Weird Science #14

Wallace Wood was a versatile American comics artist, who excelled both in high-tech science fiction artwork and in humorous satire. He is also referred to as "Wally Wood" (although the utterly disliked the nickname "Wally"), while he signed some of his work with "Woody". His work for EC "New Trend" comic books such as 'Weird Science' and 'Weird Fantasy' earned him the title "The Dean of Science Fiction Artists". He was also one of the pioneers of Mad's first issues and remained present in its pages until the early 1960s. The man was active as an inker and illustrator for many other comic book companies, including Fox, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Charlton Comics and Gold Key, while also drawing for books, packaging material and trading cards. Wood is legendary for drawing in practically every genre, and was a master in both realistic and caricatural drawing styles. He has left his mark on superhero comics with his run on Marvel's 'Daredevil' (1964-1965) and his own co-creation 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents' for Tower Comics (1965-1969). He is notorious for creating the infamous Disney parody, 'The Disney Memorial Orgy' (1966), as well as establishing his own alternative comics magazine Witzend (1966). People in the comics industry also praise Wood for his helpful treatise, 'Panels That Always Work' (1980), an instruction to make the lay-out of comic book pages more interesting. A troubled man, Wood eventually commited suicide at the age of 54.


Malice in Wonderland

Wallace Allan Wood was born in 1927 in Menagha, Minnesota, as the son of a lumberjack and a schoolteacher. He grew up in Wisconsin and Michigan, as his father regularly had to relocate to different logging camps for his work. As a child, Wallace enjoyed reading comics by classic newspaper artists such as Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Will Eisner and Roy Crane. He showed an early ambition to become an artist as well, according to himself after dreaming he found a magic pencil that could draw like Alex Raymond. While his father didn't support his artistic ambitions, the young Wood made several comic books as a kid, varying from funny to surreal and violent, which his mother would lovingly bind on her sewing machine. Before embarking upon his career as an artist, Wood kicked around in a series of odd jobs, including busboy, factory worker, pin boy in a bowling alley, truckloader, dental lab assistant and, like his father, lumberjack. Although he was still under-age, he managed to enlist in the military, serving in the US Merchant Marine in the Philippines, Guam, South America and Italy. He later served as a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division at the island of Hokkaido in occupied Japan during World War II. Back in civilian life, he spent one term at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1947 and, after settling in New York City in the following year, one semester at Burne Hogarth's Cartoonists and Illustrators School on the G.I. Bill.

He Promised Me Marriage (My Love Memoires #12, Fox Comics 1950)
He Promised Me Marriage (My Love Memoires #12, Fox Comics 1950)

Initially unsuccessful in finding art assignments, his luck changed after meeting John Severin, who introduced him to several artists in the field. One of them was Will Eisner, who hired Wood as a background artist for his newspaper comic 'The Spirit' in October 1948. Shortly afterwards he was also assisting George Wunder on 'Terry and the Pirates', one of his favorite childhood comics. In 1949 Wood made his first solo strips for a political newsletter of the Union Party of Mount Kisco, starring a "Woeful Indian" called 'Chief Ob-stacle'. By then, Wood had already worked as a letterer for the romance comic books published by Victor Fox through an agent called Rinaldo Epworth. He was eventually upgraded to background artist and inker for artists like Martin Rosenthal. The first known story pencilled by Wallace Wood is according to the Comics Guide Database 'The Tip Off Woman', published in 'Women Outlaws' in January 1949.

Space Detective by Wallace Wood and Joe Orlando
Space Detective #1 by Joe Orlando and Wallace Wood (Avon Comics, 1951)

During these years (1949-1951), Wood shared a studio in the Upper West Side of Manhattan with fellow artists Harry Harrison, Joe Orlando and Sid Check. The studio was also frequented by Jules Feiffer, Al Williamson and Roy Krenkel. During these formative years, the young artists carefully studied the work of their contemporaries Frank Frazetta, Mort Meskin and Joe Kubert, besides the aforementioned newspaper cartoonists. The artists regularly joined forces in their productions. Wood and Harrison cooperated on Fox romance comics like 'My Confession', 'My Secret Life' and 'My Love Story', while Wood, Orlando and Check produced material for the celebrity comic books based on the radio crime serial 'Martin Kane, Private Eye', radio comedian Judy Canova, rodeo champion Hoot Gibson and Indian movie star Sabu, the "Elephant Boy". Wood and Orlando also shared art duties on early science fiction work for Avon Comics ('An Earth Man on Venus', 'Strange Worlds', 'The Mask of Dr. Fu Manchu', 'Space Detective'), Youthful Magazines ('Captain Science') and Master Comics ('Dark Mysteries'). Wood and Orlando also contributed to Avon's 'All True Detective Cases', 'Famous Gangsters', 'Gangsters and Gunmolls', 'Murderous Gangsters', 'Police Line-Up', 'Prison Break!', 'US. Paratroops' and 'Witchcraft'. In his final year with Fox, Wood drew for the crime titles 'March of Crime' and 'Inside Crime' as well. Early solo comic book work by Wallace Wood were the 22-page war/aviation story 'Steve Savage over Korea' and a story for the one-shot sci-fi comic 'Flying Saucers', both published by Avon Comics in 1950. During the early 1950s, Wallace Wood was furthermore present at Star Publications with more romance work for titles like 'Top Love Stories' and 'True-To-Life Romances'.

