Book Review: The Bitter End and Other Stories, Illustrated by Reed Crandall

Fantagraphics presents yet another unparalleled collection in their EC Artists series with The Bitter End and Other Stories. This time we are presented with twenty-two stories from Reed Crandall, and eight bonus stories from George Roussos. There is easily a novel’s worth of description and dialogue in this collection, as was the style at the time; however, Crandall’s artwork elevates every frame into the heights of terror, horror, science fiction, and war stories.

Buy The Bitter End and Other Stories

Keep in mind that around a dozen stories are questionable as to whom the original script writer(s) may be. These are indicated with an author’s name and question mark or simply a question mark.

Some highlights from the twenty-two Reed Crandall stories are as follows:

  • “The Bitter End” – One of a few stories in the collection relying mostly on dialogue. Great artwork with fantastic facial expressions lend this middling tale about a father’s demands some needed gravitas.
  • “Dog Food” –  A prison guard keeps ravenous dogs between the prison and his home as the ultimate defense. He doesn’t expect the where-with-all of Tom Herrick, a prisoner with a bone to pick. You’ll think you see the ending coming from a mile off, but you will be wrong. Has a wonderfully surprising script by Jack Oleck.
  •  “Double-Crossed” – A man kills his doppelganger just a few hours too late. Another of the many surprise endings to be found in this collection. Just when you think you know where it is going, it switches directions.
  • “The Shadow Knows” – From The Vault of Horror. This brilliant short piece sees a murderer harrassed by the shadow of the person he’s killed. A nicely sadistic ending you will not see coming.
  • “Swamped” – For a story with virtually no dialogue, the artwork is incredibly impressive. The story is told by an actual shack with a conscience in the Okefenokee Swamp which has misgivings about its “ghoul” of an occupant. Terrifically startling in its narration.

And highlights from the eight George Roussos’ stories include:

  • “Demons of Death” – A young couple taking care of a crotchety old miser seek ways to get their hands on his fortune. Great with faces, Roussos doesn’t have the same acumen with backgrounds as Crandall. 
  • “Trapped in the Tomb” – the artwork is the star here when a man is tricked into a dangerous tomb to find world-renowned treasure. Roussos uses darker inks to project great depth of doom and gloom.
  • “Extermination” – “The exterminator gets exterminated by all the pests he once pestered.” Again, George Roussos’ artwork, though not as pitch-perfect as Crandall’s, saves a familiar story.

Bonus Materials:

  • “Always Better, Never Bitter” – Introduction by Jon Gothold
  • “A Dose of Roussos” – Introduction by Jon Gothold
  • Eight Stories Illustrated by George Roussos
  • “Reed Crandall” – Biography by S.C. Ringgenberg
  • “Who Knows What Crandall Lurks?” – History by J. Michael Catron
  • “Behind the Panels” – Creator Biographies
  • “Crime, Horror, Terror, Gore, Depravity, Disrespect for Established Authority – And Science Fiction, Too!” – History by Ted White
  • “The Fantagraphics EC Artists’ Library” – Titles in the Series

This is yet another fine entry into the Fantagraphics library. Reed Crandall’s artwork is stunning throughout, and George Roussos holds his own. Highly recommended.

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Greg Hammond

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