This is a tough book to review because, of course, Wallace Wood was great. Parts of this book, though, are not.
One of THE very best and most influential artists to ever have worked in comics, Wood was jointly celebrated for his sleek and shiny science fiction art, his impish and biting humor art, and his unapologetically sexy and sometimes smutty Good Girl Art, there have been multiple volumes collecting the best of his work in two of those categories, but only one in the latter.
This new volume from Fantagraphics then could be considered an expanded revision of that earlier volume, Naughty Knotty Wood, published by the same company more than two decades ago. Only it isn’t really.
Naughty Knotty Wood has quite a few pieces that aren’t represented here at all. Likewise, this current volume has nearly 100 more pages, many of them taken up by the never before reprinted flat out pornographic strips from Gang Bangthat appeared late in Wood’s life. While they more than fit the topic, a few of them inarguably qualify as the worst things that he ever drew.
But enough with comparisons, how’s THIS particular book, you ask? Well, it has its ups and downs. It’s good to have all this material corralled into one volume. Some of it—Malice in Wonderland, for instance, or some of his Screwcovers—can be counted amongst the best of Wood’s later work.
The Pussycat strip is a delightful revelation when compared to the murky 1968 printing with which most fans would be familiar. The Wood Estate’s J. David Spurlock discusses the behind the scenes story of that and several other unique items in his informative Introduction. He also explains the book’s unusual title, a poorly chosen reference to a long-ago French collection of Woodwork that makes no real sense. This book’s descriptive subtitle alone would have sufficed, rather than tagging it with the silly bit of Euro-naughtiness that’s likely to turn away potential customers.
Editor J. Michael Catron, who handled the completion chores on the recent two volume Fantagraphics collection of Wood-related essays begun by the late Bhob Stewart, presumably provided the info in the Contents as to the original publication of the various pieces in the book. It’s welcome information although I would have preferred it being with the pieces themselves, rather than having to go back and check the Contents whenever I wanted to know more. Also, I was surprised to see one of Wood’s most famous 1970s pieces—the glorious outer space cover of his first self-published Sally Forth collection—listed as “Publication status unknown.”
Spurlock writes a nice bio of Wood at the end but unfortunately it contains some repetitious bits that come almost word for word from his Intro.
In between the Intro and the bio, you’ll find color and black and white girlie cartoons and strips from mags like Gent, Dude, Nugget, Cavalcade, Puritan, National Screw, and Big Apple Comix, along with an underground Wood strip that was also in Naughty Knotty Wood but with a bizarrely rewritten script and even different credits! Would love to have heard the full story behind that.
So, yes, a mixed bag, For Wood collectors, it’s another welcome addition to the seemingly endless library of quality Wallace Wood books. Casual fans might find themselves wondering what all the fuss is about.
It should go without saying that Cons De Fee: The Erotic Art of Wallace Wood is NSFW and is for adults only!
Booksteve recommends for Wallace Wood fans.