The Inferiors by Wallace Wood
The Inferiors (Weird Science-Fantasy #28)

The Wood-Harrison team-up was present at EC Comics from 1949 on, providing artwork for titles like 'Modern Love', 'Saddle Romances', 'A Moon, A Girl, Romance', 'War Against Crime' and 'Gunfighter'. When publisher Bill Gaines launched EC's "New Trend" line of comic books in 1950, the duo became a staple in the sci-fi titles 'Weird Science' and 'Weird Fantasy'. For a long time, it was unknown to the editors who did what, since they both shared or alternated on pencil and inking chores. When the two had a falling out and parted ways later in 1950, it was quickly obvious that Wood was the most talented draughtsman of the two. Harrison moved on to become a popular science fiction novelist, most notably of the 'Stainless Steel Rat' book series. The Manhattan studio dissolved in 1951, and Wallace Wood became part of Bill Gaines' core team for the New Trend books, along with Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, Will Elder, George Evans, Al Feldstein, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, Bernie Krigstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Orlando, John Severin and Al Williamson.

The New Trend books were groundbreaking for their stories full of daring crime, intelligent science fiction, gruesome horror and confrontational war tales, characterized by inventive plot twists and high quality artwork. The books were among the first to credit and honor their artists, who got the opportunity to fully express themselves. Wallace Wood remained one of the main artists of the comic books 'Weird Science' and 'Weird Fantasy' (1950-1953), as well as their joint continuation 'Weird Science-Fantasy' (1954-1955). He also often cooperated with Orlando again. In his book 'Foul Play!' (Harper Design, 2005), EC specialist Grant Geissman stated that Wood "essentially created a new visual vocabulary for science fiction art, with a propensity for depicting the ornate, complicated interiors of spaceships". The three-dimensional quality of his artwork earned him the title "dean of science fiction artists", while the artist was also praised for the sex appeal of his female characters. In addition to science fiction ones, Wood was present in the other New Trend titles. He had occasional appearances in the horror titles 'Haunt of Fear', 'Tales from the Crypt' and 'The Vault of Horror', and illustrated many stories for 'Shock SuspenStories' (1952-1954). For the latter, editors Gaines and Feldstein often asked him to illustrate their "E.C. Preachies"; a series of morality tales on racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism and other taboo subjects.


Atom Bomb (Two-Fisted Tales #33)

Further notable EC work by Wallace Wood were his contributions to Harvey Kurtzman's war titles 'Two-Fisted Tales' and 'Frontline Combat'. For several of these stories, he could use his own experiences with the Marine Corps and in Japan as an inspiration. EC's war stories were not merely tales of heroism and patriotism, but also showed the terrors of war. An interesting contribution by Wood was his story about the 1945 atom bomb on Nagasaki in 'Two-Fisted Tales' #33 (1953). When the industry's self-censorship through the Comics Code started in 1954, EC's New Trend line was gradually cancelled. Wood continued to work for the company's subsequent and short-lived "New Direction" line, with stories published in 'Valor', 'Piracy' and 'Aces High' in 1954-1955. However, he was mainly associated with the company's iconic satirical comics magazine Mad from 1955 until 1964.


Superduperman (Mad #4, 1953)

