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WALLY WOOD: TAKE ONE

Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood
Edited by Bhob Stewart
238 pages
8.5x11
hardcover
b/w with 14-page color section
2003 TwoMorrows Limited Edition
$59.95

Againt the Grain coverWally Wood, or "Woody," as his friends called him (he never liked “Wally”), undoubtedly deserves a good biography. If you need some sort of justification, then you don’t know Wood’s work. Here, from Bill Mason in the volume at hand, is a hint about what you’ve missed:

“After spending most of 1951 [the first year of his work for EC Comics] restlessly changing his style, alternately refining and coarsening the self-assured, effortless-looking manner of his early New Trend stories, Wallace Wood suddenly, in the May-June 1952 issues of EC science-fiction and war titles, brought eye, heart and mind into perfect synch and emerged as one of the great masters of comics illustration. [His stories of that period] are more than the first fruits of Wood’s hard-won technical mastery: they are graphic expressions of everything Wood knew and felt about life and art, and harbingers of a period of artistic growth and achievement that lasted almost [all of the next] three years.”

The text in Against the Grain consists of essays by many of those who knew Wood, including Stewart and others who worked with Wood in his studio. Some “essays” are transcripts of recorded interviews — with John Severin, for instance, and Al Williamson. In the opening chapters, Stewart provides a biographical overview, including lots of pre-pro Wood art.

WoodWork0001
The volume includes many photographs and scads of art, but most of the comic book pages are reproduced here so small (often 4 to a page in the book) that they cannot be read without a magnifying glass. The color section reproduces mostly covers and miscellaneous art.

Wood’s try-out page to do Prince Valiant is here, but none of the brasher undertakings of his later years — no Sally Forth (one of the more voluptuous of Wood’s ever sensuous wimmin in a refreshing comedy of sf and perpetually naive disrobing), only a few panels from Cannon, Pipsqueak Papers, and The World of the Wizard King; nothing at all from Wood’s contributions to porn magazines.

Despite the book’s shortcomings, it is copiously illustrated and the essays provide critical analyses of Wood’s work, biographical detail, and insight into his complex personality.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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