Saturday, February 28, 2009

Q. P. Dahl

One of the unsung Wally Wood characters is Lt. Q. P. Dahl from the SALLY FORTH comic strip the artist produced for the military. He may look like a cute little boy but he's a hardened battle veteran and a wily, clever, cigar-smoking (and cute as a button!) soldier. He was originally designed by Wood in the late sixties for the CO-ED COMMANDOS strip that eventually became SALLY FORTH. He is, in my opinion, a much better written character than Sally herself, an innocent cipher with a few inadvertently funny double entendre lines at best. She often simply reacts to what's going on around her (usually whilst naked, of course) but QP takes charge, and, in his own sitcom-style, sometimes bumbling way, usually wins the day and saves the oblivious heroine. We salute you, Lieutenant!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dynamo Vs. Daredevil

There's no "DD" on his chest but there's still no question who this is supposed to be. Was Wood making a statement on this Rocket's Blast ComiCollector cover about how the big guys (Marvel) were overthrowing the little guys (Tower)? Or was he just having fun with a couple of super heroes he was known for drawing?

Monday, February 23, 2009


OUTRE' was a companion magazine to the long-running (and STILL-running!) FILMFAX. It was subtitled "The World of UltraMedia," which kind of meant, "Hey! Here's some COOL stuff!!" Each issue would cover a grab bag of pop culture. For example, this particular issue, 1997's # 9, features articles on Blaxploitation and Pam Grier, Soviet sci-fi, actor Bruce Dern, UK puppeteer Gerry Anderson and surf musicians, the Ventures. Cover-featured, though, we have, in what is arguably his biggest more-or-less mainstream public exposure to date, Wally Wood! Taking a 1959 gag painting from a GALAXY cover for its own, this issue offers 6 illustrated pages of a perceptive multi-part article/biography written by David J. Hogan and begun two issues earlier. It's continued in the following issue.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sci-Fi Wood

Here's one of Wallace Wood's lovely sci-fi mag illustrations, this one reprinted in Bill Black's GOLDEN AGE GREATS # 12 from 1998.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pipsqueak Papers

Here we have THE PIPSQUEAK PAPERS as published by Eros Comix (Fantagraphics). It's a source of some mystery as to why this cute little feature (also reprinted along with Eros' apparently rare WALLACE WOOD'S HORNY TOADS in NAUGHTY KNOTTY WOODY) is considered to be erotic. Originally published in WITZEND, the main character is Nudine who is, as you might guess, nude. She is not, however, human and there is no real sex shown. Sex is the underlying theme of the whole piece as Nudine goes around looking for a man and, in fact, ends up pregnant. Still, PIPSQUEAK PAPERS is a marvelously drawn light fantasy with magic and monsters and cute characters. I wouldn't think twice about letting my son read it (although not in the Eros edition because of the ads for their other, dirtier product!).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gang Bang

One thing that's rarely discussed beyond the point of a trivia question when one reminisces about Wally Wood is his pornography. The two invaluable full-length biographies gloss over it and I wasn't even able to track down any information on the Internet where finding porn is NEVER hard to do! (I did, however, enjoy the "research!") The fact of the matter is that Woody was never afraid to draw a pretty girl, a naked girl or a girl having sex. Toward the end of his life, pornography became his main source of income, first from PURITAN (a pioneering hardcore newsstand mag), Al Goldstein's SCREW newspaper and its magazine counterpart, NATIONAL SCREW. Wood's WEIRD SEX FANTASY PORTFOLIO was the only commercial portfolio he ever released. His latter day move to the West Coast was facilitated by Barbara Friedman's Nuance Publications which published three issues of (supposedly) all-Wood sex comics in magazine form.
GANG BANG # 1 came out in 1980 and went through at least two printings that year. I remember getting it through a CBG ad from the publisher while the artist was still alive. Later, I recall seeing a different cover so it would go through at least one more printing. Nuance had also published at least two volumes of MISTY by Jim McQuade, a fantasy-oriented jungle girl style graphic novel for adults that was regularly advertised in CBG. When I ordered the first GANG BANG, I ended up on their mailing list and would get subsequent volumes from them through (some very bizarre!) direct mail advertising.

