Wally Wood, talented and troubled, was born 83 years ago today
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The late, great Wally Wood was born on this date in 1927. Wood took his own life in 1981 at age 54 after years of health problems, addiction and heartache -- he had also lost sight in one eye after a stroke in his final years, a bitter blow for a man defined by his vision of the world.
William Gaines, the publisher of EC Comics, had a bittersweet appraisal of Wood’s grim and gifted run of life: ‘Wally may have been our most troubled artist.... I’m not suggesting any connection, but he may have been our most brilliant.’
To me, the art of Jack Kirby looked like it was moving with cosmic energy pulses, angular physics and body-shortening kinetics, but the comic book covers of Wood were different -- they seemed oddly serene to my young eyes when I first saw them.
Wood’s work seemed like snapshots of a lush and vibrant reality where even madmen, monsters and mayhem possessed a stately grace. There might be pandemonium but, oddly, the panic never seemed to reach the eyes of Wood’s regal heroes.
You can see all of that in the cover to ‘Daredevil’ No. 7 from 1964 above (the first issue, by the way, to feature the all-red costume) or, at right, in one of Wood’s memorable tableaus for EC’s classic ‘Weird Science’ from a decade earlier. There are clear, bright lines that link Wood’s work to the art of Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff and Hal Foster. Like all them, there is a timelessness to the creations of Wood; he may not have been built to survive the pain of this world, but his illustrations will be with us for a long, long time.
-- Geoff Boucher
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