Wood had been a steady contributor to Mad during its original incarnation as a comic book. He remained on board when it was transformed into a magazine to avoid censorship from the Comics Code Authority. When Harvey Kurtzman founded the title in 1952, Wood was one of a select group of artists present in the very first issue. He also worked for the short-lived companion title 'Panic!' (1954-1955), which was edited by Al Feldstein. Originally Mad spoofed general genres, but they only started to sell when Kurtzman ridiculed Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's 'Superman' in the classic spoof 'Superduperman', drawn by Wood and published in its fourth issue (April 1953). The story depicts Clark Kent as a complete and utter loser whom Lois Lane literally smashes out of her way, because he's "a creep". After transforming into Superman and beating up Captain Marbles (a parody of DC's 'Captain Marvel' by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker), Kent finally reveals his secret persona to Lois. Unfortunately she just throws him in the dumpster, because "Who cares? (...) You're STILL a creep." Young readers loved this disrespectful deconstruction of every formulaic cliché and thus Kurtzman started to satirize specific comics series, films, radio and TV shows. Along with Will Elder, John Severin, Bernard Krigstein and Jack Davis, Wood was one of several artists to illustrate these hilarious pastiches from Kurtzman's lay-outs. Like his colleagues, he filled every panel with goofy characters and numerous funny background gags. Among his comic book spoofs were Chuck Cuidira's 'Blackhawk' (issue #5, June 1953), Milton Caniff's 'Terry and the Pirates' (issue #6, August 1953), Zack Mosley's 'Smilin' Jack' (issue #7, October 1953), Bob Kane's 'Batman' (issue #8, December 1953), Harold Gray's 'Little Orphan Annie' (issue #9, March 1954), Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' (issue #11, May 1954), Harold Foster's 'Prince Valiant' (issue #13, July 1954), Walt Kelly's 'Pogo' (issue #23, May 1955) and Robert L. Ripley's 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' (issue #23, May 1955). For the Mad Annual of 1961 Wood created an ambitious parody of the Sunday funnies, which parodied Chic Young's 'Blondie', Al Capp's 'Li'l' Abner', Martha Orr's 'Mary Worth' and reprints of his 'Prince Valiant', 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' and 'Pogo' spoofs. The duo furthermore spoofed US soldiers, called "G.I. Joes", during the aftermath of the Korean War in issue #10, April 1954.


3-Dimensions! (Mad #12, 1954)

Wood and Kurtzman also collaborated on film parodies, namely 'The Wild One' (issue #15, September 1954), 'Julius Caesar' (issue #17, November 1954), 'Stalag 17' (issue #18, December 1954), 'The Caine Mutiny' (issue #19, January 1955), 'On the Waterfront' (issue #21, March 1955), 'The Blackboard Jungle' (issue #25, September 1955), 'The Prodigal' (issue #26, November 1955), 'The Rose Tattoo' (issue #28, July 1956) and 'Moby Dick' (issue #30, December 1956). Back in the 1950s Wood was even the 'Mad' illustrator with the most movie spoofs at his credit. After Kurtzman left Mad, Wood only drew one more movie parody, namely 'Mutiny on the Bounty' (issue #80, July 1963). The artist seemed less interested in television, as he only created one TV spoof: 'Walt Disney Presents Disneyland' (issue #30, December 1956), but did spoof numerous advertisements. In Mad's 34th issue (August 1957) he even lampooned psychologist and comic book censor Frederic Wertham in a story named 'Baseball Is Ruining Our Children by Frederick Werthless, M.D.' Kurtzman and Wood also engaged in more experimental stories, like '3-Dimensions!' (issue #12, June 1954), which toyed around with three-dimensional effects and 'Sound Effects!' (issue#20, February 1955) which satirized typical comic book onomatopeia in an otherwise wordless narrative. Wood only designed three Mad Magazine covers, for issue #26 (November 1955), issue #28 (July 1956) and issue #29 (September 1956). After Kurtzman's departure he collaborated with various scriptwriters and artists under Al Feldstein's editorship, namely Larry Siegel, Stan Freberg, Ira Wallach, Ernie Kovacs, Al Jaffee, Jack Davis, Jerry DeFuccio, Jack Kamen, Colonel W.C. Hall, Al "Jazzbo" Collins, Nick Meglin, Orson Bean, Jean Shepherd, Henry Morgan, Donald Knuth, Phil Green, Paul Krassner, Al Meglin, Frank Jacobs, Tom Koch, Bob Clarke, Danny Kaye, Milton Schafer, Paul Laikin, Gary Belkin, Sid Caesar, Sy Reit, E. Nelson Bridwell, Phil Hahn, Mort Drucker, Arnie Kogen, Don Reilly, Duck Edwing, Earle Doud, Dean Norman, Stan Hart and Marylyn Ippolito.

Illustration for 'Success Story' by Earl Goodale (Galaxy, 1960)
Illustration for 'Success Story' by Earl Goodale (Galaxy, 1960)

With most of his regular comic book work gone in the mid 1950s, Wallace Wood began illustrating for the science-fiction digest Galaxy Science Fiction, which was edited by Horace L. Gold and published by World Editions, the American label of the French-Italian publisher Cino Del Duca. He provided interior and cover artwork, mostly executed in wash, for over sixty issues between 1957 and 1967. He also painted six covers for Galaxy Science Fiction Novels between 1952 and 1958. He quickly contributed to similar titles like 'Amazing Stories', 'Original Science Fiction Stories' and 'Worlds of Tomorrow' as well. Between 1957 and 1959 Wood painted covers for hardcover books by Gnome Press, starting with 'The Return of Conan' (1957). With his work for the science fiction digest magazines, Wood was once again at the peak of his creativity, providing artwork for stories by famed sci-fi authors like Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Jack Finney, C.M. Kornbluth, Frederik Pohl, Robert Silverberg, Robert Sheckley, Clifford D. Simak and Jack Vance.

