Reed Crandall was an American illustrator and penciller]of comic books and magazines. He was best known for the Quality Comics character Blackhawk and for stories in the critically acclaimed EC Comics of the 1950s.
Reed Crandall was born in Winslow, Indiana during the 1920s, but would graduate from Newton High School in Newton, Kansas in 1935. Following high school, Crandall attended the Cleveland School of Art in Cleveland, Ohio on a scholarship, graduating in 1939. He had left the school early in his freshman year to return to Kansas to assist his family after his father died. When he returned to Cleveland, his mother and sister followed, leaving the family home in Kansas behind during Reed's junior year.
Crandall began to find jobs as an artist through collaborations with his classmates. One partnership was with Frank Borth, painting signs on storefront windows, and another with the son of the president of the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) syndicate in Cleveland as a general art assistant for the NEA. In the latter job, he drew maps and supporting material for their publications which increased his interest in becoming a full-time illustrator for magazine. This initial plan did not pan out, but it did lead to jobs providing illustrations for childrens' books, which in turn led to his career in comics.
Shortly after finishing school, Crandall moved to New York City with his mother and sister in order to accept an invitation of employment with a publisher of children's books. He would only contribute one cover for the publisher before he left the company. He remained in the city and eventually was hired by the Manhattan studio Eisner and Iger—named for founders Will Eisner and Jerry Iger, on the east side of Manhattan. The studio prepared and packaged comics for publishers and employed such respected comic creators as Will Eisner, Lou Fine, Paul Gustavson, Alex Kotsky, amd Fred Gardineer.
During 1940-1941, Reed started to get work drawing material for the comics company, Quality Comics. Initially, his position was serving as inker for Lou Fines' pencil work on Military Comics covers. This would only last a few issues before Quality publisher Everett M. Arnold took notice of the quality of his work and gave him a job as penciler. His career as a penciler in comics bagen later that year, with the publication of Hit Comics #10 in April and he quickly became recognized for his sense of anatomical detail in illustration. Most of the stories concerned superheroes such as The Ray in Smash Comics (under the pseudonym E. Lectron) and Doll Man in Feature Comics. Crandall's portrayal of the characters was more realistic than the more typical cartoonish forms of the time, incluenced more by classic illustrators N.C.Wyeth, Howard Pyle, and James Montgomery Flagg than comic book cartooning.
Later that year, he would produce his first (confirmed) cover credit for designing the cover art for Fiction House's Fight Comics With co-creator and writer S.M. "Jerry" Iger, he created the superhero named Firebrand for the company's first issue of Police Comics. and later drew the adventures of Captain Triumph.
The Quality title which would become his signature series, however, is the World War II military amthology Military Comics, specifically the title's strip about adventurous aviators, the "Blackhawks". The characters were created by writer Will Eisner and illustrator Chuck Cuidera, but many, including artist Jim Steranko, credit Crandall with their initial and continued popularity. His long run, almost fifteen years, drawing the characters would be briefly put on hold from 1942-1944 while Crandall served in the Army Air Force during the war, but resumed with the series Blackhawk and Modern Comics. His final "Blackhawk" story would come in 1953 in Blackhawk #67. It would be around that time that Quality Comics began to scale down their production line and Crandall began to look elsewhere for additional work.
Also in 1941, Crandall signed on to ink comics legend Jack Kirby's pencil work for two of the earliest Marvel Comics Captain America stories, "The Ageless Orientals That Wouldn't Die", in Captain America Comics #2 (April 1941), and "The Queer Case of the Murdering Butterfly and the Ancient Mummies" in #3 (May 1941). He would also later work as a freelance artist for Atlas Comics, the 1950s predecessor of Marvel Comics.
