Friday, January 27, 2012

700th Post! Wally Wood-Strange Worlds

From out of deepest space and via time warp from the far-flung fifties comes STRANGE WORLDS, the ultimate collection of Wallace Wood’s early, non-EC science fiction and fantasy stories.

This is not a book to introduce one’s self to Wood, arguably the greatest sci-fi illustrator of the 20th Century. No, STRANGE WORLDS is a book for Wood fans who want the big picture. What we have here is the chance to watch the artist’s astonishingly rapid development from almost crude beginnings to his fabled mastery of storytelling, composition and shadows, all in just the few short years featured herein. Between black and white reprints and online scans, the true connoisseur has seen most of this work before but oh, to have it now in such a nice chronological presentation with lovingly restored color from the original issues of SPACE DETECTIVE, CAPTAIN SCIENCE, AMAZING ADVENTURES and other long-forgotten four-color treasures! Words fail.

To be honest, the stories themselves aren’t much, many being clichéd space opera of the most antiquated sort. But this isn’t a book about stories. It’s a book about art. Wood’s early collaborations with Joe Orlando are present as well as work done with Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta and even Jack Kirby. And every one is a revelation to Wood fans, showing off his enthusiasm for outer space stories and his experimentations as he became the genius he would so quickly become.

So exactly what is in STRANGE WORLDS? To start with, there’s THE FLYING SAUCERS, a fairly serious full-length tale exploiting UFO’s when they were in the news almost daily. Then there’s AN EARTHMAN ON VENUS, inexplicably appearing in black and white. There are a number of series entries with characters including  the aforementioned Captain Science and Space Detective as well as Kenton of the Star Patrol and Rocky X of the Rocketeers. Dotted around these are one-off stories from various publishers with the book finishing up with a post-EC tale from Atlas and some beautifully colored continuity from the SKY MASTERS OF THE SPACE FORCE  newspaper strip in which Wood inked Jack Kirby in what many have called the best work of either artist! In between many of the stories are original art panels and pages from some of the artist’s best-known EC classics which can be used to compare his development.

All of this is wrapped up in David Spurlock’s beautiful packaging. The front cover of the regular edition is a “new” piece of Wally Wood art produced by the great designer and artist, Jim Steranko, utilizing bits and pieces from various Wood illustrations. In this manner, Jim has created Woodwork that highlights Wood’s trademark spaceman, a sexy woman and a sleek rocket all amidst a screen-laden planetscape.

In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention, let me say it plainly—This is a gorgeous volume!

The limited slipcase edition flops the new cover to the back and spotlights on its front the amazing Wood/Adkins cover for a 1964 record album of H.G. Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS. It also offers an additional portfolio of the little-seen inside front cover art that Wood did for many of the Avon titles on which he worked in the 1950’s.
Wallace Wood took his own life in 1981, more than 30 years ago now. And yet 2012 looks to be Wood’s best year ever with forthcoming Wood projects from Fantagraphics and IDW (and a couple more rumored but as yet officially unannounced!). It all starts, just like Woody did, with Vanguard’s STRANGE WORLDS. You should start there, too!

Click the book's cover on the upper right of this page to order from Vanguard Publishing.


  1. Steve- great review. having gotten the book a few days ago, I think you are right on target. One very odd aspect of this book is that between each chapter of early Wood they print one page of later Wood, the Wood we all know and love. It is just odd to have one page pretty much randomly inserted between each full story. Why not reprint all the rest of the Wood stuff. Franly I find those pages confusing they are so out of context. Very odd decision. But, I hate to complain as I'm glad we have something here! What are the other Wood items you hear on the grapevine? What is Fantagraphics planning? What more from IDW after the Artists edition?

  2. I picked this up yesterday and put it back down. I'm back in town today, so I might have to go and rectify this situation. Sheesh!

    Rip Off

  3. Mr. Wood was really one of the greatest!

  4. Who did the color restoration?

  5. Bhob:
    reg cover: Steranko
    deluxe cover: Jose Villarrubia
    title spread: jds
    flying saucers: andrew e.c. gaska
    winged death: jds
    monster god: mark mcnabb
    capt science: mark mcnabb
    space detective: mark mcnabb
    weapon: minor jds
    kenton: minor jds
    invasion: mcnabb
    vampires: ds
    Lost Kingdom: jds (my favorite)
    Kenton/Sirens: mcnabb
    Rocky: mcnabb (Sid Check with minor Wood assist)
    cover gallery: jds
    executioner: mcnabb
    sky masters: bob sharen

  6. I've finally gotten through this book and will add to my comment above; in between each story of the book the publishers insert one page of Wood's EC work which was done within a couple of years of the full stories. The intro explains that they want to give the reader a full appreciation of Wood's art (since the stories are all EC, they obviously don't have a license to publish the full stories). But, printing random EC pages only serves to highlight how the stories in this book are throwaways. My guess is that Wood put his pride and talents into the EC work, which is vastly superior. Many - actually most - of the stories printed by Vanguard have half hearted art barely recognizable as Wood and they aren't even signed! The fact that Wood didn't sign these is significant, because we Wood fans all know how Wood took pride in boldly placing his name on opening panels. So, this book is for the Wood completest but in many ways is a let down because it shows that Wood was willing to churn out stuff for a buck without artistic pride.

    1. I have quite the opposite opinion.I ordered the deluxe edition and it's absolutely fantastic.I gave Vanguard a second chance after Wizard King and i feel more than happy with this book.Wood in these stories is an artist still learning his craft but his talent bursts in every single page.Congratulations to mr Spurlock,seems to me a man who take art fans seriously.

  7. Are there any scans of the restored interior pages online? A quote from David Spurlock in a ComicsMix review of the book, alluding to “historic color, bad registration and all” makes me wary.

  8. Haven't seen any yet and the thickness of the book makes it hard to scan any properly on a standard scanner. Still reviews popping up so keep your eyes open. Personally, I love the pure scans of the old comics but many of the archival collections in recent years touch up here and there.