction television programs for their line of titles, particularly in the wake of the fear created around the crime and horror comics of the 1950s. Science fiction and fantasy material was seen as less-controversial subjects which could perhaps reach the same audience. There was reasoning that if it was broadcast on American television then it was okay for comic books. As a result, the 1960s saw a sharp rise in science fiction and fantasy television series adapted for comic books, ranging from The Twilight Zone to Boris Karloff’s Thriller to The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and many more too numerous to list here.

            In 1960, around the time of production on the second season of The Twilight Zone, Western Publishing licensed the rights to create a Twilight Zone comic book. The title was published by Dell (Western and Dell had worked closely together as packager and distributor, respectively, since the 1930s) for its Four Color series, a rotating anthology frequently used to gauge a title’s potential as an ongoing series. The comic would not directly adapt episodes of the television series but instead presented new tales of mystery and imagination, although there were inevitably instances of the comic book covering the same ground as original series. Portions of Rod Serling's introductions from episodes of the show were also occasionally used. Most stories featured an illustrated Rod Serling delivering his typically pithy opening and closing narrations.

A typical Rod Serling hosting panel from issue #18
Art: Nevio Zeccara
          In 1962, four issues after The Twilight Zone comic began its irregular run under the Dell imprint (two for Four Color, two as a regular title), Dell and Western Publishing dissolved their partnership. Western partnered with a new distributor and continued to issue many of their licensed titles under a newly created comics imprint, Gold Key. It is under the Gold Key imprint that The Twilight Zone remained for the bulk of its run. Gold Key Comics became a haven in the 1960's and into the 1980's for fantasy, science fiction, and horror properties with titles including Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery, Grimm's Ghost Stories, and The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor. Later in its run, The Twilight Zone comic also began to appear under Western's imprint of Whitman during a time when Western battled the shifting dynamics of newsstand distribution. Whitman publications were typically found in markets such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and department stores. Certain later issues of The Twilight Zone were released under both the Gold Key and Whitman imprints in differing distribution patterns.  

Issue #73 (Whitman)
Cover art: George Wilson, reprinted from issue #40
             The initial Dell comic was incorporated into an existing series (continuing from the Dell Four Color series) and therefore numbered in a preexisting pattern. The Dell comic lasted two additional issues before the move to Gold Key, in which the series began with new numbering, from issue #1 (1962) to issue #91 (1979). An all-reprint issue #92 was released nearly three years later, in 1982, with a cover by Frank Bolle recreating George Wilson's cover for the first issue. 

             Each issue typically featured between 2-4 illustrated stories as well as a short text story (required to maintain access to second class postage). The first eight issues of the Gold Key comic featured a pin-up reproduction of the front cover illustration on the back cover, sans logo and text. George Wilson contributed many of the eye-catching covers. Other notable artists who worked on the book during its long run include Reed Crandall, George Evans, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Alex Toth, Jerry Robinson, Mike Roy, Angelo Torres, Frank Miller (in his professional debut), Russ Jones, Bob Jenny, Mike Vosburg, Walter Simonson, and Alex NiƱo. Several stories in issues from the early 1970's were written by Len Wein, creator of Wolverine and (with artist Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing. The first incarnation of The Twilight Zone comic folded in June of 1979, 15 years of (almost) uninterrupted publication beyond the end of the show upon which it was based. The first series of Twilight Zone comic books have not, as of this writing, been collected in a permanent format, despite being part of a line of comics which have seen a resurgence of interest in recent years. Several other Gold Key titles have been restored and reprinted in archive editions. It is long past time for The Twilight Zone to receive the same treatment. 

            1979 saw the appearance of a little-known volume titled Stories from the Twilight Zone: A Skylark Illustrated Book. Published by Bantam Books and designed for reading education, this volume featured comic style adaptations of the contents from Rod Serling's 1960 Bantam book, Stories from the Twilight Zone. The stories, “The Mighty Casey,” “Escape Clause,” “Walking Distance,” “The Fever,” “Where Is Everybody?” and “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” were adapted by Horace J. Elias and illustrated by Carl Pfeufer.

            The Twilight Zone returned to comics a little more than a decade later when the first issue of a second incarnation was released by NOW Comics, issue-dated November of 1990. The new book was decidedly different from its predecessor. The second series of Twilight Zone comic books were a natural off-shoot of another boom in science fiction and fantasy films and television programs adapted for comics. 
NOW series issue #1 (1990)
Cover art: Bill Sienkiewicz
NOW Comics was founded in late 1985 by Anthony Caputo during a rise in the industry wide trend toward independent publishing. Though NOW began as a sole proprietorship, Caputo was soon bought out and the company began growing at an increasing rate, becoming one of the top five producers of comic books in America by 1990. Much of NOW's success came from their line of licensed properties, including titles such as The Real Ghostbusters, Fright Night, The Green Hornet, Married. . . with Children, The Original Astro Boy, Speed Racer, Mr. T and the T Force, Terminator: The Burning Earth, and The Twilight Zone. 

