Wallace (Wally) Wood (June 17, 1927 – November 1, 1981) has been revered as a rebel genius –– comparable to Jack Kerouac, James Dean, and John Lennon –– who led the way for, and inspired, generations including “underground” cartoonists: Robert Crumb, Bill Griffith (Zippy), and Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Art Spiegelman (Maus). The award-winning Wood rose to the pinnacle of pop-culture stardom with a brilliant career as one of America’s top humorists as MAD magazine’s first star cartoonist.
But let us not forget that when Wood became Mad Magazine‘s star, he had already revolutionized comic books with the work that put him on Entertainment Weekly‘s All-Time Best, Sci-Fi list and, had inspired Tales From the Crypt publisher Bill Gaines to dub him, “The greatest science fiction artist that ever lived.” The artist also excelled as a mainstream regaler of daring superhero deeds on titles like Daredevil, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Superboy, The Avengers and more.
Possibly the most recognizable trademark of Wood’s work was his masterful inking technique. I call Wood the Great Collaborator. Wood was sought out for collaborations by a Who’s Who list of talents including Pop-Art maestro Peter Max; animated filmmaker Ralph Bakshi; Star Wars artist Al Williamson; Harry Harrison — the Nebula Award winning author of the Charlton Heston sci-fi thriller Soylent Green; Marvel comics creators Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby; fantasy painter Frank Frazetta; Mad-man Harvey Kurtzman, Spirit creator Will Eisner and, Pulitzer Prize winner Jules Feiffer. Still, all was not roses and glory for Woody; the superstar of the illustrated page was haunted by more than his share of demons–demons that ultimately tore him from his creative peaks to die an early death on the outskirts of Hollywood. But, Wood’s grand legacy lives on through movies like Daredevil, Mars Attacks, Weird Science; the Wally Wood Scholarship Fund at the School of Visual Arts in New York; endless comics collection reprints; the work of the Wallace Wood Estate; and in 2011, as highlighted by the Inkwell Hall of Fame Award which is aptly named after Wood’s contemporary, and our friend, Joe Sinnott. Long live the Inkwells and long live the artistic legacy of Wally Wood.
— J. David Spurlock
J.David Spurlock is an Eisner, Rondo, Locus, and IPPY Award-recognized talent whose work includes: The Art of Neal Adams, Wally’s World, Space Cowboy, Frazetta Classics, and Joe Kubert-Draw From Life.
Spurlock is the Agent for The Wallace Wood Estate and is co-founder, with Wood’s brother Glenn, of the Wally Wood Scholarship Fund.