Wood, Wally

Tagged: Art

Working name of American artist Wallace A Wood (1927-1981), sometimes credited as Wallace Wood or simply Wood. After military service, the largely self-trained Wood received some instruction at New York's Cartoonists and Illustrators School in 1948 and did some minor work for newspaper Comic strips before shifting to comic books; one of his early collaborators was a young artist named Harry Harrison who later became the famed sf writer. After joining EC Comics in 1949, the pair initially handled romance comics before persuading publisher William M Gaines to launch two sf comics, Weird Fantasy and Weird Science. After briefly working for Avon, Wood returned to EC Comics to illustrate many of its most renowned sf stories, including adaptations of Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains" (6 May 1950 Collier's) and "Mars Is Heaven" (Fall 1948 Planet Stories). He also drew for EC's very successful Mad comic book, founded 1952, illustrating many of its fondly remembered parodies, such as the well-known "Superduperman". When EC stopped publishing comic books in 1955 and transformed Mad into a magazine, he remained one of its senior artists until 1964. In the late 1950s, he also worked on the comic strips Flash Gordon and, with Jack Kirby, Sky Masters of the Space Force, while also drawing for DC Comics's Challengers of the Unknown and House of Mystery.

Since comic books did not pay well, Wood had already begun working for SF Magazines as well, beginning with some 1953 interior illustrations for Planet Stories, and he focused more on sf art in the late 1950s, producing a number of interiors for Galaxy and its sister magazines If and Worlds of Tomorrow. These interior illustrations have been described as some of the finest ever printed, inasmuch as the chiaroscuro in his black-and-white work gave his images an unmatched feeling of depth. In addition, Wood painted six covers for Galaxy, including a clever portrait of a human, several strange Aliens, and a Robot playing cards, for the cover of its April 1959 issue, and an uncharacteristically sombre depiction of astronauts on a snowy, mountainous planet, for the cover of its August 1959 issue. He also did several book covers for Gnome Press and Galaxy Science Fiction Novels, though these were generally unmemorable. Still, his brief career as an sf artist was sufficiently impressive as to earn him two Hugo nominations as Best Professional Artist in 1959 and 1960.

However, Wood's first love remained comics, even though he resented the restrictions imposed by the Comics Code Authority after 1954, and he returned to the field in the 1960s, drawing Daredevil for Marvel Comics's and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for Tower Comics (an imprint which he edited for Tower Books). In 1966 he began publishing an underground magazine, Witzend, that featured some strong, and sometimes erotic, material, while also contributing to the Warren Publishing horror comics Creepy and Eerie; he later worked for its Vampirella and produced some more erotica for National Screw. Among many other activities, Wood also drew for trading cards, including preliminary sketches for Topps' famous Mars Attacks! series; did some album covers for children's records; and produced advertisements for Alka-Seltzer and other products. Though he long remained a productive artist, however, Wood had a troubled personal life, experiencing two failed marriages, alcoholism, and a series of serious health problems. A 1978 stroke left him with vision in only one eye, diminishing his artistic ability, and upon recognizing that kidney failure would further force him to depend on a dialysis machine, Wood chose to commit suicide in 1981.

Since his death, Wood has been recognized as one of the most influential comics artists of the century, and perhaps the best of all artists ever to work in comic-book sf. The recipient of numerous honours within the field of comic books, Wood has also been celebrated in a large number of recent compilations that seem collectively intent upon republishing every single piece of art Wood ever produced; the checklist below may well be incomplete. [PN/JG/GW]

Wallace A Wood

born Menahga, Minnesota: 17 June 1927

died Los Angeles, California: 2 November 1981

works (excluding comic books and self-published books)

about the artist

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