Illustrators Crime Comics Special (artbook review).

October 29, 2020 | By | Reply More

All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2020

Peter Richardson’s history of early crime comics shows a distinct difference between the UK and USA. Over here, they evolved from woodcuts based on real crime, especially with the examples of the Whitechapel murders. In the USA, it was more fictious from the start, which when you consider the number of famous gangsters they had wasn’t really a route they chose to go but into the likes of Batman. However, it did show people had a taste for visual crime stories.

Sean Philips art. All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2020

With 58 pages devoted to Sean Phillips, this is the nearest I’ve seen a Special come to a love letter to one artist. Yes, he has drawn crime fiction, but so much of the art is devoted to his film posters. Maybe I’m too use to seeing variety in these Specials.

All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2020

The real guts, shall we say, of this ‘Crime Comics Special’, belongs to the comicbook ‘Crime Does Not Pay’ (1942-1953) under the editorial hands of Charles Biro and Bob Wood and published by Lev Gleason. Not only is there a detailed history of the comicbook and its main creators but a lot of art. Not always for the faint-hearted and was already in the process of being banned in Chicago even as far back as 1947 before Frederic Wertham laid into it 6 years later. Something I hadn’t known is Charles Biro introduced Mr. Crime as its narrator that had an influence over at EC Comics in their creations of the Old Witch, Vault-Keeper and Crypt-Keeper. Just in case you didn’t think I noticed while reading this book, the cover of Crime Does Not Pay # 5 was used three times in the content which seems awfully excessive.

Javier Mesón has a look at the Spanish creation of gangster ‘Torpedo’ (1980-), written by Enrique Sanchez Abuli. His editor, Josep Toutain got American artist Alex Toth to do the art but clearly did not like Torpedo’s lack of morality and injected some more to frustration of his Spanish owners and was replaced by Jordi Bernet. Reflecting on this, I think they might have had similar problems with other American artists of the time simply because they like happy endings too much. The series has been reprinted in 12 countries although I would be pushed to think it was ever done in the UK. The art shown here has a definite film noir approach and it’s pretty obvious both Abuli and Bernet watched a lot of gangster films.

‘Three Panel Crimes’ is a description by writer Tony Fabio of how he broke into print. In many respects, his lessons are very similar to what I push when writers had me look at their samples. Learn how to write with short stories and progress to novels and learn from your mistakes. Fabro adds one piece of advice from Lars Martinson, learn how to ‘Fail faster’. In other words, practice not so much makes perfect but helps you get the mistakes out of your system.

I think what shook me a little with this particular Special was how fewer the different topics were this time around. Granted, doing things the same way each time isn’t always a good idea but a scattershot tends to look for more. If you’re into crime comicbooks then it is worth a look and points you in the right direction.

GF Willmetts

October 2020

(pub: The Book Palace, 2020. 146 page illustrated squarebound magazine. Price: £25.00 (UK), $34.99 (US) via Bud Plant. ISBN: 978-1-913548-01-8. ISSN: 2052-6520)

check out website: and


Category: Books, Cri-Fi, Illustration

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Leave a Reply