Illustrations by Basil Wolverton, from “Meet Miss Potgold,” Mad magazine #17 (1954):
Famed cartoonist Basil Wolverton, who was a vaudeville performer during his teen years, went through several art career permutations during the 1930’s and 40’s, creating and inking several strips and comic books with titles like Marco of Mars, Disk-Eyes the Detective and Powerhouse Pepper. His massive-audience big break happened in 1946, when he won a competition to depict the appearance of “Lena the Hyena, the world’s ugliest woman,” from a highly popular running gag in the Li’l Abner newspaper strip. The contest, which ran in Life magazine as well, was judged by the likes of Boris Karloff, Frank Sinatra and Salvador Dali - and out of 500,000 entries, Basil’s was chosen. Thus, Lena’s apperance began the “spaghetti and meatballs” style Wolverton became so renowned for. It was considered outrageous for the 1940’s and 50’s, but his ingeniously surreal depictions of grotesque people (women, mostly), done in smiling portrait style, remained highly popular. He continued to be the “Producer of Peculiar People who Prowl this Perplexing Planet” (as he dubbed it) for several decades, doing a large variety of popular work in humor, horror and science fiction, and worked steadily for publications like Mad, and later Plop! Today, his style is of course considered a trail-blazing classic - an entire school of thought unto it’s own - by most important comic artists. A religious man, Wolverton illustrated a large collection of biblical stories and religious tomes for evangelist Herbert Armstrong, and continued such work later in life. He is survived by his son, Monte Wolverton, who continues to run the company, and can draw in a style almost indistinguishable from his father’s.
Here is a Basil Wolverton website. Here is his Wikipedia entry. Here is a lengthy biography with illustrations. Here is an excellent collection of his Plop! covers. Here is an entire issue of Powerhouse Pepper. Here are some of Wolverton’s religious illustrations, depicting the biblical apocalypse, done in the 1950’s. There are several recent books which collect his work and life. Much more on the life and work of Basil Wolverton can be found Googling his name here.
Click below for more of Basil Wolverton’s “Meet Miss Potgold” from Mad magazine #17 (1954):