The Comic That Caused Bernard Krigstein to Quit EC Comics!

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Bernard Krigstein stopped working for EC Comics after he altered the ending of an Al Feldstein crime story.



Recently, I wrote a Comic Book Legend about how Bernard Krigstein's classic "Master Race" (which he did with writer Al Feldstein) involved Krigstein going off script, as it were, by taking a story that was intended to be six pages and make it eight pages, instead.

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Krigstein thought that the story was great, but he thought that it was TOO good for just a standard art job. He initially wanted DOUBLE the amount of pages, so that he could use extra panels to heighten the tension. Feldstein didn't want him to get any, but publisher Max Gaines eventually gave him an extra right pages. However, since it was already lettered, it was up to Krigstein to make sure that the lettering made sense.

Looking at the original art, you can see where Krigstein had to make cut and pastes to fit the lettering into his new layouts...

This highlighted a very real bone of contention between Krigstein and Feldstein. Krigstein felt that they should be trying to do more inventive things with the art on the stories, while Feldstein just wanted an artist who would draw what he told him to draw, since Feldstein's stories were so detailed that, as noted earlier, they were ALREADY LETTERED by the time that the artist drew the story. So someone like Krigstein going rogue was aggravating to Feldstein.

Still, he realized that Krigstein was a brilliant artist, so they kept him around. The final straw, though, came in the first issue of Crime Illustrated...

In 1953, Johnny Craig illustrated Feldstein's story, "Fall Guy for Murder" in Crime SuspenStories #18...

The comic was about a man who hired his wife's ex-boyfriend, a private detective, to find her when she goes missing.

The detective, though, quickly figures out that she was not actually missing, but that she has been murdered!

Some investigating reveals that the husband had been reading murder mysteries by the boatload recently, including a mysterious book called "Fall Guy for Murder." The detective assumes that the key to the murder is in that book, but he can't find a copy. He realizes that the only place to find the book was in the home of the husband....

As he reads the book in the husband's apartment, he realizes that their current case is very much like the one in the book, right up to the husband luring the detective into his home to read the book, where the husband then kills the detective and claims self defense (since he broke into his apartment, after all)...

The detective decides to shoot first himself, but finds out that the whole thing was orchestrated by the husband, who had written the book!

That's the sort of thing that the Comics Code Authority was actively trying to stop.

Anyhow, Feldstein liked the story so much that when they launched Crime Illustrated in 1955, he had Krigstein re-draw the story...

The ending is exactly the same...

However, that's not Krigstein on the ending. In fact, Krigstein is not credited for the story period. Reed Crandall came in to replace Krigstein on the last page or so and Crandall is the only credited artist. You see, Krigstein didn't like that the husband got away with it, so he just drew a different ending, where the detective kills the husband.

Obviously, Feldstein and Krigstein just weren't a good pair, so Krigstein left EC Comics (after one or two Mad Magazine pieces, but I don't know if they were commissioned BEFORE Classics Illustrated #1 or not) for Atlas Comics, where he worked for a few years before getting out of comics entirely by the end of the decade.


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