the revelations of basil wolverton will keep you awake at night

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

COMIC BOOK ARTIST BASIL WOLVERTON was idio­syn­cratic 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.

To en­large an image, just click on it!


Wolverton1 Bomb750


Wolverton2a Sun1000


Wolverton3a Smoke 1000


Wolverton4a Landfill 1000


Wolverton5a Woe 1000


Wolverton6a Sores 1000


Wolverton7a Wind 1000


Wolverton12 FinalWave 750


Wolverton8a ZombieFamily 1000


Wolverton15 Finale 1000

This final image below may have seemed re­ligously prophetic fifty years ago; today it simply looks like pes­simist’s re­al­istic pre­dic­tion for the not-all-that-distant fu­ture. It 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.




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