Ad Code: 3
from Auction House Records.
Johnny Craig Crime SuspenStories #16 Cover Original Art (EC, 1953)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born in Pleasantville, New York but raised in New York City, Johnny
Craig had an illustration career almost exclusively devoted to comic
books at EC Comics (Entertaining Comics). He began with the
company's predecessor in 1940, and stayed on into the mid 1950s,
becoming the longest-term staff artist with EC. When EC
discontinued comics, Craig took a job in Pennsylvania as an art
director but was impatient because he could not do much drawing.
As a result, he did some freelance work in the 1960s for Marvel and DC
Comics and for Archie Goodwin at A.C.G., using the name of Jay
Taycee. Another pseudonym was F.C. Aljohn.|
However, his later years as a comic book artist were frustrating to him
because he found that so much of his work was retouched so extensively
that little evidence remained of the artist's hand. He took other
jobs such as text book illustration and also did oil painting
commissions, working into the 1980s.
Craig had little formal art education although he did attend the
Art Students League in New York City, and just learned to draw by
'trial and error'. His working method was so slow with so much
attention to detail that Archie Goodwin said: "I don't know how he ever
made a living in comics. His work was so good, but every page
took him forever." In fact, his comic book writing with
illustration output was not extensive as he did fewer than 150 stories,
with each of them less than eight pages in length.
John Reilly stayed away from EC's standard horror subjects and focused on "voodoo,
haunted houses, personality transference, and above all, the
psychological aspects of fear. . . . Some people are afraid of
some things, some are afraid of other things. But whatever they're
afraid of is inside them", he said. (Goulart 84)
By 1947, he was writing and drawing for Saddle Justice and Crime Patrol, and then became the main storyteller and cover artist for The Vault of Horror,
becoming editor in 1954 for its last four issues. He
created an eerie-looking host, the Vault Keeper, and his assistant
Drusilla, which Craig later said was just an excuse to draw a sexy lady.
His boss, Bill Gaines said of Reilly: " 'He did some of our best covers
. . . Including the infamous severed head cover, which may be the most
famous cover ever in comics, and certainly the only one ever to be the
focus of an inquiry before the United States Senate.' "
"What Gaines was referring to was the scene on Crime SuspenStories
#22. Drawn by Craig, it depicted an ax murderer looming over the
body of a woman, holding a bloody ax in one hand and her amputated
skull in the other. When the publisher testified before a Senate
committee investigating links between juvenile crime and comic books,
Gaines wound up defending the cover to Senator Estes Kefauver who
asked, 'Do you think that's in good taste?' "
"Gaines's reply — 'Yes, sir, I do, for the cover of a horror
comic' — became the key sound-bite from the hearings. It
was quoted extensively as an example of the company's (and industry's)
supposed moral bankruptcy." (http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL365.htm)
This exchange has also been cited as leading to the collapse of the EC
Reilly's illustration style was cartoony, and generally clean and
'free from gore', meaning the work for which he was investigated was
atypical. He was much influenced by the
classic cartoon style of Milton Caniff, Harvey Kurtzman and Will
Eisner. As a writer, he tended towards "meandering", but anchored
his tales with strong illustration. He was known for his sexy
women such as Drusilla.
Craig's beginning career was 'jump started' by a store proprietor who
saw him, as a young man, hanging around, spending much time looking
through comic books. The proprietor had a son who was a
commercial art student, and one day he mentioned he had learned from
his son that a comic-book artist, Harry Lampert, co-creator of
All-American Comics, was looking for an assistant. Johnny Craig
was hired for one dollar a week. Lampert's company, All-American
Comics, was later absorbed by EC. When Lampert went into the Army
in 1941, the company editor asked Craig to stay on. His early
jobs were mostly lettering, but gradually he worked his way into
full-fledged illustration. However, his progress was interrupted
by his being drafted in 1943 and serving until 1946. Married, he
resumed his employment, and his first comic book cover was for Moon Girl in 1947.
Johnny Craig died at age 75 in September, 2001. On July 15, 2005,
he was posthumously inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame at
Comic-Con International's 17th Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.
Ron Goulart, The Encyclopedia of American Comics From 1897 to the Present, pp. 83-84.
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