Sunday, July 07, 2019


Wally Wood's art is guilty of some of the same flaws I've criticized in other artists.  His figure drawings retain some stiffness and anatomical awkwardness; there can be an excess of detail and a lack of prioritization; particularly in later years he could draw with a heavy hand and recycle gimmicks.

Yet, Wood's redeeming talents are so original and weird and bountiful, they more than offset any mere technical inadequacies.  Wood did some of his best work for MAD.  In honor of the late great MAD Magazine, let's revisit some examples of Wood's humorous art:

Here are some examples of preliminary sketches contrasted with final art for Wood's wonderful story, "What Do You Do For A Living, Daddy?"

Who could draw children like Wood?

Some of Wood's best works for MAD portrayed the annoyances and micro-aggressions of middle class existence in the 1950s.  He would frequently pack his backgrounds full of strange goings on:

A day at the beach

Relatives come to dine.  Note Frankenstein and the Wolf Man

Often these background drawings were published in a size too small for MAD readers to understand and appreciate.  I'm reproducing them here in a size that I hope will allow you to enjoy Wood's stream of consciousness drawing.

Wood also did a great job depicting the Madison Ave. executives of the 1950s and 60s who would later be depicted on the show,  Mad Men.

Finally, here are a few more examples of Wood's characters:


Richard said...

One thing I love about MAD is that while the scientific community reached absolute consensus that physiognomy was pseudoscience, despite extensive anecdotal experience otherwise, MAD tacitly made the case in every issue that there was something more to it.

I’m left wondering if maybe we wouldn’t have so many problems with rapists and pedophiles if we had listened to MAD a bit more carefully, and trusted our instincts that sometimes someone just looks like a creep.

kev ferrara said...

Wood's "Sound Effects" made me understand the possibilities of comics more than any normal comic ever did.

Donald Pittenger said...

Not sure if I ever saw the issue that had the life guard. Regardless, I have no idea as to the theme this was taken from.


Why is the life guard's chair facing away from the water? The plot? Artistic compositional reasons?

The big question: Why on earth did I even notice that detail ????

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- You're the only person I know of who shares my view of the importance of "Sound Effects." A brilliant piece of imaginative work by Kurtzman and Wood, it's hard to think of a better piece of conceptual art in the Museum of Modern Art.

Richard-- Yes, but on the other hand Wood illustrated a wonderful story in MAD 27 with a bunch of teen age hoodlums in the park harassing a creepy, goofy looking guy with thick glasses and a big nose. The moral of the story is don't make fun of someone just because they look like they're from another planet because they just might be from another planet. In the final panel, the goofy looking guy blasts them with lightning bolts from his hands and walks away.

Donald Pittenger-- Of all the very strange things in that very strange picture, the thing you focus on is that the lifeguard's chair is facing the wrong direction?

Robert Cook said...

I'm guessing the lifeguard chair facing away from the swimmers is part of the gag.