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By God, Lou Fine could draw. One of comics' first illustrative stars, he influenced and astounded such later greats as Alex Toth, Jim Steranko, and Gil Kane. His covers alone during the 40's stand as some of the best-designed and most exiting work ever produced for any comic book publisher. Ah, but there was much more: beautiful stories for (among others) Dollman and Black Condor, plus a wartime run on Eisner's Spirit, before putting comics behind in favor of strips and commercial illustration. Lou packed a lot of drawing into his heyday, all of it unforgettable.

SEE: Selected wartime Spirit sections; covers too numerous to mention for Quality Comics (see the Gerber Photo Journal Guide to Comics)

More than anyone, Bernard Krigstein stepped outside the world of illustration and commercial art and brought a fine artist's sensibility to the medium. With each job in his relatively short career, Krigstein tried something new - not just visually, but philosophically. His domain was the possibilities of the form and their application as a true art. Krigstein is responsible for perhaps comics' most famous story: "Master Race" from EC's Impact #1. No other individual artistic accomplishment has incited so much worthy debate, or elicited such deep thought as this gem of intellectual storytelling.

SEE: "Flying Machine", Weird Science-Fantasy #23; "The Catacombs", Vault of Horror #38

If you enjoyed Steve Ditko's essential superhero and horror work in the 50's and 60's, you could easily be blindsided by his highly political and didactic work on 70's strips such as Mr. A and Avenging World. The rigid and intense worlds of these later stories stand as a fascinating contrast to the freewheeling mix of action and suspense in his early career. Although his popularity among younger fans has waned strongly over recent years, the man who created Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Captain Atom, and the polemics of Mr. A or Static has given us more to talk about than a hundred overstylized, overwrought modern "stars".

SEE: Amazing Spider-Man #33; Avenging World #1; Strange Tales #115 1966-72!

Although his comics career is relatively short, Frank Frazetta's towering presence and staggering technique beg his inclusion. After Jack Davis, Frazetta is probably comics' best known graduate to the mainstream, and the one who compares most favorably with the great strip artists and illustrators of the past. After a few years mastering the pen and ink medium, Frank left comicbooks behind, shifted gears to painting and...well, the rest is history. His legacy leaves us to wonder what might have been had he applied himself to a career telling stories with lots of little pictures instead of one big one.

SEE: Covers for Famous Funnies; Thun'da #1; "Squeeze Play", ShockSuspenStories #13; Weird Science-Fantasy #29, (cover); many great magazine and book covers

One of comicdom's greatest successes, Wally Wood is also among its most terrible tragedies. For over 20 years Woody was among comics' most versatile and sought after artists. Science-fiction, war, romance, superheroes, comedy: Wood did everything with total command and total class. He produced some of comics' all-time greatest work at EC and Warren, helped re-launch Marvel, and created the THUNDER Agents, but his vision of "real" success eluded him. Disillusioned, bitter, and in ill health he eventually committed suicide rather than face his final days. If only he could have let people closer and allowed them to help, or if he could have taken to heart what generations of fans have always known: he was truly one of the greats.

SEE: "There Will Come Soft Rains", Weird Fantasy #17; THUNDER Agents #1; "My World", Weird Science #22; Weird Science #10, cover; Daredevil #7; many great works in the 50's & 60's

If the only thing Harvey Kurtzman had ever done was Hey Look! he'd still be on this list. The one page vignettes he did in 1948 and 49 are flat-out among the funniest things ever done in comics. But Kurtzman did much more. How about crafting some of the finest war stories of all time, producing visually astounding covers, creating Trump, Help!, and Mad magazines, and doing it all in a unique, amusing, and incisive style? Kurtzman's cartooning is brilliant, but his writing and editing (whereby he laid out most artists' stories) are legendary, and rightly so.

SEE: "The Big If", Frontline Combat #5; Two-Fisted Tales #26, cover; Mad 1 - 28; "Sounds from Another World", Weird Science #14 (1st)

One of comics' great all around storytellers, Barks had a long and successful career doing one of the toughest things of all: entertaining children and adults with the same stories. Along the way he created some wonderful and enduring characters, not the least of which is the inimitable Uncle Scrooge.

SEE: "Christmas on Bear Mountain" and other Scrooge stories in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, and in Gladstone reprints.

Neal Adams changed the look of the comic industry forever. By applying techniques and production philosophies of the commercial art world, he spawned a generation of imitators and a radical shift in style. The line of demarcation is so obvious, in fact, that comics history could rightfully be divided into the Kirby era and the Adams era. Among the artists who can trace their lineage wholly or partly to the Adams legacy are: Frank Brunner, Mike Nasser, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Ploog, Val Mayerik, Mike Golden, and many others. Although Neal's career has been spotty in the years since, his impact in the late 60's is unparalleled, and the repercussions of his influence are still in evidence today.

SEE: Avengers 93-95; Batman #252; consistent high quality 1966-72!

Will Eisner is simply the most mature, thoughtful, and articulate creator that American comics have yet produced. With a career begun at the advent of comics and continuing with vibrant, fascinating work still being done today, Eisner is a wishful example for future comic creators to follow. After an early career employing future greats (Jack Kirby, Lou Fine, Reed Crandall) with Eisner / Iger studio and creating some of comics' greatest strips (Blackhawk, The Spirit) Will retired from commercial comics for over 20 years. When he returned he expanded and enriched his ouvre with a series of personal, heartfelt graphic novels about subjects as varied as religion, tenement life, the comics industry and the politics of life on other worlds. If even a handful of well rounded, accomplished creators would put away the trappings of adolescence and follow his lead toward serious minded treatment of a variety of subjects, comics could begin the long march to acceptance as a literary form.

SEE: The Spirit (pre-war era); A Contract with God; The Dreamer

With all due respect to the gentlemen listed below, the gap between Jack Kirby and the rest of the field might just as well be an ocean. Jack's accomplishments are legion. Not only a great artist and cartoonist, but a breathtaking visual stylist who created a large portion of the storytelling language every comic artist uses today. He is the unquestioned king of invention; not just characters, but devices, stories, races, worlds, genres, and even companies flowed from his fingers. For over 50 years his exuberance, his vitality, and his sheer will helped him carry an industry on his shoulders. Very few people in any creative field are acknowledged as the obvious and unchallenged master of their domain. Kirby is one of them.

SEE: Fantastic Four #55-58; Thor #154-157; "Sky Masters" newspaper strip; Fighting American (Hardcover reprint); Oh, what the hell, just anything before 1973!

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