Monday, March 14, 2011

Wunders never cease

Monday Cartoon Day.

Every once in a while I do a post that starts out as just another batch of scans, but ends up being something I am quite proud of. Even though the artist mentioned in this post is not one of the acknowledged greats, the illustrations I have found today will hopefully shed some new light on him.

Yesterday, I recieved a mail from George Hagenauer, answering a question I put to Alan Holtz on his Strippers Guide blog about comic book and comic strip artists illustrating newspaper serials. In the past I have shown here some work in this area by Joe Simon as well as the Associated Press regulars of the thirties, Noel Sickles, Milton Caniff, Mel Graff and John Barrow. George sent me a link to his comic art galery, where he has several illustrations by George Wunder, who took over Terry and the Pirtaes from Milt Caniff in the last days of 1946. It turns out he too was an AP artist instead of the complete unknown I had always assumed he was. So I went back to look for work he did for AP and although most of it was never signed, I did come up with some interesting signed pieces. First of all, he did a Chistmas story in 20/24 tiers called Tommy Caroll in 1937. I will show all of those next Christmas. Then there were the 'drawn reports' Sickles, Barrow and Graff did as well. And finally, just going through one of the papers that had an AP account, I came across a one-off four panel strip from 1946 that is unsigned, but looks like it could be Wunder's work as well. All of these seem to have gone unnoted for all these years. Wunder never got a lot of attention, because obviously he was not as good an artist or storyteller as Caniff. But then, who is? And he did manage to keep Terry and te Pirates running with a healthy client list for at least 15 years (although it did drop off a bit after that). But appreciation for his work is so low, that he doesn't even have an entrance in Jerry Bails' WHo's Who. The listing for Terry ad the Pirates names four or five people working on Terry in 1961, but no George Wunder!

The picture pages, by the way, are very similar to the type of humor Harvey Kurtzman perfected for the magazine version of Mad and his later magazine Trump. Or maybe that's just me seeing connections wehere there aren't any.

Surprise, surprise! I went back the the paper showing that last panel and not only did I find an early one at the beginning of that month, it also seems it is part of a series called See For Yourself and as I suspected it is signed Wunder! I will keep looking and will add more as I find them. And now that I know where to look, I see the first one is signed as well in the third panel. Who spotted that?

So I went back again and tried to get as complete a run as I could. `Difficult, because the different episodes are not numbered, not dated. Different papers used them at different times. Most episodes I could find appeared between June and September of 1946, with the ealriest ones appearing in May and repeats of others as late as December. Anyway, these strips are not only graphicly and historicle interesting, they also show the rapid growth of Wunder as an artist. In the late thirties his style has the fay look of Caniff and Nickles. In the wash illustrations I showed here, he developed a style of his own, more satirical, reminding me of the German artist Grosz. For this series, he starts out more as an illustrator, but towards the end he has found a very personal style that approaches the solidness of Caniff's work at that time. He toned down the individual traits when he took over Terry, although some of them would later reappear. What surprises me most, is the fact that his style here is so satirical and sometimes even funny. These are traits I never saw in Wunder and it makes me wonder what I may have wissed in his Terry stories, none of which I have ever managed to read to the end.

I hope someone more into George Wunder can provide me with some more information.

And I leave you with this:


Smurfswacker said...

This is a landmark post! For years I've heard about Wunder's AP staff work and never saw more than a sample panel in Jay Maeder's reprint fanzine many years ago.

It's fascinating to see Wunder experimenting with various rendering styles, some quite good. On the whole he doesn't show much Caniff influence, except for the Chinese guy in "Coming Peace Conference," who's straight out of GW's Terry. His cartoony style isn't bad, either. Interesting to see that Wunder's folds are much more under control than they were in Terry, though he already suffers from the elongated and/or three-piece arm syndrome that plagues his daily strips.

He certainly seems to have loved drawing scenes of devastation!

By the way, my friend Paul Chadwick says he used to go to George Wunder's mechanic to get his car fixed! (At comments in this post:

Immeasurable thanks for posting these gems.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I have added one of the Christmas strips from 1937, where you can see much more of a Caniff influence. But a strange one, because it seems to me all of the Caniffisms there were gone fom bor Wunder and Caniff's style by 1946.

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

Nice to see the Tommy Carroll strip when I revisited this post today! :)
It really gives me a Sickles, Caniff, Graff feeling.
Looking forward to see them next X-mas!

Steven said...

behind in my reading, so I'm late to say but of course Wunder was not in Bails' Who's Who of American Comic Books - Wunder didn't do any original work for comic books. No slight on his artistic talent, but just boundary setting by Bails.

Y. said...

I was looking for some infos about illustrations by George Wunder ( I just bought an original one) and it happens that one of the pictures you've posted in your article shows the illustration I own! What a coïncidence!
The original one looks much better than the printed version (maybe because of the scan quality ?) and I hope this will show that Wunder was a great artist after all. :)
You can see a scan of this illustration here:
Thank you for your great blog !