Stomachs get even at night'Ugly Sticker by Wallace Wood
Wallace Wood's Alka-Seltzer ad and one of his "Ugly Stickers"

Wood's non-Mad humor work furthermore included full-page sexy gag cartoons for magazines like Dude, Gent, Nugget and Hugh Hefner's Playboy. He did a series called 'Far Out Fables' (1965-1967) for Cavalcade, and provided illustrations to TV Guide in 1968. He furthermore provided artwork for advertisements for Alka-Seltzer, Chemstrand, Dr Pepper, Scandinavian Airlines, Portage Porto-Ped Shoes, and other products. His colorful Alka-Seltzer print ad, 'Stomachs get even at night', even won a 1967 Art Directors Club Medal and was adapted into a TV commercial in the following year. Between 1961 and 1971, Wallace Wood illustrated a great many bubble-gum cards, posters and stickers for Woody Gelman at Topps chewing gum. Especially the 'Ugly Stickers' (1964-1965) stood out for depicting grotesque monsters with commonplace names like Drew or Stan. Basil Wolverton was also an artist for this series, while Norman Saunders provided the paint. Further 1960s work include artwork for 'Crazy Cards' (1961-1962), which spoofed Robert L. Ripley's 'Believe It Or Not', and 'Insult Postcards' (1967). Along with Bob Powell, Wood furthermore provided designs for Topps' 1962 'Mars Attacks!' cards, which were eventually painted by Norman Saunders.


Crazy Card by Wallace Wood

His limited late 1950s comic book work included a handful of western and supernatural stories for Stan Lee's Atlas line at Timely Comics. He also inked Jack Kirby's pencils on 'Challengers of the Unknown' at DC Comics (1958-1959), and contributed to that company's war titles 'All-American Men of War' and 'Our Fighting Forces' in 1956. During the 1950s, Wood additionally returned to newspaper comics. Back in 1952, he had worked with Jules Feiffer on the 'Spirit' storyline 'The Spirit in Outer Space', which ran in Will Eisner's Sunday supplement newspaper comic book 'The Spirit'. A year later, he ghosted some installments of the 'Ace McCoy' strip for Frank Frazetta. He later inked most of the early episodes of Jack Kirby's Space Age newspaper comic 'Sky Masters of the Space Force' (1958-1961), which was written by Dick and Dave Wood (no relation). In December 1967, Wood made the seasonal syndicated Christmas strip 'Bucky's Christmas Caper' for the Newspaper Enterprise Association. For the same syndicate, he assisted Bob Lubbers on 'Robin Malone' in the late 1960s and ghosted the 'Dark Shadows' strip for Kenneth Bald in the early 1970s. At some point, Wood has also been a ghost artist or assistant for Don Sherwood on 'Dan Flagg', Dan Barry on 'Flash Gordon' and Hal Foster on 'Prince Valiant'.


The Curse (Vampirella #9)

Around 1964, he worked on a historical newspaper Sunday panel called 'This Is the Week to Remember' for the McNaught Syndicate with Russ Jones. Wood couldn't meet up with the deadlines, though, and the strip never ran. Wood and Jones then cooperated on several projects for magazine publisher James Warren. They started out with a photo comic adaptation of the 20th Century Fox film 'The Horror of Party Beach' (1964). For the bridge sequences between scenes, Wood and Jones photographed themselves in the roles of newscasters. For the first issue of Warren's short-lived horror/fantasy movie magazine Monster World in November 1964, they produced a black-and-white comic story based on the screenplay for the 1932 Universal film 'The Mummy'. At the same time, Jones proposed Warren with the idea of a horror magazine in the EC tradition. This resulted in the launch of Creepy (1964) and later of its sister magazines Eerie (1966) and Vampirella (1969). Between 1964 and 1971, Wood was back at his old game with high quality stories like 'The Curse' (Vampirella #9, 1971), and also 'The Battle of Britain!' in the war anthology Blazing Combat (April 1966).

