Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Number 1662: Thankful for Basil Wolverton

In past years at this time I did a special Thanksgiving Turkey Award posting of the weirdest or most oddball comic book story I had seen all year. For 2014 I’m dropping that. Instead I have decided to have a Thanksgiving Thankfulness post to show you some examples from a cartoonist I am thankful for. Basil Wolverton’s unique artwork and bizarre sense of humor have brought me much joy over the past five decades or more.

First, four of his funny 3-page Bingbang Buster cowboy strips, which appeared in Lev Gleason’s Black Diamond Western comic book. I think these short strips, done as filler material, are much better than the lead feature, which is the Lev Gleason version of the Lone Ranger. The Wolverton feature, which began in #16, continued through #28. These are the first four strips in the series.

Basil drew funny cowboys, and he drew funny spacemen. Supersonic Sammy was another of his characters who came along about the time the flying saucer flaps started happening in the late forties. They were done for Martin Goodman’s comics, and ended up as black line printings in Goodman’s 25¢ line of cartoon books. This way Goodman got a lot for his money, since I don’t think anyone paid for reprints in those days. They were reprinted, as was Basil’s Powerhouse Pepper, many times over the years.

The first strip is from Popular Jokes #33 (1969), the second from Comedy #13 (1953):

Mike Britt, who introduced me to comic book fandom in 1959 with his fanzine, Squatront #2 — and thereby set me on the path I still tread today — has provided some scans of Wolverton originals, probably heretofore unseen. They are from very early, when Basil was trying to sell a comic strip, “Woozie Woofer.” It didn’t make the comic strip pages (not to my knowledge, anyway), but still lives because Wolverton kept his originals. Mike tells me that Greg Sadowski is using these and more examples in his book about Wolverton, upcoming from Fantagraphics. I know when that book is published it will be on my must-have list.

I want to mention the two 1971 issues of Bill Spicer’s Graphic Story Magazine that showed me some rare work by Wolverton. Numbers 12 and 14 are the two Basil Wolverton issues. I will be forever grateful to Bill for publishing these. Until some fine day when they are (hopefully) reprinted you will have to dig out copies on your own. They are not easy to find and I plan to keep mine 'til death do us part.

I’ll be seeing you on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with a Herbie adventure.


If you want to taste my traditional Thanksgiving fare, click on this link to the 2013 Turkey Award winner. The links will take you back to the beginning.


Brian Barnes said...

Happy Thanksgiving Pappy, and thanks for the great gift!

Note these Bingbang Buster strips -- with their very Kurtzman like visual gags -- were a couple years before Mad (if I'm correct in the dates.) They had to have had a influence on Kurtzman.

(Not to take away anything from Kurtzman, as if he lifted at all, he refined and made 10 times better and was a master at the craft. It's just interesting to see inspiration, if so.)

It's amazing how thick the inking is on some of these!

Note that Wolverton was one of those guys that would draw men cartoonish and women more realistically (not counting those shoes!)

Pappy said...

Brian, happy Thanksgiving to you, too. And I am giving you thanks for the comments!

Ryan Anthony said...

Aw, Pappy! I was really looking forward to the worst story of the year! Oh, well...
Was Bingbang Buster's horse named for Hedy Lamarr? Because that would be kind of insulting.
"Supersonic Sammy" definitely looks like the later underground comics whose creators emulated Wolverton. And the strip is a bit suggestive; what did Sammy mean to do with his "upper appendages" to make the trip "even more entertaining" for the babe?
Happy Thanksgiving, Paps! I'll be skipping the turkey (I'm a vegetarian).

Anonymous said...

I get thankful for Basil Wolverton, too. Not every joke gets laughs from me but I've always loved the artwork. My younger brother emulated Wolverton's style with more success than my attempts at drawing like Steve Ditko or Wally Wood. My failures didn't slow me down, though. Kept hacking away at it…
Thanks for the thanks, Pappy.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I'm a bit late, but I stumbled into this right now...
Definitely thanks for Basil Wolverton, whose style was so peculiar, and perfect for everything from humor to horror (often mixing them).
I may be wrong, but I see a "trait d'union" between Segar, Wolverton and Robert Crumb...
And some of Basil's most crazy and "crowded" pages reminds me of Benito Jacovitti... different style, same crazy humor.