BASIL WOLVERTON WAS AN IDIOSYNCRATIC ARTIST from the beginning. Wherever he found a publisher, his work stood out from all other comic book artists of the 1950s. His outlandish style was best suited for a form of what used to be referred to as ‘bigfoot humor’ (which had something to do with Lil’ Abner, nothing to do with Sasquatch). But the work that attracts the most attention from collectors is his science fiction strips for secondary comic book publishers.
I had been aware of Wolverton since the early ’60s: his art popped up in old comic books and Mad paperback book collections that I had picked up out of curiosity at the Back Date Book Store. They all had their covers ripped off, but at a nickel apiece or six-fer-a-quarter, my brother and I never complained.
I was introduced to Wolverton as a serious artist in Bill Spicer’s Graphic Story Magazine, one of the first of the high quality comic book fanzines (or prozine) of the 1960s. GSM #12 (1970) devoted 52 pages to Wolverton, but it was GSM #14 (1972) that was my fave, as it focused on the revelations of Basil Wolverton as a findamentalistc Christian artist. And it was soul-boggling!
The front cover of Graphic Story Magazine 17 was stark and powerful: a section of one of BW’s drawings was blown up, the background was colored a garish red, and there was no text.
Wolverton had a peculiar background for a comic book artist: in 1941, he had been baptized into Radio Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. In 1943, Wolverton was ordained as an elder. In 1951, Armstrong encouraged Wolverton to do a series of drawings from the Bible, including the apocalyptic end of all things on Earth. These have been collected into a single volume, The Wolverton Bible, published by Fantagraphics in 2009.
I have selected ten for this article: two in color (the header and the footer) and eight in the black and white in which they were originally published. I have arranged them in an order that I think appropriate and I have resisted adding the passages from the Bible that supposedly inspired each drawing.
This page is not intended to be even remotely religious; it is about the art of Basil Wolverton.
HEADER/FOOTER IMAGES: The drawing at the top of this page is one of sixteen drawings done by Wolverton in the early 1950 depicting the end of the modern world according to his interpretation of Revelations. This one was hand-colored in 1998 by his son, Monte Wolverton, who is a successful editorial cartoonist. This and fourteen other colored drawings can be seen on the website, Basil Wolverton’s The Apocalypse.
This final image below may have seemed religoulsy prophetic fifty years ago; today it simply looks like pessimist’s realistic prediction for the not-all-that-distant future . . .