Daredevil by Wallace Wood
Daredevil #8

With the comic book market entering its "Silver Age" in the 1960s, Wallace Wood returned to this medium more prominently. At Marvel Comics, he had a defining run as the penciller and inker on early issues of Stan Lee's superhero 'Daredevil' (#5-#8) in 1964-1965. In the next three issues, he worked with Bob Powell as an assistant penciller, while Wood himself took care of the inking work. Wood established the character's trademark red costume and co-created the supervillain 'Stilt-Man'. His method of visually depicting Daredevil's radar sense with radiating circles became a standard for the artists who succeeded him on the series, starting with Jack Kirby and John Romita. Other Marvel work was inking Don Heck in three issues of 'The Avengers' in 1965. Like many artists who have worked with Stan Lee, Wood has later commented that he (co-)plotted and wrote most of the 'Daredevil' stories as well, although Lee was the one who got the credit. Wood was however credited for writing the tenth issue. Stan Lee wanted Wood to produce more Marvel work, but the artist left Marvel in 1965, fed up by the company's strict working methods.


T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3

In 1965 he became an editor for Harry Shorten's publishing label Tower Comics. Wood got control over the all-star superhero comic book 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents' (1965-1969), which he co-created with writer Len Brown. The name was an acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves, and featured a group of full-time superheroes/secret agents. The bi-monthly comic book ran for twenty issues from November 1965 through November 1969, and also knew short-lived spin-offs focusing on certain team members, such as 'Dynamo' (1966) and 'NoMan' (1966). While most of the "Silver Age" comic books consisted of one story per issue, the Tower comic books were anthology books like the classic comics of the 1940s. Wood was responsible for most of the lead stories, but extra artists were brought in for the back-up features, which starred individual team members. Among the additional pencillers were Dick Ayers, Reed Crandall, Steve Ditko, John Giunta, Gil Kane, Paul Reinman, Mike Sekowsky, Manny Stallman, Chic Stone, George Tuska and Ogden Whitney. Tower Comics suffered from distribution problems however, and ultimately failed to compete with Marvel and DC Comics in the marketplace. All titles were cancelled in 1969, but the 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents' continued to reappear in various incarnations in the following decades. The first of new series was published by John Carbonaro's JC Comics in 1983-1984, with Lou Manna as lead artist. Deluxe Comics published five issues of 'Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents' between 1984 and 1986, featuring a host of talented artists, including Murphy Anderson, Dave Cockrum and George Perez. Aborted attempts by Solson Publications and Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios followed in the 1980s and 1990s, but DC Comics came up with a new series in 2011-2012, with Nick Spencer, CAFU and Wes Craig as prominent authors. Stories from the original Tower Comics series were reprinted in the DC Comics collection 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives' between 2002 and 2011.


3rd Chance To Die (War and Attack #1)

To keep up with his workload, Wallace Wood opened his own studio on Long Island in the mid 1960s. Among the many artists who have worked for Wood on and off during the 1960s and 1970s were Jack Abel, Dan Adkins, Richard Bassford, Howard Chaykin, Tony Coleman, Nicola Cuti, Larry Hama, Wayne Howard, Russ Jones, Paul Kirchner, Alan Kupperberg, Bob Layton, Tom Palmer, Bill Pearson, Ralph Reese, Syd Shores, Al Sirois, Bhob Stewart, and Mike Zeck. Wood's first wife Tatjana has also assisted on many of her husband's productions. Besides the Tower Comics titles, the group worked on many other projects, mostly through packager Vince Colletta. These included stories for the comic book based on the TV sitcom 'The Munsters' for Gold Key (1965-1968) and the production of 'Wham-O Giant Comics' (1967) in commission of Wham-O, the company that marketed toys like the Hula Hoop. The team furthermore worked on assignments for Charlton Comics, such as stories for the 'Jungle Jim' comic book (1969) and the war titles 'D-Day' and 'War and Attack' (1964). They also produced work for the Harvey Comics titles 'Warfront' and Joe Simon's 'Unearthly Spectaculars' ('Earthman') in 1966-1967.

All Star Comics by Wallace Wood and Keith Giffen
All Star Comics #61 (layouts by Keith Giffen)

When Tower Comics folded, Wood landed on some inking jobs for DC through editor and old friend Joe Orlando. Already in 1968 Wood had co-created the comic book built around the action figure 'Captain Action' with Jim Shooter. Wood drew only the first of the five issues, and was then succeeded by Gil Kane. By 1969 he became Bob Brown's inker on eight issues of the 'Superboy' title, and furthermore inked the caveman book 'Anthro' (1969) for Howard Post and the humor title 'The Angel and the Ape' for Bob Oksner (1969). He continued to do inking chores for DC during the 1970s on titles like 'Stalker' (pencils by Steve Ditko, 1975), 'Hercules Unbound' (pencils by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Walt Simonson, 1975-1976) and 'Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter' (pencils by Ric Estrada, 1975-1976), while also drawing the feature 'All Star Super Squad' for 'All Star Comics' (1976-1977) and contributing to the mystery anthology titles 'House of Mystery', 'House of Secrets' and 'The Unexpected'. Wood furthermore drew covers and a couple of stories for Orlando's horror/humor anthology 'Plop!'. In 1975 Wood inked Ditko once again for the first two issues of 'The Destructor' in Seaboard Periodicals' Atlas Comics line. He also returned to Marvel in 1970 to draw the 'Dr. Doom' feature by Roy Thomas in the first four issues of 'Astonishing Tales', and writing and drawing new horror/suspense stories for 'Tower of Shadows'. With writers Roy Thomas and Linda Fite and artist Marie Severin, he furthermore created the superheroine 'The Cat' (1972), who became known as 'Tigra' in 1974. His last known mainstream credit was inking Wonder Woman #269 (July 1980).

