Review of “Master Race” (1955)

Sequential art with text

Bernie Krigstein (artist), Bill Gaines (writer), Al Feldstein (writer).

Read in 2023.

A man in the USA remembers the Belsen concentration camp when he sees another man on a subway train.

It’s a good short piece in its right, but the main point of interest here is an alternative history of US comics. Krigstein, who pioneered sequential art as it would be drawn decades later, blew his deadline. “Master Race” therefore lay unpublished for a few months while the Comics Code Authority came into effect, reducing the popularity and profitability of the medium through self-censorship. When the story came out, US comics were locked back into old styles and subjects. Innovators like Krigstein grew bitter and left the business entirely, feeling that comics could so easily have flourished instead. They did in Japan. In 1955, Tezuka Osamu had already left the Tokiwa-sō atelier to other comics artists who would sustain the diversification of manga. European comics would mature later, and more than two decades would pass before Eisner’s first graphic novels showed to the USA what Krigstein could have done in the 1950s. He might even have done it with people, not Eisner’s anthropomorphic animals.

References here: “Autumn Journey” (1971), The Dark Knight Returns (1986).

sequential art text fiction