Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Review of Woodwork: The Career of Wally Wood

A Review of Woodwork, Wally Wood 1927-1981.

Published by IDW and costing $60, I got it from Amazon for $32.00.  This is  big and heavy at 328 pages, 9.6 x 1.2 x 12.7 inches.

Two items that I must address immediately. Since we no longer go into  bookstore sand actually look at a book before we buy it, I feel it is important to describe an art book  in a little more detail. I have one criticism about the book, which is the same complaint that I had about a very similar book, “Big John Buscema.” The typeset in these books are small, if you are over 40 or need reading glasses, OR if you are over 50 and use reading glasses, this text will be hard to see. In fact, this is an easy to read book if it wasn’t so hard to read. Exactly half the text is in another language, Spanish. Next to every column in English, is another column in Spanish. For the cover price of $60, I wish they had printed two separate editions, WITH BIGGER TYPE, one in English and one in Spanish. Many people accepted, agreed or at least understood my observation. Others called me racist and, although my review appeared in 2012, I was blamed for the lack of foreign graphic novels in America over the last two decades.

This is a terrific book that every fan of comics and especially of Wally Wood would like to see. This is not a biography of Wood but an overview of his work, not his private life.  Many authors, among them Florentino Florez and Bill Pearson write about the different stages in Wood’s life and career, in chronological order. The authors use a great many references from other published works and interviews where Wood’s employers, colleagues and friends discuss him and his work.  They also spend a great deal of time discussing the stories that are represented in the book. While Wood’s private life, his marriages, his demons are not dismissed, they are not central to the book. Although, his need to travel from one comic book company to another, a major subject of this volume, is made up decisions both personal and professional.

From Dr. Jekyll to Trigger Man they show great illustrations of his early work at Star and soon at Avon publications. You can see here how his work began and his work developed. Sadly, in order to put in the second language text, many of the pictures are a bit too small to fully enjoy. They are often ¼ the size of the originals. This may be alright for overs, but pages with many panels and dialogue are just hard to fully appreciate.

On the contrary, highlighting the book are full pages of finished art and in some cases full stories such as what was printed in Wood’s EC Artist Edition. “Trial by Arms” from Two Fisted Tales #34 and “there will come soft rains” and “The Children” from Weird Fantasy, “My World” from Weird Science as well as many pages from Mad are presented here and they are wonderful.

John Severin and Al Feldstein are quoted. Feldstein tells why and how Wood left Mad magazine. He says that when Wood experiences very painful headaches he was very difficult to work with. Feldstein says that when the headaches struck Wood’s work was affected, but when the headaches went away his work was up to snuff again. When a parody of Little Orphan Annie was turned down because it needed corrections, Wood just left the office.

We learn about his work with Jack Kirby, not just on Sky Masters and Challengers of the Unknown, but on a smaller strip entitled Surf Hunters.  It is very interesting to read the authors take on why Kirby’s art did not work well in comic strips as it did not comic books. He also mentioned that Stan Lee told Wood that he didn’t like his inking on Kirby because he didn’t see Kirby, he saw only Wood. Carefully detail and illustrated the author does list the issues Wood inked Kirby’s covers, Avengers #20, 21, 22, X-Men #14, Tales of Suspense #71.  Wood also helped Bob Powell in Strange Tales #134 and Don Heck in the Avengers and Iron Man issues mentioned. Of course Wood inked all the Daredevil figures in Fantastic Four #39-40.

At the time, Wood was a getting $200 a page from EC. When he goes to Marvel, even with a special rate, he will make less than half that.  It seems that he wasn’t that concerned about working with the Marvel method, where he had to contribute to the plot and writing, as much as he was unhappy with not being paid for it.  But he was never going to make as much at Marvel or Charlton as he did at EC. While he was mad at the situation he wasn’t particularly mad at Stan Lee, who he called “too nice, he must be hiding something.”

Wood also did paperback and pulp confers and illustrations for the insides.

 And he embellished Will Eisner on the Spirit and two decades later he inks Steve Ditko:

There are many unpublished pieces here as well as examples of Wood work in advertising, such as an ad for Alka Seltzer.

A great deal of time and information is given to Wood's work on Thunder Agents and his time at Warren.

There are also pieces from such things as Krazy Little Comics. Much time is spent also on his later works from Thunder Agents to Sally Forth.

As with all of these books the authors credit Wood with being one of the best, but what makes this presentation a bit different, is that they do mention a decline in his work and show the “soft core porn” type art that he did late in his career.

 As with the Buscema book, this is a wonderful representation of Wood’s work.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

For more great stuff about wally wood, please check out:

Although this scan is from the John Buscema book, it shows the layout using two languages and the smaller pictures and type.

1 comment:

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