Saturday, September 6, 2014

Corpse on the Imjin! and Other Stories By Harvey Kurtzman

 Fantagraphics continues to please comics historians and nostalgic nerds alike with their "Fantagraphics EC Library" collections, which spotlight one artist or writer per volume. As the title, CORPSE ON THE IMJIN! AND OTHER STORIES BY HARVEY KURTZMAN should inform you, this volume shines the spotlight on Harvey Kurtzman, particularly his stunning war stories from E.C.'s TWO-FISTED TALES and FRONTLINE COMBAT

 This collection contains 24 stories written by Kurtzman, who also illustrates 11 of them. The remainder of the book is illustrated by such legendary artists as John Severin, Reed Crandall, Johnny Craig, Ric Estrada, Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Dave Berg, Russ Heath, and Gene Colan. The stories are presented in black-and-white, but there's a cover gallery in the back of the book that showcases all 23 of Kurtzman's E.C. war comic covers in gorgeous, remastered color.

 As usual, Fantagraphics goes above and beyond by catering to rabid comic-book fans, delivering a plethora of extras and behind-the-scenes goodies, including an introduction by R.C. Harvey, "Combat Duty", an essay about Kurtzman's sometimes prickly collaborations with the artists who illustrated his stories (By Jared Gardner), "Respect For Simplicity", by Frank Stack, which dissects Kurtzman's cover illustrations, "A Conversation With Harvey Kurtzman", which combines highlights from two separate interviews (Conducted in 1979 and 1982), a brief biographical essay by S.C. Riggenberg, biographies of all of the artists represented in the collection, and "The Ups and Downs of EC Comics: A Short History", by Ted White. There are also a few photos of Kurtzman peppered throughout the book. You get a lot of good reading for your buck, which makes this a very worthwhile purchase.

 Books like this make it easier and easier to step back/away from buying modern comics. This is a beautiful, meticulous collection of some of the finest war stories ever told. The attention to detail, both historical and artistically, is staggering, and the interview with Kurtzman and the biography both show that he really went the extra mile to make sure his war stories were accurate. It shows. Very, very highly recommended