The fact that Wally Wood would do a complete hardcore porn comic somehow seemed at the time not so much a comedown as a natural progression. Starting with his gorgeous EC women, then his fifties girlie cartoons, the clothing optional SALLY FORTH comic strip, the portfolio and the mid-seventies adult magazine just made sense for him to do a full-on sex comic book. In fact, in the aftermath of early seventies"porno chic," it was a pioneering move for a mainstream comic book artist of his caliber!

The problem, of course, was the circumstances. The times being what they were, GANG BANG could not have existed ten years earlier and yet THAT is when it might well have worked for Wood. By the time of its publication, his health was degenerating quickly and had been affecting his once-pristine art for several years. He was much slower, used more paste-ins and tracings than ever and had no assistants of the high quality he had used for years. As such, the first issue, although clearly Woodwork, is disappointing, the second is without a doubt the worst material he ever had published and the third, posthumous, issue consists of reprints of varying quality from other sources. That said, let's take as critical a look as possible at the contents of the three issues of GANG BANG.

Other than Jack Kirby, Wally Wood has probably been cover-referenced on more comics than any other artist. GANG BANG # 1 is one of them. Clearly the Wood name was looked at as a selling point even amongst the presumably less-discriminating audience which normally would buy this type of publication.
The "stories" included never rise above the level of the 1920's "8 Pagers." Stock characters are introduced and after a panel or so begin to have sex. Like the 8 Pagers, in fact, most of these strips are parodies of well-known comic strips, including Wood's own fan favorite SALLY FORTH.

I suppose it was only natural that Wood would use his own copyrighted feature, then so popular in his own oversized reprints. Natural...but ultimately regettable.The SALLY FORTH strip features the hapless heroine--here seen for the first time with pubic hair--who can't keep her clothes on, the diminutive Lt. QP Dahl and Wild Bill Yonder, all out of character from their long run in THE OVERSEAS WEEKLY but at least recognizably drawn. Many of the actual sex scenes show little of the artist's skill with blacks, lighting and detail and look like they might be lightbox tracings from other porn mags. The plot, such as it is, deals with Bill's exploiting of Sally as a sex surrogate. Seeing her actually having the sex only implied previously diminishes her status as a wide-eyed innocent and she comes across more as a naive "dumb blonde" than she ever did before. The original SALLY FORTH continuity (written in part, I believe, by Larry Hama) is silly, fun and carttonishly convoluted with the heroine's nakedness more a bonus than a plot point. Here, it's just sex and in the long run it doesn't really work.

LIL AN' ABNER, up next, showcases another of Woody's areas of expertise--his ability to mimic other art styles. In this case, we see country boy L'il Abner very much in the Al Capp style having sex with Moonbeam McSwine and then Daisy Lil (Mae), leading to the supposed "real" story behind their celebrated wedding. Well drawn but again looking rushed with the sex scenes not particularly erotic.

SO WHITE AND THE SIX DORKS, up next, is the most polished piece in this volume which leads me to think it may have been done earlier, possibly for PURITAN. Thereis some genuinely amusing art in this one but with the predictable outcome of group sex.

THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER is another well-drawn quickie based in part on the classic old joke that everyone's heard more about than they've actually heard! PERRY AND THE PRIVATES finishes up with the most rushed-looking work appearing in the mag and the first trace of what appears to be assistance from less than capable hands. Both parodied newspaper strips, L'IL ABNER and TERRY AND THE PIRATES, had completed their long runs several years before GANG BANG appeared.

