Monday, June 09, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Wallace Wood!

The first Wally Wood-illustrated comic book story I remember seeing is "Batboy & Rubin", in a MAD paperback that my older cousin Louis had a copy of.
I'd never seen anything like it before... they were makin' fun of Batman!
After reading that paperback from cover to cover a few times I never looked at current events or pop culture in the same way again. I'm sure your introduction to MAD ran along similar lines.

In honor of what would have been Wallace Wood's 81st Birthday on June 17th, I present some of his best storytelling, scanned from a 1958 third printing of the Crown edition of "MAD FOR KEEPS".

Happy Birthday, Sailor.

script & layouts by Harvey Kurtzman

Story & Art TM & (C) EC Comics



PJ said...

I will never forget seeing this stark almost Kafkaesque picture of Wally Wood towards the end of his life. A stark room with bare walls, a typewriter in front of him on some kind of carton with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, the humble surroundings an odd contrast to the grand work that spilled forth from such a man.

Vince M. said...

Jeez, PJ ... so much for happy freakin' birthday!

I know this master artist and storyteller had a troubled end game in life, a lot of lot of them do.
But that's not the point of this post. The point is to celebrate a man who is one of the 20th century's masters of the illustrated story form.

I'd rather imagine how Wally might have felt on the morning that he readied himself to deliver this gem of a strip to EC.

Get it?

Now write me something positive about this great comic book artist... something about his work on Marvel's "Daredevil" would be nice.

No pressure.

Anonymous said...

As usual Vince you're humble nature affords space within itself for acknowledgments of Artists such as this for jack-off's like me born in '85.
By the way...You're not such a bad story teller yourself. Now go to bed, young man.

Vince M. said...

Thanks for the kind words, Hutch.

PJ said...

Well, I tried to write something the other day only to have the browser crash before I completed it (an incredibly frustrating event to say the least).

I disagree about troubled end games (for master artists and storytellers) being the norm and I take issue if we paint it in such a mannner.

One reason, is that I don’t think it‘s the zero sum game you make it out to be. Eisner, Buscema, Kirby among others, didn’t have a rough lot later in life. If anything their efforts were highly regarded and acknowledged.

The other reason is because it diminishes the achievements of Wally Wood.

There’s no denying Wood is to be included in any discussion of the greats of the industry, not only for the body of work but for the many people he influenced with that work.

What makes Wood’s story all the more amazing is that he did it [b]IN SPITE[/b] of the personal demons he fought throughout the course of his life.

I won’t disagree that Wood is one of the greats. I too remember those old MAD paperbacks that were my introduction to the phenomenal work of Wally Wood. I remember those few times I got a chance to see something of his in one of those old black and white Warren books and I cherish the copy of Marvel’s The Cat that Wood worked on. In fact, I even have one of those early Daredevil issues lying around here as well.

After reading your response though, I did look around to see if I could find something that would be more... life affirming?

Thing is, there wasn’t anything there. Perhaps Wood’s life is summed up best by the two quotes I did find:

EC publisher William Gaines once stated, “Wally may have been our most troubled artist... I’m not suggesting any connection, but he may have been our most brilliant.”


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.”

So, in retrospect I think those statements make Wood even more of a giant.

Vince M. said...


When I said:
"I know this master artist and storyteller had a troubled end game in life, a lot of lot of them do." I meant healthwise. I'd never pass judgement on old Wally Wood.

I'm just glad that he was creating comics when I was a young reader. Great comic books.