Following his lengthy stay at Quality Comics, Crandall accepted a job at Entertaining Comics (EC Comics) and became a staple at that company, working on horror and science fiction titles as well as nearly all the New Direction and Picto-Fiction titles. His debut with the publishing company came with a six-page story, "Bloody Sure", printed in Haunt of Fear #20 in August of 1953. Over the years, he drew dozens of stories for the company, for titles like Tales From the Crypt, Two-Fisted Tales, Vault of Horror, Crime SuspenStories and Weird Fantasy until its termination in 1954, following Congress' efforts to censor comic books in the 1950s. His artwork for the story "The Corpse That Came to Dinner", which appeared in EC's Out of the Shadows #9 in 1953, was even mentioned in the infamous Seduction of the Innocent book which ignited the controversy over comic books' influence on children.
EC Comics and Quality Comics both ceased production in 1956/1956 and Crandall was forced to find work elsewhere. He found occasional work at his former employer Atlas and their new imprint, Marvel, as well as providing art for Buster Brown shoestores' own monthly promotional comic book, Buster Brown. In 1960, the artist signed a contract with the Catholic Guild, publisher of Treasure Chest, a bi-weekly comic book distributed exclusively through parochial schools. He illustrated numerous covers and stories—most notably the science fiction feature "Interplanetary Police"—for the book through 1972.
Throughout the early 1960s, Crandall contributed to the Gilberton Company's Classics Illustrated series and Believe It or Not, Boris Karloff, Tales of Mystery, and The Twilight Zone for Western Publishing. For both publishers, he often collaborated with fellow artist, George Evans.Beginning in 1964—and lasting through the early 1970s—he drew frequently for the black-and-white horror comics magazines Creepy and Eerie and the war title Blazing Combat by Warren Publishing, also home to Famous Monsters of Filmland. At the same time, Crandall accepted an invitation from his friend Al Williamson to provide bookplates and covers for Canaveral Press' line featuring the popular Edgar Rice Burroughs characters John Carter and Tarzan. The publisher, which also employed Frank Frazetta and Roy Krenkel, dissolved before much of Reed's work could be published, however. Most of it would not be seen by the public until being collected by Russ Cochran in Edgar Rice Burroughs Library of Illustration, Vol. 3, 1984, and in Richard Lupoff's Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure. Williamson also assisted him with obtaining another job, when Reed took over for his friend after Al decided to end his run on the Flash Gordon comic book by King Features Syndicate.
Other projects during the sixties included superhero-spy stories for Tower Comics. On some of the titles, such as T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Dynamo, he would work alongside comics icon, Wallace "Wally" Wood.
Final years and death
When the artist's mother became ill during the 1960s, Reed left New York City behind in order to care for her back in their former home state of Kansas. During his stay in Wichita, he felt isolated and removed from the comics industry and under the stress turned to alchohol. He managed to recover from his alcohol dependency before his mother's death, but it had taken a severe toll on his health and his artistic output.
According to artist Tom Mandrake, Crandall suffered from "[s]eriously declining vision." His final contribution to the comics industry came with Warren's publication of Creepy #54's story, "This Graveyard is Not Deserted" in July, 1973. In 1974, Crandall set aside his art career in exchange for a job as a night watchman and janitor in a Pizza Hut restaurant. Later that year, he suffered a stroke which sent him to seek care in a nursing home, where he would remain until he died from a heart attack in 1982.
Over 25 years after his death, Reed Crandall's contributions to comics still remain highly praised by fans and fellow artists alike. Quality Comics executive Everett "Busy" Arnold, who had published work by some of the biggest names in comics history such as Lou Fine, Jack Cole and Will Eisner, said of Crandall, ""I always thought my artists over the years were the finest in the business," Arnold said, "And I rate Crandall as the best man I ever had." Tom Mandrake (Grimjack, Spectre, Martian Manhunter) said that Reed Crandall was "one of the top ten comic book artists ever, an incredible draftsman and excellent storyteller."
Famed artist Jim Steranko remarked in his book, History of the Comics, "Crandall turned [Blackhawk] into a classic, a work of major importance and lasting value..." and the original art is much sought after as are the issues themselves, some fetching up to $2600. Much of his published work, including his work on Blackhawk, has been reprinted and reamins available in bookstores and comic shops.
