Staff Picks (April): Reed Crandall — Illustrator Of The Comics

Comic book artists. You have your storytellers like Kurtzman Eisner, Krigstein, Steranko, and Toth. You have unique artist that bring energy to the pages like Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Steve Ditko, and Neal Adams. Then you have the illustrator whose sense of design incorporates the human form in balance with its environment and situation and the epitome of that is comic book illustrator supreme Reed Crandall.

In TwoMorrows Publishing’s Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics you are treated to everything there is to know about the artist who came from Kansas and truly defined quality as an attribute and a goal for the company of that name.

While I’m the old guy here at Diamond, even I missed out on Reed Crandall’s initial work on the titles he’s known for like The Ray, Dollman, Firebrand, Uncle Sam, and The Blackhawks. Titles all from Quality Comics and featuring the quality of line work and design by Reed Crandall.

TwoMorrows goes into details few biographical books of comic book creators manage to provide with a balanced mix of text and illustrations. You get illustrations of cover art and interiors on Crandall’s best work including “Kaanga” from Jungle Comics #42, a portent of his later work on ERB’s characters to characters like Captain Triumph and Military Comics and its conversion to Modern Comics.

The publisher also provides information about the challenges to Crandall from his divorce and losing access to his children to his increased drinking and smoking, but also to his later successful efforts in stopping both those destructive life decisions.

We see his move to romance comics and westerns and crime comics as the post war superhero boom went bust. Among those new markets was Charles Biro’s Tops a magazine formatted comic that was meant to appeal to an older readership and in some way was the predecessor to EC Picto-Fction line as well as the Warren magazines.

From the end of Quality Comics in 1950s and his hunt for work at Atlas and Standard Comics, we see how Reed Crandall while late to the EC Comics party was a key element of its artistic history. From work on Crime Suspenstories and Shock Suspenstories to outstanding work on Piracy and showing his true talent as an illustrator on their short lived Picto-Fiction line, Crandall had a brilliant if short 3 years at EC that lead to rough times as comics hit a rough time in the post-Wertham era.

We read how Crandall continued to work in the industry with help from friends like Al Williamson and George Evans, leading into Reed’s work on Classics Illustrated and their World Around Us line as well as his long history with Treasure Chest Comics.

There is the significant attention given to his work on Canaveral Press’ Tarzan books as well as his work for the numerous ERB fanzines of the time. There is Crandall’s work on Flash Gordon at King Comics who, along with Al Williamson, brought a renewed interest to those characters.

 Among all the highlights of his career and art we see the plight of a man often alone but whose skills, while not at their peak, still outshone many of his contemporaries. It’s a shame he never decided to do Blackhawks when DC elected to end the series or had a project at Marvel that would have showcased his abilities.

Fortunately, we did get some great stories from him in the early days of Warren’s Creepy and even a few stories later in his career and hints of an unpublished Time Machine story by Bill Dubay and Reed – what a find that would be. With reprints available of his EC work from Dark Horse and Fantagrahics as well as IDW Thunder Agents trades and those DC Thunder Agent Archives we see his collaboration on that series with Wallace Wood as well as solo work on Dynamo.

—Steven Leaf

Publisher: Twomorrows Publishing
Item Code: APR172092
Release Date: 7/26/17
SRP: $49.95

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