Reed Crandall was employed at some of the top publishers in the field, turning out excellent work for the Eisner-Iger shop, for Quality Comics, for E.C. Comics, and at the last worked with one of the finest editors in the field, Archie Goodwin, on the Warren black and white books, Creepy, Eerie, and Blazing Combat. He was born in Winslow, Indiana on February 22, 1917. After finishing his formal art training at the Cleveland School of Art, he moved to New York where he worked briefly for a children's book publisher, then for the NEA newspaper syndicate, and then finally at the Eisner-Iger shop in Manhattan, where he contributed top-notch material for Fiction House (Planet Comics, Jumbo, Wings, Jungle), and Quality comic books.
According to fellow artist Gerry Altman, "Reed was a real problem for Iger. His stuff was so great, every time he came into the shop we all stopped to look at his stuff." Iger eventually had to arrange things so that the artist worked at home rather than at the studio (which was the common practice in those days). Later in 1941 Crandall got noticed by Quality Comics head Everett "Busy" Arnold, who persuaded Eisner and Iger to let Crandall work exclusively on Quality material. Arnold, who published Will (The Spirit) Eisner, Jack Cole, and Lou (Hit Comics) Fine was greatly impressed by the newcomer. "I always thought my artists over the years were the finest in the business," Arnold said, "And I rate Crandall as the best man I ever had."
At Quality Crandall drew The Ray, Dollman, Hercules and Firebrand. Eventually Arnold turned over one of the first teams in comics, The Blackhawks, to the artist. First created by Will Eisner and illustrated by Chuck Cuidera, Blackhawk was turned by Reed Crandall into a much sought-after collector's item in the comics field, with some issues valued at as much as $2600. As Jim Steranko remarked in his History of the Comics, "Crandall turned it (Blackhawk) into a classic, a work of major importance and lasting value..."
Not only did Blackhawk require authentic
depictions of planes, tanks, and weapons, but also the ability to draw
"group" shots. Crandall was more than equal to the task. Influenced by illustrator giants like N.C.Wyeth, Howard Pyle, and James Montgomery Flagg, his stories were startlingly realistic, leaning more toward classic illustration than comic book cartooning.
After a short stint in the Army Air Force, Crandall returned to the series and stuck with it until 1953, doing almost all the covers for the last four years, and then went over to Entertaining Comics, where his fine-lined technique would be put to good use in E.C. 's crime, horror, and science fiction titles. Bill Gaines once said, "Crandall walked in; he was the last walk- in, he said, '"I'm Reed Crandall." I said, 'So what took you so long? We've been sitting here waiting for you."
Crandall was perfect for E.C.'s science fiction titles and proved it with his story for the last issue of Weird Fantasy, Ray Bradbury's "The Silent Towns." The artist's grimly realistic style also lit up the last year of E.C.'s two crime comics.
Although Crandall was only to work a relatively short time for E.C. (which was killed by the anti-horror comic backlash) his work for titles like Piracy and their Picto-Fiction magazine Terror Illustrated lit up the last New Direction books. During roughly the same period, Crandall also contributed science fiction stories (Interplanetary Police) for the Catholic Guild's weekly comic Treasure Chest,a gig which would last for a little over ten years.
Treasure Chest helped him keep alfoat in the late fifties, when, thanks to the comics' crash, times were tight. Crandall managed to do work for the low-paying Classics Illustrated (which was also using art by other E.C. alumni like Evans, Williamson, Orlando, and Ingles), worked for Buster Brown Comics, a shoe store giveaway, and later drew stories for Gold Key's Twilight Zone (1961-1965). The early sixties also saw him doing work for Wally Wood's Tower Comics, and some of his very best work for the black and white Warren magazines. He, along with Frank Frazetta and Roy Krenkel, also produced a series of fantasy illustrations for the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels being produced by Canaveral Books (all his Canaveral work was later collected in Russ Cochran's Edgar Rice Burroughs Library of Illustration, Vol. 3, 1984, and in Richard Lupoff's Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure). After his friend Al Williamson left King Comics' Flash Gordon, Crandall drew several issues of the series.
It was also during the sixties when Crandall was forced to leave New York to care for his ailing mother in Wichita. Isolated and out of the comics industry loop, Crandall developed a drinking problem. After the death of his mother the artist was able to beat alcoholism, but his health was gone and his drawing ability suffered accordingly.
His last published story appeared in 1973 for Creepy #54 ("This Graveyard is Not Deserted"). In 1974 he took a job as a night watchman and janitor for Pizza Hut until suffering a stroke later that year at age 57. Crandall spent the last eight years of his life in a nursing home until a fatal heart attack ended that on September 13, 1982.