Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
When told in 1965 that Stan Lee was helping revitalize comics over at Marvel, Bernard Krigstein responded:
I was delighted to learn that Lee has attained the status of an authority in the comics field. Twenty years of unrelenting editorial effort to suppress the artistic effort, encourage miserable taste, flood the field with degraded imitations and polluted non-stories, treating artists and writers like cattle, and failure on his part to make an independent success as a cartoonist have certainly qualified him for this respected position.
Damn. Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Krigstein! A bit of context (all of this is from Messages in a Bottle, a collection of Krigstein stories from the 1940s and ’50s, which is published by Fantagraphics): Krigstein clashed with Lee when he was forced to work at Atlas Comics after EC’s demise in the wake of the Great Comics Scare. Lee wouldn’t allow any experimentation with his stories, which Krigstein thought were pablum, and Atlas slashed page rates to $23 a page (when Krigstein worked for EC, page rates were originally $41 a page and then $35 a page as the company suffered from the denunciations of crazed politicians). Krigstein couldn’t make a living in comics, so he quit (at age 38 and pretty much at his artistic peak). He battled with Lee over a particular story that Lee thought needed more dialogue, changing the tense atmosphere that Krigstein had created, and Krigstein told Lee that he couldn’t mess with the art with his (Krigstein’s) permission. Lee backed down, but the writing was on the wall.
Look at that quote, though. How sad that an artist could easily apply it to editors/publishers in today’s comics landscape very easily. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose and all that.
Check the book out if you can. Krigstein was a damned fine artist, and it’s too bad he couldn’t stay in comics when he loved the medium so much.
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