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Reed Crandall's EC Stories Artist's Edition

    Ian Jane

  • Reed Crandall's EC Stories Artist's Edition

    Reed Crandall's EC Stories Artist's Edition
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: May 10th, 2017.
    Written by: Bill Gaines, Al Feldstein Carl Wessler, Otto Binder, Jack Oleck, Colin Davis
    Illustrated by: Reed Crandall
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    Reed Crandall was remarkably prolific in his day, penciling stories for all sorts of publishers and really making a name for himself on Blackhawk which was published by Quality Comics (before it wound up with D.C. Comics). It's his work for the infamous E.C Comics, however, for which he is probably best remembered. IDW Publishing, as part of their excellent ongoing 'Artist's Editions' series, honors Crandall's work for the most notorious publisher of its day, with this new hardcover collection that compiles all of the stories he did for E.C. as well as the covers. These are all presented scanned from the original pages, in color, so as to best represent the pages as they were submitted by Crandall before they were inked or colored.

    First up are a few stories Crandall did for Crime Suspensetories - Mother's Day, from issue #21, starts things off. From there it's Return Blow from #23, This'll Kill You from #23, Double Crossed from #24, Dog Food from #25 and The Firebug from issue #26. This is great stuff. Mother's Day in particular really holds up and it's amazing to see just how much detail Crandall packed into the panels he delivered for this story. Seeing it in its original form also lets us see where he used white out to correct some mistakes and where some notes were made. Sure the story is the standard 'dad goes out for cigarettes and doesn't come back' trope, but there's more to it than that, and that last panel where a single tear is shed? Great! All of these stories are a lot of fun. The ending of Return Blow gets you every time, while This'll Kill You still packs a serious, and very bloody, punch - amazing detail in this one too, Crandall really delivered some seriously atmospheric pieces. Double Crossed is also really impressive, it's shadowy and sinister and suspenseful and surprisingly graphic in its depiction of a certain corpse being dismembered and disposed of. Dog Food is a twisted tale of prison violence highlighted by a nasty dog attack scene and a ridiculously gross finish, while the Firebug sees Crandall illustrate some really dense and moody scenes with loads of shadowy atmosphere. “LET IT BURN! LET IT BURN!”

    From there, check out Hong Kong, the only story Crandall did for the short lived Extra series. This one was originally published in issue #2 and while it isn't the most politically correct story ever told, it gives Crandall the opportunity to focus on the titular foreign location and deliver some interesting backgrounds.

    Swamped, from Haunt Of Fear #27, sees Crandall offer up a great splash page complete with a Cryptkeeper intro. The detail we get in Crandall's illustrations of the swampy shack and boggy backgrounds where this twisted morality plays out is seriously impressive. Of course, the monster that haunts the area is as ghoulish and grotesque as you could hope for and you've got to love the facial expressions on one poor bastard to gets sucked down into some quicksand.

    Crandall also did two stories for Piracy, another lesser known E.C. title. Blackbeard appeared in issue #3 and Partners in issue #7. The first story is the better of the two, Crandall goes all out with the pirate costumes and background details - dig the guy carrying some poor bar wench around in the background of the first page. There is also some nice hatching work here to make the interiors of the pirate ships appropriately dark and dire looking. Partners features some nice sword fighting and action oriented panels and it too looks quite good.

    Crandall's horror work is more impressive than his pirate work, however, which brings us to Shock Suspenstories #9 which featured one of Crandall's better known horror stories, Carrion Death! Here we learn how and why a man was left to die out in the deserts as the vultures swirl above him - it's cop versus crook action taken to some pretty grim extremes. The desert locations and panels with the birds circling above are great. Sweetie Pie from issue #10 feature some great car crash mayhem and a shadowy figure with a taste for blood - you can't go wrong there. Issue #11's The Space Suitors shows us what happens when a love triangle erupts in outer space. Crandall really put his all into this one, the suit designs are killer and the ending pretty twisted. The Kidnapper, from issue #12, is a well-illustrated story that starts off as a melodrama about a woman trying to find her baby. Of course it goes into some strange territory before it meets its violent conclusion, allowing Crandall to really do a great job depicting the woman's anguish with her facial expressions and her eyes. In Upon Reflection from issue #13 we meet up with a boxer who killed a man in the ring as he talks to his shrink. Is he a man or is he a monster? Great creature design work here. For Cryin' Out Loud, from issue #15, starts off with a genuinely startling panel in which a man chokes the life out of a beautiful woman on an empty street in the middle of the night. As we learn how it came to this we get a lot of great and fairly berserk looking facial expressions and some noirish shadowy artwork. A Kind Of Justice, from issue #16, really stands out because without saying as much it deals with a woman who was clearly raped by a stranger who grabbed her at a bus stop and took her out to his remote cabin. Of course, justice is served by the final panel… strong stuff. The last of the Shock Suspenstories tales is Rundown from #18. It's a story of knife wielding bad guys and saucy, sassy dames in which Crandall's ability to render the female form really gets a chance to shine.

    Tales From The Crypt #44 saw Crandall's Burial At Sea published, complete with an intro from the Vault-Keeper. It's a classic tale of a man wanting solitude, heading out to a deserted area of the Florida Keys to live off the land all by his lonesome - until he realizes he's not alone at all and then deciding to do something about that. The ending takes us under the sea to the ocean floor where Crandall again shows off just how fine the detail in his work could be.

    Battle! first appeared in Two-Fisted Tales #19, it's a tale of war in the age of Julius Caesar from 55 B.C. and as such we get all sorts of interesting things here like Roman armor and weapons and even some battle elephants! The actual battle scenes are remarkable and illustrated with serious intensity.

    The collection finishes up with two stories from Vault Of Horror - Together They Lie! from issue #33 and Top Billing from issue #39. The first story is highlighted by a moody funeral scene and some impressive scenes of destruction when a house blows up. Lots of great facial expressions bring the drama to life and hey, that zombie at the end is pretty great too. Top Billing might just be the most detailed story in the entire collection, rivalling what Wrightson did in his Frankenstein illustrations years later. The story is set in Victorian times so we get some neat costuming set in front of plenty of cobblestone streets and brick buildings before it all comes to a great, gory finish.

    Rounding out the collection are two cover pieces that Crandall did from issues #3 and #4 of Piracy and then a brief one page biography of Reed Crandall that really only scratches the surface of his life and work. All in all, a wonderful collection for anyone interested in E.C Comics or comic book history. Crandall's artwork holds up incredibly well even today, and seeing it scanned from the original pages as it is in this collection is a genuine treat for anyone with an appreciation for sequential art.

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