Basil Wolverton’s Weird Worlds Artist’s Edition

Basil Wolverton was one of the most unusual, innovative and influential cartoonists of all time. He drew the cover of a Life Magazine (the winner of Al Capp‘s legendary ugliest woman contest), early issues of Harvey Kurtzman‘s edited MAD Comics, and countless bizarre caricatures. This Artist’s Edition features an incredible array of comic book stories and pages, including Powerhouse Pepper and Spacehawk, a selection of his classic end of the world illustrations, and a good helping of zany characters of all manner, as only Wolverton could have done them!

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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

I had little exposure to Wolverton’s work until this point, my only book of his being the Spacehawk softcover collection from Fantagraphics. It had a great vibe to it, golden age yet slightly odd, so I committed to this volume.

It’s an eclectic mix of material, collecting comic pages, apocalyptic illustrations and a lot of Mad magazine style heads. Here’s the rundown from the table of contents.

The Stories (Powerhouse Pepper)

  • A Scoot For Loot
  • A Skyscraper Caper
  • A Spin To Win
  • An Encounter At The Counter
  • Fewer Chewers

Other Stories

  • Bigbang Buster and His Horse Hedy
  • Hothead Hotel
  • Supersonic Sammy
  • Supersonic Sammy in Ants in the Planets
  • Spacehawks
  • Meteor Murphy

Pages And Illustrations

  • Space Panels
  • Spacehawk
  • Science fiction pages, strips and illustrations
  • Disk-Eyes the Detective
  • Ballpoint pen illustrations
  • Bedtime Banter an other one-page strips
  • Single panels
  • Weird people one
  • End of the World
  • Weird people two
  • Heads

Everything is humour based except for Spacehawk, Meteor Murphy and End of the World illustrations. It seems to cover his career from the late 1930s to the 1960s, but that’s gleaned from the introduction and biography as none of the material is dated. For material that old it’s an impressive look at this artist’s career and a chance to admire his artistry.

Which leads to the oddities surrounding this volume. Solicited in November 2013 for publication in February 2014 it was finally released October 29 2014. The indicia of the book states a February 2014 publication date and that this is Artist’s Edition #18. So if the book was delayed eight months why leave this page as is was? What caused the delay if it was ready to roll? At least it’s using the old pricing for the 15″ x 22″ books!

Another oddity is the cover. IDW frequently changes the cover image from the solicited image, but in this case the artist’s name is left off the cover but appears on the spine. The cover image included above from the publisher. The eyes of the people are glossy and reflective, as is the mushroom cloud. Very nice.

Someone is a big fan of Wolverton’s heads, as there are about 45 pages of weird heads and bodies filling the back of the book. This isn’t my thing and I looked through them but would have liked more actual comics. A lot of people identify him with these grotesque images but I don’t get it. I’m also not much of a humour comic person but Wolverton had a flair for it and I appreciated the cadence and the weird and expressive faces and body language.

The material doesn’t really flow or feel cohesive, but as a career retrospective it shouldn’t. All the art is very clean, with almost no corrections. All the scans are clear and clean. Oddly a lot of the sketches or caricatures have the same signature in ballpoint pen, as if Wolverton went back and signed his work late in his career.

Randy Dahlk again presents an eye pleasing package, utilizing red, green and tan (sand) in a unified manner from the cover right through to the biography, with coloured boxes playing on enlargements of panels for the chapter dividers.

As always with IDW’s Artist’s Edition books packaging and presentation are excellent. The same thick pages, solid binding and quality scanning are present.

Basil Wolverton Weird Worlds Artists Ed HC

from Things From Another World