the revelations of basil wolverton will keep you awake at night

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!

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WolvertonGSM14full

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.