Wallace Wood was born on June 17, 1927 in Menahga, Minnesota. A brilliant and innovative comic book artist and independent publisher, he was best known for his work in EC Comics and Mad magazine. He was married three times, and his first marriage was to artist Tatjana Wood, who later did extensive work as a comic book colorist.
In addition to his hundreds of comic book pages, Wood illustrated for books and magazines while also working in a variety of other areas - advertising; packaging and product illustrations; gag cartoons; record album covers; posters; syndicated comic strips; and trading cards, including work on Topps' landmark Mars Attacks set.
EC publisher William Gaines once stated of Wood that he, "...may have been our most troubled artist. I'm not suggesting any connection, but he may have been our most brilliant."
Wood began reading and drawing comics at an early age, strongly influenced by the comic strip artwork of Roy Crane. He graduated from high school in 1944, signed on with the United States Merchant Marine near the end of World War II and enlisted in the U.S. Army's 11th Airborne Paratroopers in 1946.
He went from training at Fort Benning, Georgia, to occupied Japan. Arriving in New York City after his discharge in the summer of 1948, he worked as a Bickford's busboy while briefly attending the Cartoonists and Illustrators School.
He began as an assistant to George Wunder, who had taken over the Milton Caniff comic strip Terry And The Pirates. He cited his "first job on my own" as Chief Ob-stacle, a continuing series of strips for a 1949 political newsletter. He entered the comic book field by lettering, as he recalled in 1981: "The first professional job was lettering for Fox romance comics in 1948. This lasted about a year. I also started doing backgrounds, then inking. Most of it was the romance stuff. For complete pages, it was $5 a page... Twice a week, I would ink 10 pages in one day."
Artist-representative Renaldo Epworth helped Wood land his early comic-book assignments, making it unclear if that connection led to Wood's lettering or to his comics-art debut, the 10-page story "The Tip Off Woman" in the Fox Comics Western Women Outlaws #4 (cover-dated Jan. 1949, on sale late 1948).
Wood's next known comic-book art did not appear until Fox's My Confession #7 (Aug. 1949), at which time he began working almost continuously on the company's similar My Experience, My Secret Life, My Love Story and My True Love: Thrilling Confession Stories.
As a side note regarding his various handles, much of his early professional artwork is signed Wallace Wood, but within the comics community, he was later also nicknamed "Wally," which he said he strongly disliked. However, he also became known as "Woody," which he didn't mind nearly as much - in fact he sometimes even used that as a signature, including his first signed work, which is believed to be in My Confession #8 (Oct. 1949), half-hidden on a theater marquee. (He penciled and inked two stories in that issue: a 9-pager called "I Was Unwanted" and a 10-pager called "My Tarnished Reputation.")
Wood's first recorded works for EC Comics, the company with which he would establish his reputation, were co-penciling and co-inking with Harry Harrison the seven-page "Too Busy For Love" in Modern Love #5; and fully penciling the eight-page lead story, "I Was Just a Playtime Cowgirl", in Saddle Romances #11 (April 1950), inked by Harrison.
Working from a Manhattan studio at West 64th Street and Columbus Avenue, Wood began to attract attention in 1950 with his highly detailed and imaginative science-fiction artwork for EC and Avon Comics, some in collaboration with Joe Orlando. During this period, he drew in a wide variety of subjects and genres, including adventure, romance, war and horror; message stories (for EC's Shock SuspenStories); and satirical humor for editor Harvey Kurtzman's Mad comic book.
Wood penciled/inked several dozen stories, many considered comic-art classics, in EC's Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Two-Fisted Tales, and Tales from the Crypt, as well as the lesser-known EC titles Valor, Piracy and Aces High.
Working over scripts and pencil breakdowns by Jules Feiffer, the 25-year-old Wood drew two months of Will Eisner's classic, Sunday-supplement newspaper comic book The Spirit, on the 1952 story arc "The Spirit in Outer Space". Eisner, Wood recalled, paid him "about $30 a week for lettering and backgrounds on The Spirit. Sometimes he paid $40 when I did the drawings, too."
Between 1957 and 1967, he produced both covers and interiors for more than 60 issues of the science-fiction digest Galaxy Science Fiction, illustrating such authors as Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Jack Finney, C.M. Kornbluth, Frederik Pohl, Robert Silverberg, Robert Sheckley, Clifford D. Simak and Jack Vance. He painted six covers for Galaxy Science Fiction Novels between 1952 and 1958.
His spicy gag cartoons appeared in the men's magazines Dude, Gent and Nugget. He inked the first eight months of the 1958-1961 syndicated comic strip Sky Masters Of The Space Force, penciled by Jack Kirby. Wood expanded into book illustrations, including for the picture-cover editions (though not the dust-jacket editions) of titles in the 1959 Aladdin Books reissues of Bobbs Merrill's 1947 "Childhood of Famous Americans" series.
Wood additionally did art and stories for comic-book companies large and small Ñ from Marvel (and its 1950s iteration Atlas Comics), DC (House of Mystery, Plop!, Stalker, All Star Comics, Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown), and Warren (Creepy and Eerie), to such smaller firms as Avon (Strange Worlds), Charlton (War and Attack, Jungle Jim), Fox (Martin Kane, Private Eye), Gold Key (M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War, Fantastic Voyage), Harvey (Unearthly Spectaculars), King Comics (Jungle Jim), Atlas/Seaboard (The Destructor), Youthful Comics (Capt. Science) and even the toy company Wham-O (Wham-O Giant Comics).
In 1965, Wood and Len Brown created T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for Tower Comics. (Some sources also credit Larry Ivie as another co-creator.) For Marvel during the Silver Age of comics, his work as penciler-inker of Daredevil #5-8, and inker (over Bob Powell) of issues #9-11, established the title character's distinctive red costume (first seen in issue #7).