Volume 2, originally published in March of the artist's last year, continues the tradition of Tijuana Bible-style parodies, complete with fake author names. Up first is PRINCE VIOLATE by "Hard Farter." Uh-huh. Even though his name appears even bigger (and in its classic gothic lettering) on the cover of this one, I will go so far as to say I don't see a TRACE of Wood in this art. If, in fact, he ever touched this strip it was so heavily inked and retouched as to remove any bit of the Wood touch other than the Zip-a-tone screens! Some panels look better than others but all of them look strictly amateurish.

SALLY FORTH gets another 12 pages next, as she ends up as an adult film star. There's lots more rushed looking tracings and recognizable pasteups from earlier, better appearances but there's also 4 or 5 pages that, like above, are so badly inked as to show little or no Wood influence, let alone actual work! The whole thing leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.

STUPORMAN MEETS BLUNDER WOMAN, especially from the man who brought the world the classic and amazing SUPERDUPERMAN, is the worst piece of drek Wood ever had a hand in that actually got printed. And it IS Wood, this time, albeit with at least the appearance of lesser hands. No question there. From its scratchy, unprofessional logo to its unfunny ending, it is absolutely disgusting...but not because of the sex scenes!

FLASHER GORDON seems to be drawn by the same guy that did PRINCE VIOLATE but, again, the astute reader is given no reason at all to believe this to be Wallace Wood. The piece after that, though, entitled THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION, is actually signed by Wood. If the fact that it namechecks PURITAN is any indication, I would say that it was meant for and possibly actually appeared in that magazine originally. Although it looks more like breakdowns than an actual publishable piece, it is an amusing look at changing sexual mores done in the artist's latter-day LUNAR TUNES style and utilizing tracings and redrawn panels from BIG APPLE COMIX and other sources. STARZAN, done (rather badly) in the Burne Hogarth style may or may not have detectable Woodwork. Not sure. Either way, it is a far cry from being well-done. The issue rounds out with what may have been a rejected cover but ends up as a smarmy but funny sketch in the classic Wally Wood humor style. It's the best thing in Volume 2.

GANG BANG publisher Barbara Friedman was, by all accounts, the one to find Wallace Wood's body after his late 1981 suicide. She had hired him and befriended him but that didn't keep her from continuing to exploit his name even after his death. A year and a half later, Nuance released GANG BANG # 3, with a cover touting "Wood's Women and Wit." The art used on the cover was originally meant for an unrealized Wood project to have been called STRANGE SYMPHONIES.

This issue is actually much better than the previous effort as it deals completely with previously published work. We open with 24 black and white pages of MALICE IN WONDERLAND, the dirty but witty softcore strip the artist had originally published in color in France and in NATIONAL SCREW before his health had gotten too bad . This strip shows Wood at perhaps a peak for his erotic work. Although cut up, repasted and in some cases blown up way too big, the wit and skill show through even though the presentation is hardly the finest this material would see.

This is followed by some reprinted gag pages from SCREW and the SEX FANTASY PORTFOLIO as well as a page of sketches that include everything from SALLY FORTH to THE WIZARD KING! The reappearance of one of the badly drawn Sally pages from the last volume rears its ugly head but then we move on to FLESH FUCKER MEETS WOMEN'S LIB, a second FLASH GORDON parody in this series, this one being done in 1977 in a softcore MAD-style for, I believe, THE NATIONAL SCREW again. It's not bad.
THE BLIZZARD OF OOZE, again cut up and repasted for some reason, originally appeared in PURITAN and is, as it sounds like, a hardcore WIZARD OF OZ parody. Although not as well-drawn as MALICE, it's hard to tell just how many of the strip's shortcomings are attributable to its less than stellar presentation here. Rounding out the issue are a few more extremely well done single panel bits from the Portfolio and SCREW.

Much of the GANG BANG 3 material was reprinted in a 1998 Fantagraphics/Eros Comics volume entitled NAUGHTY KNOTTY WOODY. That volume was edited by Bill Pearson but while it features superior quality reproduction and additional material (including behind the scenes stuff!), there is sadly no background or context given on the individual strips and artwork. In addition, the cover's claim that this was "the complete collection of Wallace Wood's erotic work" misleads as the various strips from the first two issues are completely absent.

