Despite the limitations the Comics Code Authority placed on horror comics in the Silver Age, most comic publishers turned a profit from the genre during the 1960s and 70s. Gold Key licensed horroresque tv series and celebrity hosts and set their writers and artists loose. The Outer Limits followed the show's lead by publishing SF stories. Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and Grimm’s Ghost Stories were EC-influenced, with most tales featuring ghoulies and ghosties and late-night-show beasties. The Twilight Zone, hosted by an illustrated Rod Serling, had its share of invading aliens and sinister spectres, but its better issues went in decidedly weirder directions than the rest of the Key's tales from the crypt.
Western Publishing actually first produced The Twilight Zone through Dell in 1961, switching after four issues to their new in-house Gold Key imprint and restarting at #1 in 1962. Some of the later issues were distributed under the Whitman banner. Several stories were collected and reprinted in comic digests.
The first issue features a cover story that might have been an episode of the show. A pilot returns home from a mission. He has experienced only a short passage of time— but thirty years have gone by in the world. That was the beginning. Later issues often presented deranged monsters, oddball settings, and other fare that comics could easily deliver. A child summons creatures which he then cannot make disappear. A repairman stumbles across a lost Dutch colony beneath the streets of New
Amsterdam York. A clever teen discovers his science teacher is really an alien from central casting, and his homework assignments, experiments that will teach the extraterrestrials how to mind-control and subjugate the foolish earthlings. The stories and art were usually rushed and uneven, but its creators clearly knew their underage audience.
Issue #47 features a pretty good example of the kind of story you'd likely only find in an old-school comic, the kind written with kids in mind. The cover teases "Something New in Town," with the image of a phone booth and two men being menaced by what appear to be mutant giant spermatozoa. "There’s something new in town," reads the tagline, "but nobody’s talking!" Within, we read the tale of a man arriving in a deserted town and discovering, here and there, scattered, torn clothing. Eventually he realizes that the local streetlights are, in fact, bizarre, flesh-eating creatures of unknown origin. The story features no resolution—- only the image of a street at night, as a child might see it. Comic-book Serling comments on the "still, silent, stark shapes! Who knows where their armies came from, or where they're going next? But surely it must be along some highway that sometimes connects our world with... the Twilight Zone!" It's exactly the sort of thing a child's overactive imagination might concoct, walking home, with those poles towering over him, and we loved Gold Key for bringing it to life.
Like most of Gold Key's dramatic comics, The Twilight Zone sported, for most of its run, impressive if garish painted covers that set them apart on the comic rack. Serling's visage was inset somewhere, in black and white.
The Twilight Zone continued through the 1970s, as Gold Key's sales went into freefall against those of Marvel and DC. Like many of Western's licensed products, however, it outlasted the show that inspired it. It also gave Frank Miller his start in comix. The series ended in 1982 with #92 and the demise of Gold Key.
Now Comics published a new series under this title in 1993. It featured stories by notables such as Harlan Ellison and Neal Adams. In 2008, Walker Books announced a series of graphic novels based on the Twilight Zone television series. The tales and art of these later comics may be of a higher caliber than the four-color T-Zones of yore; whether they'll be recalled with the same fondness when those who read them look back remains to be seen.