        Rod Serling was noticeably absent from the NOW comic book series, which capitalized on the demand for more mature fantasy and horror content. Variant covers and special issues were common and included a double-sized "science fiction" issue, a 3-D issue, an "all computer" issue, and a double-sized annual issue. The most notable issue is the series debut featuring Harlan Ellison's "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich," illustrated by Neal Adams. Ellison, who served for a time as Creative Consultant on the revival The Twilight Zone television series, provided an essay preceding the story detailing his experiences working on the show. "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich" was produced as an episode for the third season of the revival Twilight Zone television series, directed by Paul Lynch from Ellison's script, broadcast April 1, 1989. The prose version of the story was published in the Spring, 1989 issue of Pulphouse magazine and collected in Ellison's Slippage (1997). Interestingly, that first issue comprised the entirety of the first volume of the series. Due to a change in ownership of NOW Comics, the series was placed on hold for a year. When it returned, the first issue was reprinted with slightly different contents. It originally contained a back-up story, "Wish Book," written by Don Glut and illustrated by John Stangeland. When the issue was reprinted, it dropped "Wish Book" and added a prose story by Ellison, "Darkness Upon the Face of the Deep," along with a new cover by Neal Adams.

        The NOW series ceased publication in August of 1993. Like many of the NOW titles, The Twilight Zone series has not been reissued in a collected edition.

Cover art: Rich Ellis
        Rod Serling's scripts for The Twilight Zone were adapted into a series of graphic novels in 2008 and 2009 by Walker & Company in conjunction with the Rod Serling Trust overseen by Carol Serling. Serling's scripts were adapted by art instructor Marc Kneece and art duties were handled by the student artists from the Savannah College of Art and Design, including Dove McHargue, Rebekah Isaacs, Robert Grabe, Rich Ellis, Anthony Spay, and Chris Lie. Each volume included an introductory essay and a biographical essay on Rod Serling.

Dynamite series issue #1
Cover art: Francesco Francavilla
        The third and most recent incarnation of The Twilight Zone in comic book form arrived in December of 2013 with The Twilight Zone #1 from Dynamite Entertainment. The format this time was a long-form series written by J. Michael Straczynski, who'd previously contributed significantly to the 1985 revival Twilight Zone television series, out of which he produced the 1989 book Tales from the New Twilight Zone. The main series continued for twelve issues until February of 2015. A second limited series, The Twilight Zone: Shadow and Substance, appeared in 2015 and another, The Twilight Zone: The Shadow (a crossover series with the pulp hero) appeared in 2016. Like the NOW series, Dynamite released a number of single issue specials, including a 2014 Annual and the one-shots The Twilight Zone: Lost Tales and The Twilight Zone: 1959. The series concluded with the publication of the latter in 2016. The Dynamite series has been collected in a series of trade editions.

         A final publication of interest is the 2019 graphic novel biography The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by writer and artist Koren Shadmi, published by Life Drawn. This excellent illustrated biography follows Rod Serling from his days as a paratrooper to his early success in television through The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery and on to his untimely death. Serling's life is presented in a refreshingly direct manner, blemishes and all, as well as in a highly engaging visual style that manages to slot a great amount of information into a relatively small space. It comes recommended.
Cover art: Koren Shadmi

         It is unlikely that we have seen the end of The Twilight Zone in comic book form. It is a tribute to Rod Serling and the original series that each new generation rediscovers the show and re-imagines it in an interesting and unique way.

For a sampling of the Gold Key Twilight Zone comics, go here. 

The Twilight Zone comic books:

1.) Dell Four Color Comics #1173, #1288

2.) The Twilight Zone (Dell Comics), 2 issues (1962)

3.) The Twilight Zone (Gold Key/Whitman) 92 issues (#1-92), November, 1962-June, 1979; 1982. 

4.) Mystery Comics Digest (Gold Key reprint series) #3,6,9,12,15,18,21,24

5.) Dan Curtis Giveaway Comics #3 (Gold Key, 1974; mini-comics used as bubble gum premiums).

6.) The Twilight Zone (Gold Key, 1976; mini-comic, sold in packs)

7.) Stories from The Twilight Zone: A Skylark Illustrated Book by Rod Serling, stories adapted by Horace J. Elias and illustrated by Carl Pfeufer (Bantam Books, 1979)

8.) The Twilight Zone (NOW Comics) Series 1: Nov, 1990 (1 issue; reprinted Oct, 1991), Series 2: 11 issues (Nov, 1991-Sept, 1992), Series 3: 4 issues (May-August, 1993). One shots (all 1993): Annual, Science Fiction Special, 3-D special.

9.) The Twilight Zone graphic novels (Walker & Co.); 1. “Walking Distance” 2. "The After Hours" 3. “The Odyssey of Flight 33” 4. “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” 5. “The Midnight Sun” 6. “Deaths-head Revisited” 7. “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” 8. “The Big, Tall Wish”

10.) The Twilight Zone (Dynamite Entertainment) Series 1: 12 issues (Dec, 2013-Feb, 2015; collected in 3 volumes as The Way Out (#1-5), The Way In (#4-8), The Way Back (#9-12)), Series 2: Shadow and Sustance, 4 issues (2015), Series 3: The Twilight Zone: The Shadow, 4 issues (2016). One-shots: 2014 Annual, The Twilight Zone: Lost Tales (2004), The Twilight Zone: 1959 (2016)

11.) The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi (Life Drawn, 2019).

Grateful acknowledgement to The Grand Comics Database ( and Sequential Ellison ( for information used in the text.