MESSAGES IN A BOTTLE: COMIC BOOK STORIES BY B. KRIGSTEIN
Stories by various writers
Art by Bernard Krigstein
Published by Fantagraphics Books

This is a stunning collection of 1940s/50s comics drawn by Bernard Krigstein (1919-1990), who had tremendous talent but poor timing.

Young Krigstein got in about a year of professional comics work before he was drafted by the Army to fight in World War Two.

After the war, he bounced between publishers. He did a few years at EC, but then EC was wrecked by the Senate hearings on juvenile delinquency. Then he got blacklisted by DC for trying to organize a comics artists union. Then he found work under Stan Lee at Atlas, but he was just ahead of the Silver Age superhero revival -- and he didn't draw superheroes, he drew everything else -- war, Western, humor, horror, crime, history and romance comics. So there wasn't much for Krigstein to do once the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man debuted. Also, he had grown to loathe Stan Lee.

After only a dozen years of productive comics work, he quit and turned to teaching art in Manhattan city schools. He gave few interviews and did not seem to remember his comics career with much fondness. Today he's remembered as an artist's artist -- the guy the best comic book artists revere -- though he's largely unknown to fandom and to the world at large.

I didn't know this until now, but Bill Gaines' EC -- though it assembled maybe the finest roster of comic book artists ever -- used the unfriendliest format for artists. Call it the anti-Marvel method: The writer produced a full script, and then the editor did the panel layout and oversaw the lettering. What the artist got at the end of this factory line was the pages with panels and text and some blank space available for his art to be inserted.

Krigstein was always fighting with his editors for more pages (a near-impossibility) or, failing that, more panels. Sometimes he took an Exacto-blade and cut up the panel layouts he had been given so he could squeeze in better art.