At the end of the day, GANG BANG doesn't work as "turn-on" erotica, it works only in spots as erotic parody and little, if at all, as enjoyable art on any level. In the perhaps jaded eyes of hindsight, one is forced to look at the three issues of GANG BANG with disappointment and a melancholy sadness. Instead of what should have been a groundbreaking step, GANG BANG really has become quite literally little more than a dirty little bit of trivia in the long, distinguished career of Wallace Wood.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wood Envelope

When Wallace Wood started publishing his own works in the late 1970's, I was there. I bought the first SALLY FORTH oversized reprint at a comic book convention but beyond that I tended to order from Woody. One plus was that he often signed them if I asked. In one he even had a little note (sadly lost!) answering some simple questions I had asked and saying I should call him "Woody." Here we have, I believe, the envelope that my "original" art of SALLY FORTH (ghosted by Paul Kirchner) came in. Can't believe I still have the envelope but not that note! Financial difficulties in recent years led me to sell all of the signed CANNON and SALLY FORTH volumes, also. Sigh.
(For the record, I haven't lived at that address in 17 years now.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


By the time of this 1965 YEARBOOK, Warren publishing's SPACEMEN, a sci-fi companion to their long-running FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and MONSTER WORLD, was ending its relatively brief run. Why they didn't get Wood to be their cover artist every month is a mystery as this Russ Jones/Wally Wood collaboration is still a favorite of many fans. Jones had worked with Woody on a black and white comic adaptation of Universal's THE MUMMY for Forrest J. Ackerman (who was surprisingly NOT the editor of SPACEMEN), reaction to which, one can assume, convinced Warren to go forward with his magazine EC clone, CREEPY with Jones as its initial editor. Going forward, Warren quickly closed up shop on his sci-fi mag as well as a western mag, a serial and B-movie mag, MONSTER WORLD and other one-shots. Keeping only his flagship FM, CREEPY would lead to EERIE and VAMPIRELLA, all of which would feature superior work from Wallace Wood from time to time over the following decade after this SPACEMEN cover. Then they finally started a sci-fi mag again...and proceeded to screw Woody over big-time. But that's another story.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sky Masters of the Space Force

Here we have another Wood-related treat from Greg Theakston's Pure Imagination. This 1991 magazine sized volume was apparently supposed to be the first of several reprinting the 1958 newspaper comic strip SKY MASTERS OF THE SPACE FORCE. This strip, although still little known, is generally recognized as an important step (along with DC's more-or-less contemporary CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN) toward the development of THE FANTASTIC FOUR. Jack Kirby was no longer working exclusively with Joe Simon and with the popularity of the real-life race for space decided to test the waters of potentially lucrative syndication. Wally Wood, although still the workhorse at MAD, came along to ink although he was occasionally spelled by (among others?) Marvin Stein or Dick Ayers.

SKY MASTERS OF THE SPACE FORCE was essentially a standard newspaper strip soap opera with a mild sci-fi element. It also featured some of the best art ever from either creator. Wood's smooth inking rounded off Jack's seemingly purposely muted dynamism in a manner that at once highlighted the best stylized traits of both artists and minimized their flaws.

This volume offers a brief behind-the-scenes look at the making of the strip, some rare art shown at various stages and some nicely colored Sunday strip reprints. Kirby was clearly stretching his storytelling muscles within the strip's restrictive lines and his rapidly evolving style is easy to see as you read along. The characters strongly resemble the later Challengers (also inked by Wood initially). Wood's use of blacks and shadowing in general is uniformly outstanding.
SKY MASTERS OF THE SPACE FORCE has been reprinted in several places over the years with a supposedly wonderful European volume being the most complete. This one, though, offers nice reproduction and is a most enjoyable introduction to this dated but important strip.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wallace Woods

