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 Bill Hess Ward  (1919 - 1996)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey/New York/Maryland      Known for: glamour girl-pin up illustration, comic strip. graphics

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Ad Code: 3
Bill Ward
from Auction House Records.
Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #8 Cover Featuring Torchy and Women In Comics Original Art
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for his pin-up girl illustrations and especially for his skill with the conté crayon, Bill Ward began his career during World War II with the creation of his sexy gal, Torchy, to divert his fellow soldiers.  Because his work seemed to meet "America's collective postwar sex fantasy" and the timing was right for the men's magazines that hit the market in the 1950s, Ward became one of the most popular "girlie artists" in America.  In the next four decades he expanded his subject matter somewhat but "never varied from his template of the Ultimate Woman---except to make her breasts a little bigger, her heels a little higher, or the satin and leather encasing her a little glossier."

Ward's formal name was William Hess Ward.  He began his career at age 15 as the sports cartoonist for a local paper in his home town of Ocean City, Maryland.  He was a kid who caused his teachers a lot of discipline problems but was also appreciated for his drawing abilities.  However, one teacher did tell his parents that drawing was his only talent.  He quickly learned that not only did his skill make him popular but also it was a way to make money.  As a teenager, he made good money during the summers doing caricatures and selling them.

After high school, he enrolled in The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and almost immediately he chose the female figure as his specialty.  Reportedly that choice pertained not only to artwork but to his life as well.  It was said that he did not take full advantage of Pratt Institute, from where he graduated in 1941, but reportedly he took much advantage of the many good looking young women in Brooklyn.

Of his prototypical pin-up, he said that throughout his career he kept in mind the "better parts" of several movie stars:  Anne Southern's exotic eye lids; Marilyn Monroe's lips; Anita Ekberg's massive bust; and the long wavy hair of Suzie Parker.

After leaving Pratt Institute, he worked briefly for the Manhattan Art Service, which he disliked because it was basically clean up work for other illustrators.  He then took a job with Fawcett Comic Books drawing backgrounds and then doing a complete Captain Marvel book, and he credits his boss, Jack Binder, as giving him valuable lessons for his future career.  Next he worked for Quality Comics, which was regarded as the top comic line in the world and for which he took over Blackhawk Comics featuring Blackhawk aircraft.  The bosses at Quality Comics were very impressed with Ward's covers.

However, like so many young men, he was drafted and was assigned at Quonset Pont Naval Air Base in Rhode Island to an anti-aircraft unit.  He had plenty of spare time so he laid out stories for Fawcett Comics, and created his most famous female figure, Torchy.  In 1944, one of the naval officers, aware of Ward's talents, commissioned him to do a comic strip for the base paper.  He named the strip Ack-Ack-Amy, and based the story line on the exploits of this very shapely blonde bombshell.  Torchy evolved from this character.

After the war, he returned to Quality Comics and did more Blackhawk drawings, but he was irritated because he was allowed only to do the pencil drawings and not his own inking.  He also brought Torchy into the civilian publications, and 'she' had her own comic book in 1949 and 1950 with Modern Comics.  Ultimately Ward became so busy with other assignments that Gil Fox took over some of the responsibilities with Torchy.  Finally in the mid 1950s, the series came to an end because of much national attention being focused on the negative effects on kids of comic books.  And shortly after that, television began taking over as the entertainment of choice.

Ward turned to magazine cartoons, and did much work, especially girlie cartoons, for monthlies including Humorama Magazine, Joker Magazine and Cracked Magazine.  He also contributed to adult literature such as Screw and Fetish Times, work he justified because he had to put food on the table.

According to his wife Judy, to whom he was married for 46 years, he was very shy, and he lived for his family and his work---would start at 4:00 AM and work into the afternoon from his studio at his hometown of Ridgewood, New Jersey.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following comments are from an editorial review on of The Glamour Girls of Bill Ward by Bill Ward and Alex Chun.

Renowned pin-up artist Bill Ward gets the full coffee table treatment in a lavish, oversized, full-color collection of his most polished 1950s illustrations.  Imagine, if you will, an innocent but stunning young woman boasting the most unlikely Barbie-like proportions—and then some—poured into a wisp of lingerie or clingy cocktail dress, silky opera-length gloves, and sheer thigh-high stockings, perched precariously but not inelegantly atop a pair of dangerously high stiletto heels, and you've got the recipe for the quintessential Wardian glamour girl.  Ward's girls became staples of countless men's and humor magazines where he shared the pages with cult models like Bettie Page and fellow "good girl" artists such as Dan DeCarlo and Jack Cole.  Ward became the standard bearer and justly famous through the '50s and '60s for his angular, high-sheen images of improbably busty glamour girls, a kind of low-rent Charles Dana Gibson.  What set Ward apart—and above—his talented contemporaries was his use of a medium called the conte crayon.  When drawn on a simple newsprint stock, this potent combination created a charcoal-like effect and color that gave Ward's original art an elegant sepia-tone quality.  This volume features the best of Ward's Humorama work, including a selection of Ward's infamous telephone girls. Tame by today's standards, Ward's telephone girls were considered provocative at the time, caught as they were in various states of dress or, more often, undress.

The majority of the images in this volume were drawn between 1956 and 1963 when Ward was at the height of his skill, shot from original art and printed in full color. This book not only reproduces over a hundred beautifully rendered illustrations, but captures a more innocent moment in American pop culture. 72 pages color.


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