WitzendWitzend

Highly productive and influential in his mainstream work, Wallace Wood was also at the vanguard of the alternative comics scene. In the Summer of 1966, Wood launched Witzend (actually "witzend"), his own independent comics magazine aimed at adults. The free-spirited approach by Wood and the other contributors deviated from the comic book conventions of the time, and paved the way for the upcoming underground comix movement. The custom that each contributor kept full ownership of his work, became common practice in later publications like Heavy Metal magazine and the creator-owned comic books and graphic novels of the 1980s and 1990s. Witzend let his contributors experiment freely with graphic narratives, far away from Comics Code restrictions and mainstream publishers' housestyles. Wood himself picked up 'Animan', a concept he had been presenting to publishers at the beginning of his career. Several of Wood's old EC/ Mad colleagues were also present, such as Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Reed Crandall, Harvey Kurtzman, Don Martin and Bill Elder. Steve Ditko first drew his 'Mr. A' character for the first time and Art Spiegelman made his debut, while Warren Sattler, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, Gray Morrow, Archie Goodwin, Vaughn Bodé and members of the Wallace Wood Studio also contributed work. Witzend was an obvious artistic and creative success, but an equally financial failure.


Pipsqueak Papers (Witzend #4)

Wood edited and published four issues until 1968, after which he sold the title for a symbolic one dollar to Bill Pearson. Pearson published six more irregular appearing issues through Wonderful Publishing Company until 1982. Wood remained a contributor with his fantasy text story 'The World of the Wizard King' and his 'Pipsqueak Papers', a psychological war of the sexes in a fairy tale forest. Witzend was also published in Dutch through Olaf Stoop's Real Free Press. A best-of collection of Wood's Witzend work was published in 1980 by Bill Crouch under the title 'Woodwork'. Fantagraphics compiled the entire Witzend series in a luxury hardcover slipcase in 2014. Wood had plans to make a movie adaptation of 'The Return of the Wizard King', but it never went further than some preliminary discussions with Ralph Bakshi. Wood eventually turned the story into the graphic novels 'The King of the World' (1978) and 'Odkin, Son of Odkin' (1981). Main character is Odkin, member of a race of small forest dwellers similar to Tolkien's Hobbits, called the Immi. The young hero is drawn into a perilous plan to save the world from Anark, the blackest villain of all space and time. One of the first creator-owned graphic novels, it is considered one of Wood's masterpieces.


Odkin, Son of Odkin

In 1966 Walt Disney passed away, leaving a universal outpour of grief behind. Paul Krassner's satirical magazine The Realist responded in their own disrespectful way by having Wood create a grotesque tribute named 'The Disneyland Memorial Orgy' in their May 1967 issue. Like the title implies the illustration shows various iconic Disney characters engaging in lewd behaviour. The poster was so popular that it was reprinted numerous times and even pirated. Wood was careful not to sign it, out of fear of legal issues. This fear wasn't ungrounded as four years later underground comix artists Dan O'Neill, Gary Hallgren, Bobby London and Ted Richards deliberately and succesfully went to court over their outrageous Disney parody 'Air Pirates Funnies' (1971). Wood later more made pornographic parodies of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' ('Malice in Wonderland' in National Screw, 1976-1977) and L. Frank Baum's 'Wizard of Oz' ('Wizard of Ooz' in Puritan, 1979). Further alternative work were his contributions to Flo Steinberg's 'Big Apple Comix' (1975), an underground comic about New York featuring work by mainstream artists. Wood provided the cover art, and contributed the story 'My Word', a parody of both New York life and his own 1953 signature EC story 'My World' from 'Weird Science' #23.


