Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Here’s last week’s installment, featuring an intro to who Krigstein is and what he’s all about. Short version: the best artist to work for the best genre-comics publisher of all time (EC), unsurpassed in his masterful use of sequencing, but — this is the important part — frequently hemmed in by the undercooked stories he was assigned to draw and the limited length he was given to explore what dramatic potential they had in. Krigstein never drew a story longer than twelve pages. However, the way he went about solving these problems, as we’ll see, was a big part of what made him not only unique but truly great.
And now to business.
Here’s a prime example of how Krigstein seamlessly elevated less-than-inspired script material. Saddled with wordy, adjective-weighted narration that nonetheless transitions between scenes at the snap of a finger, from bundled up on the streets of London to pajama-clad in a hotel room with a single narrow panel in between, Krigstein has no hope of giving the action a blow-by-blow reading. The rapid jump cutting employed here is a necessity, not a choice; but look at just how elegantly Krigstein carries it off, by placing an element in each panel that ties it to both the previous and the next. We move smoothly from the lamp in panel one to the streetlight in panel two to the wall torch occupying the same exact spot in panel three. Then Krigstein takes advantage of the strict top-to-bottom reading the high, thin panels he’s boxed into creates, ending panel three with his character’s feet before featuring them in the tier’s final frame. It’s an incredibly awkward format somehow made to flow like melted butter, a beautiful little bit of work.
It’s taken me a while to get around to taking a look at Bernard Krigstein on this column, though that’s hardly because I haven’t wanted to. Quite the opposite, in fact: every week when I write one of these things, he’s the first artist I think of spotlighting. The reason he’s gone unmentioned for so long is that the challenge he presents to the analyst of comics art is just so daunting. Even when one sets aside his razor-sharp drawing ability, his intuitive, museum-worthy compositional skill, and his unsurpassed way with graphic design to look at the sequencing alone, there’s more going on than could possibly be said. So I ended up giving up on finding a single, telegraphing Krigstein sequence and elected to pack as many as possible into today’s column, because put simply, Krigstein wrote the book on sequencing — his every page a bold statement about effective, economical, and above all dramatic presentation of content.