Was out walking in the cold yesterday with friend Brittany Rose ( and we wandered near an area of town where I once lived named WALLACE WOODS. Couldn't resist having her take this pic. Wish I could say the neighborhood was filled with stalwart handsome men with shadowy faces, beautiful zoftig women, cute kids, rocket ships and lots of high tech stuff but it's just a shady few blocks with some lovely old homes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Golden Trashery of Mad

1960's GOLDEN TRASHERY OF MAD is the third (and if one can believe the Internet the scarcest) of the original three MAD hardcover collections. Featuring a new and as far as I know never reprinted introduction by the great TV comedian Sid Caesar, this collection of then-recent work by the proverbial Usual Gang of Idiots is just chock-full of incredible Woodwork!
In fact, there are no less than 36 pages in this volume by Wallace Wood! Other contributors include Frank Jacobs, Joe Orlando, a pre-LIGHTER SIDE OF Dave Berg, Bob Clarke, George Woodbridge and Larry Siegel. There's also some early Don Martin, not enough of the already amazing Mort Drucker and some incredible pieces by longtime cover artist and sci-fi great Kelly Freas.
Wood's pieces--some painted, some drawn, some heavily screened, some cluttered and some spare-- are as follows:
1-How to Make America's Kids Science Conscious
2-Spot That Plug
3-The Truth About Before and After Ads
4-The Mad Horror Primer
5-Report to Russia
6-Testing Civilians For Space Flight
7-Coast-to-Coast for $16.75
8-A Best Seller Hits the Commercial trail
9-Bitter Homes and Gardens
10-Mad Goes to an Alfred Hatchplot Movie
The whole thing was, of course, published and edited by Gaines and Feldstein and the humor is strongly representative of MAD's early peak years as a magazine. It was subversive but not yet fully accepted by the mainstream. Many (myself included) will argue that the early sixties issues were the Golden Age of the Post-Kurtzman MAD. Woody's art here is playful and seems quite enthusiastic, rich and for the most part highly detailed and with his traditional running gags such as the little kid with the wagon ad the guy in a spacesuit. Also on view is his wonderful capacity for caricature and style imitation. Just in the examples seen here you can find Jack Webb, Benjamin Franklin, Gomez Addams, The Great Gildersleeve (or is that Ernie Kovacs?), Alley Oop and others!
If you ever come across this or any of the MAD hardcovers from this period, grab 'em if you can afford them. They're a funny time capsule of society and pop culture for comics fans everywhere but particularly for fans of Wallace Wood!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Wood Astronaut

When I was learning to draw, I copied lots of things from my favorite comic book artists. From, Wallace Wood, the main things I took were his facial shadows and his spacesuits. Here, from the previously mentioned 1979 Overstreet with its Wood cover, is a fairly typical late period Wood spaceman. The bubble helmet, the oxygen tanks, the ridges along the arms and legs and the shadowed face. Yep, I copied 'em all when I drew spaceman! Still do!
No idea what this was originally from although it looks to be contemporary to the late seventies based on the use of those certain types of paste-on screens in the background. A portfolio piece perhaps?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feldstein Draws Wood

Also published in 1983's SQUA TRONT, this early fifties in-house EC caricature of Woody by Al Feldstein. For the completely uninitiated, that's Bill Gaines on the left and Al Feldstein himself on the right.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Big Apple Comix