The Disneyland Memorial Orgy, 1966. In the upper left corner we see the Disneyland Castle illuminated by dollar signs, while ??? the turtle finds ??? inside his own shell. Snow White is sexually assaulted by five of the Seven Dwarfs, while Doc finds more joy in having anal sex with Dopey.  Meanwhile Huey, Louie and Dewey lift the skirt of Daisy Duck. In the lower left corner Goofy has sex with Minnie, whose head rests against a cash machine, while  two of Mickey's nephews masturbate to the scene. Mickey is too busy shooting heroin to notice anything, while Pluto urinates against a huge portrait of his master. In the lower right corner Tinkerbell perorms a striptease, while a horny Peter Pan, Lost Boys, Pinnochio and Jiminy Cricket look on, seated next to a very effeminate Captain Hook. Finally, in the upper right corner we spot Donald Duck yelling at Dumbo for taking a shit on him. Lady and the Tramp can be spotted in their vicinity, as are the rabbits of 'Bambi' and centaurs of 'Fantasia'. The Prince is ready to have sex with Cinderella, while the Big Bad Wolf lusts upon the Three Pigs mounting one another. Alice from "Alice in Wonderland' chases the White Rabbit with numerous people running along with her underneath her skirt.

When his collaboration with James Warren somewhat deteriorated in the late 1960s, Wood started working on comic features for military magazines. The artist could fully showcase his talent for drawing sexy women with 'Sally Forth' (1968–1974), a voluptuous servicegirl who made her first appearance in June 1968 in Military News, a tabloid newspaper from Armed Forces Diamond Sales. The name was a pun on "to sally forth", an expression which means to leave or attack from a military encampment. The character reappeared in 1971 in Overseas Weekly, a publication intended for US military men serving abroad. The series' outset is quite role-reinforcing to modern standards. Sally is a rather useless recruit in a commando outfit led by the bald and tiny Lieutenant Q.P. Dahl. Her only purpose in the unit is distracting enemy forces with her looks, while her team members were also not indifferent to her "assets". During her years in Overseas Weekly, she eventually developed into a more competent, although scantily clad, adventurer. While 'Sally Forth' in somewhat reminiscent of Milton Caniff's 1940s servicemen strip 'Male Call', it shares its amount of nudity with Harvey Kurtzman's Playboy strip 'Little Annie Fanny'. Wood introduced his character to the general public through four large-format self-published comic books between 1976 and 1979. Sally found her way to France when several stories were published L'Écho des Savanes in the period 1975-1977. Dutch publisher Ger van Wulften published her adventures under the title 'Doortje Stoot' in his alternative comics magazine Gummi. Bill Pearson reformatted the strips for a series of comic books published by the Fantagraphics imprint Eros Comix in 1993-1995.

Sally Forth, by Wally Wood 1978
Sally Forth

In 1969 Wood and his team released 'Heroes, Inc. Presents Cannon', one of the earliest independent comic books. It was aimed at the US armed forces, and consisted of three original creations. 'Cannon' was made in cooperation with Steve Ditko, and starred a CIA agent who was brainwashed into an emotion-free killing machine. With Ralph Reese, he created 'The Misfits', a new team of mutant superheroes, and with Ron Whyte he introduced 'Dragonella', a young woman raised by reptiles. A second issue of 'Heroes Inc.' was released by a group of comics fans called the CPL Gang in 1976. It featured new stories of 'The Misfits', 'Cannon' and 'Animan', but also the Mike Vosburg creation 'The Black Angel'. 'Cannon' was also turned into a serial for Overseas Weekly in 1971. In addition to 'Sally Forth', the male readership of this military publication was treated by even more sexy women who surrounded the muscular hero.

The Cannon, by Wallace Wood 1979
Cannon

Among Wallace Wood's final comics were two issues of the completely pornographic comic book 'Gang Bang' (Nuance, Inc., 1980-1981), which consisted of explicit porn stories with his own 'Sally Forth' character, and a variety of parodies. These included Walt Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' ('So White and the Six Dorks'), Milton Caniff's 'Terry and The Pirates' ('Perry and the Privates'), Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant' ('Prince Violate'), DC's 'Superman' and 'Wonder Woman' ('Stuporman Meets Blunder Woman'), Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' ('Flasher Gordon') and Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'Tarzan' ('Starzan').


