"The Graveyard Rats" (Weird Tales, March 1936) by Henry Kuttner was a spectacular debut for a writer of horror. Though in later years Kuttner seemed embarrassed by the tale, it remains one of the creepiest stories to come out of the pulps. (One blogster claims it has been reprinted thirty-five times. I don't doubt it.) The plot follows Masson, a corrupt undertaker, who wars with the rats in the graveyard where he robs the dead of their plunder. When a particularly rich corpse is taken, Masson follows the culprits into their twisting tunnels. The battle is on. Masson, using his revolver, fights off the cat-sized rodents. The only problem is the rats are not alone, but under the control of ghoulish inhabitants. Masson flees back to the coffin from which he entered, only to find he got lost in the dark, and has gone to a different coffin! The rats close in and finish him off. The ending, claustrophobic and unrelenting as the rest of the story, seems to be the part readers remember best. Joe R Lansdale called it "a classic little booger tale" and certainly it was the inspiration for Stephen King's "Graveyard Shift" (along with Bram Stoker and HG Wells).
"Rats Have Sharp Teeth" in The Vault of Horror #14 (EC Comics, August-September 1950), featuring art by Graham Ingels, has a made a number of changes. Masson is now Abner Tucker, an historian turned gravekeeper. Instead of digging from above, Tucker takes over the mansion next to the cemetery and uses tunnels to dig from below. The ghoulish ratmaster has been dropped and the ending made less gruesome, with the rats chewing away support beams and burying Tucker alive. This lack of grue is surprising for a pre-Comics Code EC Comic.
Horrific #10 (Comic Media, March 1954) featured "Beneath the Grave," drawn by Rudy Palais. This time Masson is named Lars Swenson (Scandinavian again!) and he follows the tunnels and finds a large underground chamber where the bloated, bipedal rats are performing an evil rite around the body of a recently deceased woman. The rats see Swenson and their leader tells them to capture him. (The rats talk in this version.) The rest is pretty much as Kuttner wrote it except the ending. As Swenson finds himself trapped in the grave, the rats do not eat him. He cries, "Satan has come to collect my soul!" The master rat answers: "No? Just who do you think I am, Lars Swenson?"
Henry Kuttner lived until 1958. That means he could have seen three of these four comic adaptations. Whether he saw them or not, we don't know. Kuttner himself had written Green Lantern comics between 1944-1946. Despite this he never showed much interest in the comics format. It would be fascinating to know what he thought of these strange variations of his work.
Two other adaptations that I should mention are the TV movie Trilogy of Terror II (1996) by William F Nolan and Dan Curtis that twists the tale into a saga of a ruthless gold-digger (the only female version of Masson); and a very faithful radio version from the 2012 Suspense revival for Siriius XM Radio. Both of these are embedded below.