Posts from 11th September 2008

Sep 08

Comics: A Beginner’s Guide: Crime/Suspense Thrillers

The Brown Wedge5 comments • 854 views

I usually start with my favourite work under consideration, but for the last entry in the series, I am saving the best for last. Crime is obviously central to countless comics, but I am not really talking about the superhero comic, not Alan Moore’s excellent Top Ten, a superhero Hill Street Blues, or even things like Ed Brubaker’s Gotham Central, which is still in that world, almost constantly conscious of the existence of Batman. Frankly, comics have given us very little centrally placed in the genre to match up to the many great crime novels or movies – though actually I have high hopes for Darwyn Cooke’s upcoming adaptations of some of Richard Stark’s tremendously hardboiled Parker stories.

Really, this heading is just for me to talk about one eight-page story, which only loosely belongs here. It’s widely considered the best short-story ever in comics – this may be a fair assessment, though I mention a couple of other contenders in the War and Koike & Kojima entries in this series. Whatever, ‘Master Race’ is a genuine masterpiece. You will often find no mention of the writer – it’s just discussed as Bernie Krigstein’s comic. The script in itself is daring: in 1955, the Holocaust was not much referenced in popular culture. I imagine it was still too raw, too hard to assimilate into anything but the most serious coverage, so writer (and editor of Impact, which ran this story in its first issue) Al Feldstein was taking a risk in including details of its horrors. Krigstein for once got permission to do things more or less his way – he had had regular battles with EC about changing the panel layouts he was given (EC habitually had the borders and copious caption text all set before the artists got at it). This time, he even got to stretch a 6-page script to eight pages, though I have seen it said that he had wanted 12.