Synopses & Reviews
The definitive (and first) collection of B. Krigstein's comics. Following last year's critically and commercially successful biography/art book, B. Krigstein, is this companion volume, a full-color collection of 36 complete stories, representing the best work throughout the career of the most innovative comic book artist of his generation. Never before has the evolution of a comics artist been so extensively presented; B. Krigstein: Comics is the ultimate testament to the commitment and technical mastery that Bernard Krigstein brought to bear in his attempt to legitimize a then-ridiculed medium. Editor Greg Sadowski has selected and restored 36 stories from 1949-56, tracing Krigstein's respective tenures at the publishers Rae Herman, Hillman, Atlas, DC, and EC. The meticulous restoration is of particular note because, unlike the superficially slick four-color comics of today, ten-cent comics of the '40s and '50s were notorious for their poor color registration, cheap paper, and shoddy printing, all of which worked against Krigstein's complex design and subtle draftsmanship. Here, for the first time, his artistry is not compromised by inadequate production methods: every panel of every story has been painstakingly cleaned and color-corrected. Smothered for generations, Krigstein's compositions are finally presented in the same spirit as he originally conceived them. Fifteen stories, culled from every stage of his career, have been entirely recolored for this volume by Marie Severin, widely regarded as one of the most accomplished color artists in the history of the medium, who colored Krigstein's work at EC in the '50s. Most of this work has been out of print and unavailable for nearly five decades, and will be a revelation to those who know Krigstein solely from his celebrated and justly famous work at EC.
One of the early masters of the [comic book] form, whose best work exhibits a richness and psychological depth...This companion to editor Sadowski's 2002 biography of innovative comic-book artist Bernard Krigstein reprints 34 meticulously restored and recolored 1940s and 1950s stories. Krigstein's illustrative skills alone qualify him to rank among the greatest talents who have ever worked in the field (he left comics in 1957 for a successful career in commercial art, canvas painting, and teaching), but it is his strikingly original approach to visualizing a story, especially his distinctive subdivision of panels, that made his work so extraordinary. Toiling in the popular crime, war, horror, and romance genres of the time, Krigstein, like Orson Welles turning potboiler screenplays into noir classics during the same period, was seldom given scripts worthy of his skills. The exceptions were stories for the legendary EC comics, eight of which appear here. Their more sophisticated and complex scripts enabled Krigstein to make genuine breakthroughs. Krigstein is relatively unknown even among comics aficionados, but the masterful work on view here for the first time in a half century should make them and others sit up and notice. --Gordon Flagg
Famed as one of the great innovators in comics history, Krigstein was one of the first cartoonists to consciously experiment with pacing and layout for psychological effect. This impressive coffee-table book follows his development from his heavy-handed crime and romance comics of the late 1940s to his expressionist masterpieces for EC Comics a few years later. Employing a variety of artistic styles and inking techniques, Krigstein emerges as a restless trendsetter, moving from a loose, sketchy style to a dense horror technique, depending on the story. Unfortunately, the reprinted comics stories also show how Krigstein was handcuffed by the period's trite themes and "shock" endings. Many of the stories are so hackneyed they're barely readable today, and when editor Sadowski mentions that a story about a pirate with an ape for a sidekick was a Krigstein favorite, one can only wonder why. However, at EC, Krigstein found writers similarly dedicated to pushing artistic boundaries, and these collaborations are the book's finest: "Key Chain," in which a crime in a key-making shop leads to madness, or "In the Bag," a gruesome story of a cop following a suspicious character whom Krigstein elevates to art with his moody storytelling and withering ability to capture human weakness with a few lines. The quality is heightened by Marie Severin's masterful recolorings throughout.
About the Author
Greg Sadowski is a writer, editor and designer (B. Krigstein, Supermen!, Four Color Fear, Setting the Standard: Alex Toth; Action! Mystery! Thrills!) living in Washington State.