In 1975, (Fabulous) Flo Steinberg, once Stan Lee's trusted "gal Friday," edited and published her own comic book, the ode to New York City and all its issues, foibles and problems that was called BIG APPLE COMIX. As Mick Jagger sang, "Bite the Big Apple. Don't mind the maggots!" While Wikipedia cites the sole issue as a link between underground comix and just plain independent comics that merged in the eighties, there's no question that it was, in spite of the mainstream creators involved, intended as an underground.
BIG APPLE COMIX is filled with the most explicit (albeit satirical) hardcore sex scenes Wally Wood had been associated with to date. Clearly Ms. Steinberg had raided old friend Wood's studio as Wood was involved with the cover, wrote and drew one story, wrote a second and inked a third. Meanwhile, his sidekicks at the time were everywhere around the issue, too, with Ralph Reese given the color back cover, Paul Kirchner having a strip of his own and Larry Hama and Reese doing an unusual side by side story with Neal Adams. Other creators, mostly moonlighting from Marvel, included Stu Schwartzberg, Herb Trimpe, Alan Weiss, Mike Ploog, Marie Severin, Linda Fite, Michele Brand and John Verpoorten. Wood's fellow EC cohort, Al Williamson, is represented with a stunning three pages that apparently took him 17 months to draw! Denny O'Neil provided an introduction.
Woody's main contribution is MY WORD, a dark, bitter, pornographic parody of his (and Feldstein's) EC sci-fi classic, MY WORLD. In retrospect, especially, it seems to say a lot about where Wood was in his head at the time on any number of subjects. Happy was not one of them. Nonetheless, this is notable as probably his best work of the period other than THE WIZARD KING and certainly his most personal.
The Williamson sci-fi short (which seems to star Roy Thomas!!?) is credited to author Wood and his final appearance is as the inker on a two page Herb Trimpe tale of King Kong, a NYC legend if ever there was one. It's not substantial but it has always been enough to make me wish he had inked more of Trimpe's work.
The marvelous cover with dinosaurs battling in Manhattan during rush hour is credited to Schwartzberg, Hama, Kirchner and Wood (with colors by Michele Brand). Logically that would seem to indicate basic idea and layout by Stu (mostly known for his humor work), and then Wally and his assistants finishing it up. It is a perfect example of how nearly every piece Wally Wood worked on became Wood artwork once his magic touch was added.
Not numbered, BIG APPLE COMICS was probably intended all along as a one-shot as many undergrounds at the time were (even as that market itself faded). Flo Steinberg, although remaining an almost mythical figure in early Marvel comics history, did not publish any more comics. Wood's foray into pornography, however, would soon go deeper.

In early 1982, in tribute to Wood after his then-recent passing, a variation of the BIG APPLE COMIX cover was used on my own self-published NOT READY FOR DRIVE-TIME NEWSLETTER # 3. This version was quite nicely adapted by my cohort then and now, Ms. Terri Riegler with contributions from myself and colored by the two of us.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Unpublished Fantasy Classics

Published only in the great EC fanzine SQUA TRONT in 1983, here are two Wood cover roughs from the early 1950's. THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY and THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER seem to have been intended to be part of a classics series with a fantasy theme (along with RIP VAN WINKLE) done with Harry Harrison. The only one actually completed and published was the previously mentioned DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Overstreet Wood

Just a couple of years prior to his death, Wallace Wood was invited to provide the cover for 1979's 9th edition of Robert Overstreet's COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE. The editorial section of the annual volume was to be in part a special tribute to EC Comics and Wood was chosen as the artist who most personified EC's classic sci-fi stories. Although the nicely colored cover offers all of Wood's trademarks--the slimy aliens, the shadows, the bubble helmets, the cute l'il creature, the unspoken "Good lord!" from the stalwart spaceman and the gorgeous, bra-less female, I remember being disappointed in it at the time it come out. In retrospect, I would suspect this would be due to Wood's illness creeping into his work.
Perhaps in compensation for his cover, Wood is granted prime ad space for the full-page announcement of FOO, his Friends of Odkin Fan Club. The ad highlights some neatly painted characters from the his pet WIZARD KING project including Odkin himself (the short one if you're new to all this). Note that in the ad, the artist says there would be four volumes in all. The first came out in a black and white hardcover, then a thin trade reprint from Phil Seuling (with colors by Woody's Ex, Tatjana). The second volume, largely completed by assistants, appeared only as a B&W hardback some time later. The third volume was left uncompleted as I understand it and never published at the time but is supposedly coming soon from Vanguard. I've seen a few panels and they could have been a lot worse. But a fourth volume?