Master Race and Other Stories Showcases EC Artist Bernard Krigstein at His Battered Best

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<i>Master Race and Other Stories</i> Showcases EC Artist Bernard Krigstein at His Battered Best

Writers: Al Feldstein, Carl Wessler, Johnny Craig, Otto Binder and Jack Oleck
Artist: Bernard Krigstein
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Release Date: January 23, 2018

Part of Fantagraphics’ ongoing EC Library series designed to highlight various artists (and writers, too, but mostly artists), Master Race collects 32 stories drawn by Bernard Krigstein. A classically trained artist, he pushed the comics form to do more than it needed to, as Greg Sadowski’s good and informative introduction makes clear. Sadowski not only gives an overview of Krigstein’s career at EC, but also (again, as is usual for the series), discusses most of the individual stories and what makes them notable. This book is by no means a complete Krigstein; rather, it picks representative or particularly notable stories. It also restores the art to something like its original glory, removing the color to highlight the line work, cleaning everything up and printing it nicely.

Master Race and Other Stories Interior Art by Bernard Krigstein

If Sadowski has one overarching point, it’s that, restricted for the most part to six-page stories, Krigstein subdivided his panels as much as he could in order to cram more frames on a page (page five of “In the Bag” has 16 panels!). The stories are pretty standard EC stuff—twist endings galore, a whole lot of unpleasant people who get what they deserve, a bit of history and war and some fairly shrewish women—which doesn’t mean that they’re not entertaining. Some of them telegraph their endings from a mile away. Others get mired in tech speak (mostly about planes). But they rarely drag because the formula worked as it was supposed to: quick cheap thrills that endure decently even today.

Master Race and Other Stories Interior Art by Bernard Krigstein

Krigstein’s strength is in his sometimes-expressionistic art. His stuff isn’t poetry, like Al Williamson’s work at EC. It’s not very heroic, like Wally Wood’s proud spacemen. And it’s not virtuosically galumphing, like Jack Davis’ stuff. His most successful work happens in panels full of blacks and grays, with bright areas of white standing out sharply. His people grimace, but not in a funny way, and they move their bodies dramatically back and forth in space, diving close to the front of the panel to confront the reader or stumbling away from it in fear. The title story, which includes numerous flashbacks to the concentration camps, is a fine example of this tendency in his art, full of people bending, stooping and falling. Hardly anyone stands steadily on two feet in any of these pages; Krigstein’s characters are battered by the world but not exactly giving up, and you can see him playing around with different approaches and techniques over about 200 pages of art. Like previous entries in the series, it’s a good read, but it’s also a coffee table art book, a love letter to EC’s commitment to art and weirdness.

Master Race and Other Stories Interior Art by Bernard Krigstein

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