Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics
Publisher: Twomorrows Publishing
Writer: Roger Hill
Review by PeteR
Comic historian and author, Roger Hill’s new book, Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics was recently published by Twomorrows Publishing. It is a captivating portrayal of both Crandall himself and his work,
Reed Crandall was an artistic child prodigy. At a young age he was proficient with drawing, painting, soap carving and sculpture. At the age of 23, in 1940, Reed Crandall moved from Cleveland to New York, and began working for Busy Arnold’s Quality Comics. It wasn’t long until he was assigned the art chores for Quality’s top characters. Crandall in short order, became the primary artist for Doll-Man, the Ray and Firebrand. Then he was assigned to work on Blackhawk in Military Comics and Uncle Sam in National Comics.
After completing his service with the Army in World War II, Crandall returned to Quality Comics and the Blackhawks. He also was the artist of the best of the Captain Triumph stories in Crack Comics. When superheroes fell out of favor with the reading public, Crandall began churning out westerns stories in Crack Western, pirate yarns in Buccaneers and private eye tales in Police Comics after Plastic Man had been dropped from the title.
In the fifties, Reed Crandall began working for Bill Gaines, much acclaimed EC Comics. Crandall’s illustrative skills were present in Two-Fisted Tales, Crime SuspenStories and Piracy. In the sixties, Crandall did work for Warren magazines and Tower comics T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. He also did artwork for King Features comic, Flash Gordon.
Some of the most interesting sections of Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics are devoted to Crandall’s less well known work. Lev Gleason, in 1949, was one of the first publishers to come out with a magazine sized, full color comic book for a more adult audience called Tops. Only two issues were printed and Crandall contributed to both. Reed Crandall had contracts with Buster Brown shoes and then Robin Hood Shoes. The seven issues of Robin Hood, Crandall did with Ray Wilner were reprinted in color in 2014 by Lost Art Books (and yes, I am waiting for my copy from Amazon to arrive in the mail). Reed Crandall later would have a long term contract drawing stories for the Catholic comic Treasure Chest.
Reed Crandall’s artwork was distinctive and precise. His ability to render the beauty of the human form, machinery and animals alike has seen his work become lauded as examples of some of the finest work of the comic industry. His later artwork looked more like wood etchings than simply drawn with pencil and pen. Roger Hill explains that Crandall used multiple tools to achieve his illustrations. “Many techniques, including dry-brush inking, the use of Zip-A-Tone, Craftint and Ben-Day shading screens and charcoal penciling were used to add greater depth to the final finished product”.
Roger Hill covers each era of Crandall’s life with well researched information and copious amounts of astounding artwork. He follows Crandall’s professional and personal life’s triumphs and tragedies. Hill provides backgrounds on many of the comic’s industries luminaries who Crandall worked with, to provide in depth perspective of the man and his times. There are interviews with Al Williamson, Bill Pearson, Dick Giordano, Al Feldstein and many others. Hill succinctly chronicles the events leading up to the comic industry’s crash in the fifties, brought about by Dr. Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent and the infamous Kefauver hearings.
Why you should buy this book? Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics is an amazing testament, not just to the stunning artwork of Reed Crandall, it is also a concise history of comic books as a whole. The book is focused on Reed Crandall, but in many ways Crandall is the framing device utilized to dissect the comic industry from the forties through the mid-seventies. Although he had fewer contributions to Marvel and D.C. Comics than he did for other companies, Crandall and his artwork were always a part of the comic book trade. Roger Hill’s use of anecdotes along with interviews and personal knowledge of the subject allow the reader new insights and respect for Crandall and his art. Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics should be on the shelf of every comic book and art historian.
Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics is available to be ordered from your local comic shop, the Twomorrows.com website and Amazon.
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