Crandall is referenced in Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. The lead character, Joe Kavalier, a Czech artist, refers to Crandall as the "top" comic-book artist of his era.
Awards and honors
Brief comic book bibliography
- DC Comics: Weird War Tales, various titles
- Dell Comics: Frogmen, Gunsmoke, Hercules Unchained, Mystery Tales, Thief of Baghdad
- EC Comics: Confessions Illustrated, Crime Illustrated, Crime Suspenstories, Crypt of Terror, Extra!, Haunt of Fear, Impact, M.D., Mad, Piracy, Shock Illustrated, Shock Suspenstories, Tales from the Crypt, Terror Illustrated, Two-Fisted Tales, Valor, Vault of Horror, Weird Fantasy, Weird Science-Fantasy
- Fiction House: Kaanga, Kayo Kirby, Sheena
- Gilberton: Classics Illustrated (Hunchback of Notre Dame, In Freedom¢s Cause, Julius Caesar, Land of the North, Lord Jim, Octopus, Oliver Twist, Reign of Terror, Romeo and Juliet, Three Musketeers)
- Harvey: Alarming Adventures, Big Hero Adventures, Captain Freedom, Unearthly Spectaculars
- Marvel Comics: Astonishing Comics, Kid Colt, Outlaw, Battle, Battlefront, Captain America, Creatures on the Loose, Journey into Mystery, Unknown Worlds, Justice Comics, Love Romances, Marines in Battle, Men¢s Adventures, Mystery Tales, Mystic, Mystical Tales, Navy Tales, Quick-Trigger Western, Strange Stories of Suspense, Strange Tales of the Unusual, Strange Tales, Tales of Justice, Tales of Suspense, Uncanny Tales, The Vision and various western titles
- Quality Comics: Blackhawk, Buccaneers, Captain Daring, Captain Triumph, Crack Comics, Dollman, Espionage, Firebrand, Hercules, Hit Comics, Midnight, Military Comics, The Ray, Smash Comics, Uncle Sam.
- T. S. Denison: Treasure Chest
- Tower Comics: Dynamo, Noman
- Warren Publishin: Vampirella, Blazing Combat, Creepy, Eerie
- Western Publishing/Gold Key Comics: Believe It or Not, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, and The Twilight Zone.
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Grand Comics Database: Smash Comics #24 (July 1941)
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Reed Crandall." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: May 19, 2009. Retrieved: August 6, 2009.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 The Lambiek Comiclopedia: Reed Crandall. Retrieved: August 7, 2009.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Cooke, Jon, ed. The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Companion. (TwoMorrows Publishing, Raleigh, North Carolina, 2005} ISBN 1-893905-43-8. p. 65
- ↑ 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Stiles, Steve. "A Look at EC Great Reed Crandall." stevestiles.com.. Retrieved: August 8, 2009.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Interview with art-school classmate and lifelong friend Frank Borth, in Cooke, p. 66-67
- ↑ 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 Graffix Multimedia. "Biographies: Reed Crandall." Comic Art and Graffix Gallery, 2006. Retrieved: August 7, 2009.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 John Hitchcock. "Rare Reed Crandall." TVparty.com, . Retrieved: August 7, 2009.
- ↑ Grand Comics Database: Fight Comics #12 (April 1941)
- ↑ Grand Comics Database: Captain America Comics #2 (April 1941)
- ↑ Grand Comics Database: Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941)
- ↑ Hajdu, David. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) ISBN 0374187673, ISBN 978-0374187675
- ↑ 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 Mike Vance. "Suspended Animation." Suspended Animation - Comic Book News and Reviews, 2009. Retrieved: August 7, 2009.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Benton, Mike. The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History. (Taylor Publishing, Dallas, Texas, 1989) ISBN 0-87833-659-1, pp. 68, 129]
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Tom Mandrake. "Reed Crandall." Tom Mandrake Message Board, July 3, 2006. Retrieved: August 7, 2009.
- ↑ Chabon, Michael. Chabon The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Random House, 2000.