Sally Forth story from Gang Bang #1

Already during his lifetime, Wallace Wood was widely regarded as one of the most talented artists in the field. He has not only influenced the many artists who worked with him, but indirectly an entire generation of comic artists too. The artist kept visual notes near his drawing table for effective layout and compositional techniques. A sample of these drawings were published in 'The Wallace Wood Sketchbook' by Bill Crouch in 1980. Marvel editor Larry Hama renamed and edited Wood's original three-page guide to 'Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work!!' and handed it to all the Marvel bullpen artists as an aid. From then on, Wood's sketches spread unchecked among the entire industry, receiving a cult status in the process. In 2006 Hama's paste-up of the photocopies were made available online by Joel Johnson. A short film inspired by the instructions called '22 Frames That Always Work' was made by Kill Vampire Lincoln Productions in 2010, while cartoonist Cheese Hasselberger made the variation 'Cheese's 22 Panels That Never Work'. Wood's quote "Never draw what you can swipe. Never swipe what you can trace. Never trace what you can photocopy. Never photocopy what you can clip out and paste down" has also become legendary. He has furthermore served as an inspiration for underground artists like Skip Williamson, and for European artists like Gotlib, François Walthéry and Erik Kriek. 'Elfquest' co-author Wendy Pini was a big fan of Wood's 'Wizard King', and wrote the foreword in the 2007 reprint of 'Odkin, Son of Odkin' by Vanguard Publishing. Acclaim also came from outside of the industry. 'Star Wars' creator Georges Lucas for instance called him "one of the greatest comic book artists". During his lifetime, Wallace Wood received three citations from the National Cartoonists Society (1957, 1959, 1965), Alley Awards for his pencil (1965) and inking (1966) work, two nominations (1959, 1960) for the Science Fiction Achievement Award (the Hugo), the award for Best Foreign Cartoonist in Angoulême, France, in 1978, and more. Wood was the inaugural inductee into the comic book industry's Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1989, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992. His inking work was once again praised with The Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award during the 2011 Inkwells.

Wallace Wood
Wally Wood in 1968 (Photograph © Bhob Stewart)

Several books and compilations have been devoted to the artist and his work, with much of his oeuvre being reprinted to this day. Wood's life story was chronicled in 'Wally's World' (Vanguard, 2006) by Steve Starger and J. David Spurlock. Former co-worker Bhob Stewart has been browsing through the Wood archives since the 1990s, and has published regular articles about the man in The Comics Journal. These formed the basis for his book 'The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood - Volume 1' (Fantagraphics, 2017). Stewart, along with Jim Vadeboncoeur, was also responsible for 'The Wallace Wood Checklist' (Twomorrows, 2003), a complete listing of Wood's oeuvre. A gigantic career retrospective was on display in De Palma, Spain, in 2010, and its catalogue was released as a massive bookwork under the title 'Woodwork: Wallace Wood 1927-1981 (English and Spanish Edition)' by IDW in 2013. Roger Hill compiled a book with more obscure work from Wood's work for the pulp digests under the title 'Wally Wood: Galaxy Art and Beyond' (IDW, 2016).

Sci-fi illustration from a 1968 portfolio
Sci-fi illustration from a 1968 portfolio

Despite all the praise, Wood's personal life story was more tragic. A true workaholic, the artist often worked for days on end, with hardly any sleep. He put meticulous effort in crafting the most detailed pieces of art, sometimes while half asleep, but on the other hand he had a rather casual approach to his work, being able to hand over the job when finished and not looking back. His working method eventually took its toll. EC publisher Bill Gaines called him not only their most brilliant artist, but also their most troubled. Harvey Kurtzman once remarked: "He had this enormous talent, and his curse was that he was introverted... everything was bottled up!" During the 1960s, Wood began suffering from severe chronic headaches. These eventually influenced his mood, and often made him rebellious and unable to deal with criticism. To top it all, Wood was a alcoholic and battled with depression. He began to miss his deadlines, and most of his final Mad comics were ghosted by Dave Berg, as the latter later admitted. This eventually led to Wood's discharge from Mad Magazine. Throughout the 1970s, Wood became more and more fed up with the industry. In a rather depressing interview with Hans Frederiks for Dutch comics information magazine Stripschrift in 1977, he claimed that the entire industry was in a creative downfall. He announced his retirement from drawing, and that he would focus on writing science fiction novels instead. These books were never written, but Wood did continue to produce more artwork. He launched a fanclub called "Friends of Odkin" to subsidize living expenses while he worked on 'Wizard King'. He began to settle scores in the fanclub's newsletter, The Woodwork Gazette. He was especially critical about James Warren and Stan Lee, and discouraged aspiring artists with statements like: "My advice is, don't be a creator. It's much more fun, and much more rewarding to be a defacer with a title... Creative Director or Assistant Associate Editorial Consultant". Unfortunately, his final years were troubled by more medical issues. In 1978 he began having vision problems with his left eye. He also suffered from severe hypertension and had a series of small strokes in the years that followed.

Woodwork GazetteWoodwork Gazette

Wallace Wood later moved from New York to Connecticut, and spent the final years of his life in Los Angeles, California. An avid fan of country and folk music, he developed a desire to become a musical performer. He put together and financed a self-published record album called 'Wally Wood Sings' (1978) and played at open mikes in local pubs. Eventually, his kidneys began to fail as a result of years of heavy drinking. The prospect of dialysis and ultimately a kidney transplant pushed him over the edge. On Halloween night 1981, or shortly thereafter, he committed suicide by gunshot in his hometown Los Angeles. He was 54 years old.

My World by Wallace Wood
My World (Weird Science #22)

www.wallacewoodestate.com
Wallace Wood Checklist

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