Wood also penciled and inked the first four 10-page installments of the company's "Dr. Doom" feature in Astonishing Tales #1-4 (Aug. 1970 - Feb. 1971), and both wrote and drew anthological horror/suspense tales in Tower of Shadows #5-8 (May-Nov. 1970).
Additionally, he inked The Avengers #20-22 and the "Iron Man" feature in Tales of Suspense #71, both over penciler Don Heck, as well as the "Human Torch" feature in Strange Tales #134, over Powell, in 1965; Captain America #127, over Gene Colan, in 1970; Kull the Conquerer #1, over Ross Andru, and "Red Wolf" in Marvel Spotlight #1, over Syd Shores, in 1971; and The Cat #1, over Marie Severin, in 1972.
Weird Science 18
Copyright © EC Comics
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He inked Kirby on the covers of Avengers #20-21 and The X-Men #14, and on the Daredevil character only on the covers and interiors of Fantastic Four #s 39-40. In one of his final assignments he returned to a character he helped define, inking Frank Miller's cover of Daredevil #164 (May 1980).
The Grand Comics Database also cites by Wood "additional inks... uncredited" on the Kirby layouts and George Tuska pencil and ink work of the "Captain America" feature in Tales of Suspense #71.
In circles concerned with copyright and intellectual property issues, Wood is known as the artist of the unsigned satirical Disneyland Memorial Orgy poster, which first appeared in Paul Krassner's magazine The Realist. The poster depicts a number of copyrighted Disney characters in various unsavory activities (including sex acts and drug use), with huge dollar signs radiating from Cinderella's Castle.
Wood himself, as late as 1981, when asked who did that drawing, said only, "I'd rather not say anything about that! It was the most pirated drawing in history! Everyone was printing copies of that. I understand some people got busted for selling it. I always thought Disney stuff was pretty sexy... Snow White, etc." Disney took no legal action against either Krassner or The Realist but did sue a publisher of a "blacklight" version of the poster, who used the image without Krassner's permission. The case was settled out of court.
In another copyright area, Wood published Sally Forth in the U.S. servicemen's periodicals Military News and Overseas Weekly from 1968-1974. It starred an attractive heroine who actively participated in many erotic episodes. He later collected this feature in four oversize (10"x12") magazines. From 1993-95, Pearson Publishing reformatted the strips into a series of comics published by Eros Comix, an imprint of Fantagraphics Books, which collected the entire run into a single 160-page volume in 1998.
Oddly, after Wood's death, an artist unconnected with Wood suddenly began syndicating for newspapers a very similar (although non-erotic) comic strip, which was also heroine-driven and used the exact same title of Sally Forth - a blatant rip-off if ever there was one. (It is not known if any settlement was reached on this with the Wood estate, or even if the estate has yet pursued the matter.)
During the 1960s, Wood also did many trading cards and humor products for Topps Chewing Gum, including concept roughs for Topps' famed 1962 Mars Attacks cards prior to the final art by Bob Powell and Norman Saunders. Active with the 1970s Academy of Comic Book Arts, Wood contributed to several editions of the annual ACBA Sketchbook.
Over several decades, numerous artists worked at the Wood Studio. Associates and assistants included Dan Adkins, Richard Bassford, Tony Coleman, Nick Cuti, Leo and Diane Dillon, Larry Hama, Russ Jones, Wayne Howard, Paul Kirchner, Joe Orlando, Bill Pearson, Al Sirois, Ralph Reese, Bhob Stewart, Tatjana Wood and Mike Zeck.
In 1966, Wood launched the independent magazine Witzend, one of the first alternative comics, a decade before Mike Friedrich's Star Reach or Flo Steinberg's Big Apple Comix (for which Wood drew the cover and contributed a story). Wood offered his fellow professionals the opportunity to contribute illustrations and graphic stories that detoured from the usual conventions of the comics industry. After the fourth issue, Wood turned Witzend over to Bill Pearson, who continued as editor and publisher through the 1970s and into the 1980s.
In 1969, Wood created another seminal independent comic, Heroes, Inc. Presents Cannon. Artists Steve Ditko and Ralph Reese and writer Ron Whyte are credited with primary writer-aritst Wood on three features: "Cannon", "The Misfits" and "Dragonella". A second magazine-format issue was published in 1976 by Wood and CPL Gang Publications. Larry Hama, one of Wood's assistants, said, "I did script about three Sally Forth stories and a few of the Cannon's. I wrote the main Sally Forth story in the first reprint book (which is actually dedicated to me, mostly because I lent Woody the money to publish it!)".
Throughout much of his adult life, Wood suffered from chronic, unexplainable headaches. In the 1970s, following bouts with alcoholism, Wood also began suffering from kidney failure. Then a stroke in 1978 caused a loss of vision in one eye. Faced with such declining health and similarly declining career prospects, he committed chose to commit suicide by gunshot in Los Angeles, California on November 2, 1981.
EC editor Harvey Kurtzman, who had worked closely with Wood during the 1950s, once commented, "Wally had a tension in him, an intensity that he locked away in an internal steam boiler. I think it ate away his insides, and the work really used him up. I think he delivered some of the finest work that was ever drawn, and I think it's to his credit that he put so much intensity into his work at great sacrifice to himself."
* National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Division awards, 1957, 1959, and 1965.
* Alley Award, Best Pencil Artist,1965
* Alley Award, Best Inking Work, 1966
* Best Foreign Cartoonist Award, Angouleme International Comics Festival, 1978
* Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, 1989
* Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame, 1992
Against The Grain:
Mad Artist Wallace Wood
Bhob Stewart, editor (2003)
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