Everyone knows what The Twilight Zone is: a venerable old television show, shown in reruns late at night. It looks and sounds like something from the early 60's, with men in suits, rocket ships, and cheap special effects. Every episode is introduced and concluded with a staccato description by Rod Serling, and it always has a twist ending. Its usually a little scary, but just the type of scary you can chuckle at while eating cookies at 1 AM. It is rather dated, but still charming in an early television type of way.

At least, that was what I knew about The Twilight Zone, until I started watching it, and started paying attention. Removing myself from what I had learned by pop culture osmosis, I saw that The Twilight Zone was made with skill and originality, and that even though some of the production values are dated, the drama and messages are not. There are some episodes of The Twilight Zone that still, fifty years later, seem fresh.

A great deal of the appeal of The Twilight Zone was that it was an anthology series. Each episode had a different cast of characters, as well as different sets and direction. And The Twilight Zone is probably unique amongst anthology shows in that it didn't just present a different story every week, but a different genre. Some episodes of The Twilight Zone were "hard" science-fiction, while others are fantasy or horror. There is always some element of the eerie or unusual, but it is not always supernatural as such. Episodes can also vary in tone from the dramatic, to the frightful, to the comedic. Some have serious moral lessons or commentaries, while others are simpler fare. Most Twilight Zone episodes have a "twist" of some sort at the ending, but it is not always blatant or abrupt. Opinions on what the best and worst episodes of the Twilight Zone were vary greatly. I have my own favorites, but even the Twilight Zone episodes that don't work well usually have some interesting element in them.

That being said, this is a list of Twilight Zone episodes. Unless marked otherwise, they were written by Rod Serling:

Season One

  1. Where is Everybody?
  2. One for the Angels
  3. Mr. Denton on Doomsday
  4. The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
  5. Walking Distance
  6. Escape Clause
  7. The Lonely
  8. Time Enough at Last (Script Rod Serling, Story Lyn Venable)
  9. Perchance to Dream (Charles Beaumont)
  10. Judgment Night
  11. And When The Sky Was Opened (Script Rod Serling, Story Richard Matheson]
  12. What You Need (Script Rod Serling, Story Lewis Padgett)
  13. The Four of us are Dying (Script Rod Serling, Story George Johnson)
  14. Third From the Sun (Script Rod Serling, Story Richard Matheson)
  15. I Shot An Arrow Into the Air (Script Rod Serling, Story Madelon Champion)
  16. The Hitch-hiker (Script Rod Serling, Story Lucille Fletcher)
  17. The Fever
  18. The Last Flight (Richard Matheson)
  19. The Purple Testament
  20. Elegy (Charles Beaumont)
  21. Mirror Image
  22. The Monsters are Due on Maple Street
  23. A World of Difference (Richard Matheson)
  24. Long Live Walter Jameson (Charles Beaumont)
  25. People are Alike All Over (Script Rod Serling, Story Paul Fairman)
  26. Execution (Script Rod Serling, Story George Clayton Johnson)
  27. The Big Tall Wish
  28. A Nice Place to Visit (Charles Beaumont)
  29. Nightmare as a Child
  30. A Stop at Willoughby
  31. The Chaser (Script Robert Presnell, Jr., Story John Collier)
  32. A Passage for Trumpet
  33. Mr. Bevis
  34. The After Hours
  35. The Mighty Casey
  36. A World of His Own(Richard Matheson)

Season Two
  1. King Nine Will Not Return
  2. The Man in the Bottle
  3. Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room
  4. A Thing About Machines
  5. The Howling Man (Charles Beaumont]
  6. The Eye of the Beholder
  7. Nick of Time (Richard Matheson)
  8. The Lateness of the Hour
  9. The Trouble with Templeton (E. Jack Neuman)
  10. A Most Unusual Camera
  11. The Night of the Meek
  12. Dust
  13. Back There
  14. The Whole Truth
  15. The Invaders (Richard Matheson)
  16. A Penny for your Thoughts (George Clayton Johnson)
  17. Twenty Two (Rod Serling, based on a folk tale)
  18. The Odyssey of Flight 33
  19. Mr. Dingle, the Strong
  20. Static (Charles Beaumont)
  21. The Prime Mover (Charles Beaumont)
  22. Long Distance Call (Charles Beaumont and William Idelson)
  23. A Hundred Yards Over the Rim
  24. The Rip Van Winkle Caper
  25. The Silence
  26. Shadow Play
  27. The Mind and the Matter
  28. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up
  29. The Obsolete Man

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.

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