Woodwork: Wallace Wood 1927-1981 by Florentino Flórez (book review).
I should point out from the start that this unique large heavy book is also bilingual. ‘Woodwork: Wallace Wood 1927-1981’ is based from a museum presentation in Italy of the late comicbook artist’s work in 2011 and written by Florentino Flórez. As such the text, divided into columns, is both in Italian and translated into English. The dialogue and such with the art is still in English so we really do get the best of both worlds. We might like our comicbooks but whereas in Europe they would they lay on exhibitions solely to an individual comicbook artist’s work, especially for ones not of their native shores?
With this book, you not only get a history of Wallace Wood, he didn’t like being called Wally and even here is frequently referred to as ‘Woody’, but a spectacular display of his artwork from his lifetime. You see original pages, compared to the printed ones, covers, even whole short stories on occasion. Woody, as described, was a total workhorse and just loved to draw and ink, often to the detriment of his own health, which ultimately helped kill him. He often displayed a remarkable level of detail and adored drawing sexy women. It’s even pointed out that he was probably the source of the cut-off tee-shirt top. Oddly, he never saw himself as a top notch illustration like Al Williamson was, which probably illustrated (sic) the standards he set himself. His favoured genre was also Science Fiction where he was a major influence in the 1950s. As he got his first break working for Will Eisner, Woody was also a capable and unique letterer as well. When you look at his collaborations with Joe Orlando and Al Williamson, he was the true all-rounder, always prepared to experiment and play with his craft.
The bits and pieces of Wood’s work in my collection really pales compared to the volumes he drew and shown here. He was as good at doing parody and comedy as he was at doing serious art. Even though he admits to not being a great painter, the samples from the Galaxy Science Fiction novels showed he could turn his hand to them. What was a big surprise to me was he actually did some illustrations of ‘Fireball XL5’ and its crew for some lunch box items in the States. It’s a bit odd seeing XL5 taking off vertically but it also tends to suggest that he didn’t actually see the show or having to deal with how to put it on a vertical flask. Wood’s diversity in the 60s was enormous and even illustrated trading cards.
He also wrote some of the comicbooks he drew like the ‘T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents’ and a rather odd radioactive chap called Radian. With the latteer, although he didn’t know it, Wood also touched on the fact that Radian could reach critical mass near other nuclear material, which wasn’t that widely known at the time.
I suspect many comicbook pros will be picking up on this book, so I hope Wood’s words of wisdom on page 256 sink in: ‘Build each page around a visual impact and don’t get tangled up in extra stuff you don’t need.’ He says more but you should get the idea.
I should also mention that Wood also did a lot of good girl art from risqué to porn level so it might not be wise to leave this book around the under-aged. Artist John Severin points out that Wood’s art was never crude and because of that he could get away with art that poorer artists couldn’t. If you’ve ever sampled ‘Sally Forth’, you’d also realise he was also extremely funny.
Wallace Wood noted himself that he never made anything substantial in the way of wealth from his illustrative ability. Looking at this book as a whole, it is his skill as an artist in every genre that is his legacy and makes him stand out and why he still has such a huge following thirty years after his death. If you’re a Wood fan, you’re sure to pick up this book. If you want a sampler to see which items you want to pick up for your collection than this is better because it often uses material that hasn’t been reprinted elsewhere. Read this book and be impressed.
(pub: IDW/Casal Solleric. 343 page very large illustrated hardback. Price: $59.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61377-292-0)
check out website: www.idwpublishing.com