1927 (Menahga, Minnesota)
1981 (Los Angeles, California)
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comic-book illustrator, science fiction
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Wally Wood was born in 1927, and studied at the Cartoonists and
Illustrators School in New York and as an assistant to George Wunder
who was drawing Terry and The Pirates. Early in 1949 he met Renaldo Epworth, who brokered comic book stories for some of the low-end publishers. |
His first assignment was a Fox romance comic, My Confession,
from October of 1949. Wood was just out of the Marines and was
age 22, when Epworth placed him with two separate aspiring young
cartoonists, Marty Rose and Harry Harrison, to produce stories for Fox
in 1949 and 1950.
While producing romance, crime and adventure
comics for Victor Fox in 1950, at minimum wage, he branched out to
other companies. Wood was an immediate regular, when the
unforgettable science fiction comics, Weird Fantasy and Weird Science, came out in 1950.
At the age of 25, Wood got the job for Will Eisner's The Spirit,
a Sunday supplement comic. By this time Wood was an acknowledged
master of futuristic science fiction ships and monsters, and he
produced eight or nine weekly eight-page episodes of classic science
fiction art from scripts and breakdowns by Jules Feiffer before the
strip came to an end.
Wood began work on a new comic book, Mad.
The lampoon style and the popular culture target were firmly
established. Except for the issue that featured only Will Elder,
Wood was in every issue of the comic and continued to work for Mad for
years after its transformation to a magazine in 1955. He was
still there in the early sixties, with art in every issue up to #86.
the 1950s, Wood turned to more traditional illustrative markets.
He did dust jackets for science fiction books, illustrated children's
books and did some advertising illustration. He got work doing
cartoons for men's magazine, but his main outlet was the science
fiction digests, most notably Galaxy Science Fiction.
There he did covers and interior drawings, sometimes doing the art for
three stories in one issue. He also did covers for four books in
a series of paperbacks they published. It wasn't comics, but it
was drawing and it paid the bills - barely. Many of comic's most
important artists were looking elsewhere for employment during the late
Fifties and early Sixties.
Wood came back to comic books with
the success of Marvel in the mid-Sixties. In late '64 through
early '66 he drew their Daredevil title. Then he created and packaged a
series of comic books for Tower featuring characters he created. These
were the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and featured Dynamo, Noman, Lightning,
the Raven and others. Wood stayed for two years.
The most important occurrence in 1966 was the publication of Witzend #1.
The 1960s created dozens of amateur magazines called "fanzines" devoted
to the medium being published, some on a fairly regular schedule.
Wood published his own fanzine with finished, professional
contributions by many of Fandom's most popular artists. It was
the first magazine that was outspokenly in favor of the rights of the
creators (which had always been subsumed to those of the
publishers). Witzend allowed the artists to copyright
their creations, a practice unheard of in those days. He
published six issues through 1969 and debuted a half-dozen characters
and strips of his own, including The Wizard King, which first appeared in issue #4.
helped many young artists break into the field, by hiring them as
"assistants" during the 1960's and 70's on a variety of projects.
These included a trio of strips in 1972-74 for The Overseas Weekly, a publication for servicemen. In between the pinups, Wood and company showcased Cannon (a sexy, spy adventure strip) and Sally Forth (a sexy humor strip); both were eventually compiled into magazine format by Wood himself. The third strip, Shattuck, was a sexy western, and a lot of it was drawn by a young Howard Chaykin.
1969 to 1976, Wood returned to comic books working for Charlton, DC,
Marvel, Warren, the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard, and even one appearance
at Mad. He was a polished and prolific inker and won several awards for
his skills. After twenty years he abandoned the field to produce and
publish his own work. The Wizard King was rescued from the old Witzend magazines and compiled into a hardbound book in 1978. It was followed by the next chapter, Odkin Son of Odkin in 1981.
1981, he shot himself. The last years of his life were a sad
commentary on how far he had fallen out of favor. Faced with fits
of depression and bouts with alcoholism, he found work primarily in the
hardcore lampoons of his once heroes. Wood, who actually was considered
as a replacement for Hal Foster on Prince Valiant (and actually
had his trial page published on November 15, 1970), was reduced to
creating x-rated parodies of Valiant, Flash Gordon, Tarzan and even
Alice in Wonderland for publications like National Screw.
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