Johnny Craig was the artistic king of noir and the hard-boiled at EC Comics during that company's brief time of greatness in the early 1950's. His art was slick but evocative, and he could write his own stories as well as illustrate those of others. He was also notoriously slow as an artist, which makes his EC output a smaller body of work than contemporaries that include Wally Wood and Graham Ingels. But what work it was!
The Fantagraphics EC Artists' Library reprints its stories in black and white, which takes the gore quotient down a notch while allowing one to more clearly experience the art. The reader also gets helpful biographical and critical essays on Johnny Craig and the history of EC Comics.
|Johnny Craig's most infamous EC cover|
"Touch and Go" adapts the Ray Bradbury story "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl" in memorable fashion, though it goes a bit too wordy at times (EC Comics were intensely, immensely, densely wordy). The last, eponymous piece, "Fall Guy for Murder," was written by EC Publisher Bill Gaines and EC mainstay Al Feldstein. It's a brilliant twisty, metafictional piece of work that represents one of the high points for EC.
The selection of stories is solid throughout. The reader may groan at times at the sarcastic, punny narration that appeared perhaps a bit too much in the EC books. But the overall effect is sound, beautifully rendered work -- the sort of thing that can still work as Comic Books for People Who Don't Like Comic Books, without losing any appeal to People Who Like Comic Books.
Throughout Fall Guy for Murder and Other Stories, Craig gives his all on art and stories. He's a marvelously 'clean' artist, which makes the moments of graphic horror all the more menacing. Highly recommended for fans of good comics and noir.