Basil Wolverton was one of the greatest comic book artists of all time, and his bizarre and intricate art seemed way ahead of it’s time, much like the underground comic art of 1960’s years. Basil Wolverton delighted and shocked many viewers during the late 1920’s on. Born in Central Point, Oregon and later moving to Vancouver, Washington, Basil Wolverton was one of the greatest and most innovative artists ever to emerge from the Pacific Northwest. His art was every bit as pioneering as the true Northwest spirit.
Wolverton began his work on comic strips in 1929, just two years out of high school. In 1946, Wolverton won a contest with his character, “Lena The Hyena”, which was supposed to be the world’s ugliest woman. He later did a cover illustration for the early issues of MAD Magazine before Alfred E. Neuman became the later mascot of the magazine. In later years, Wolverton inked several covers for the satire comic, PLOP! and even did some work for the underground comic oriented Kitchen Sink Comics company.
Strangely, Basil Wolverton was actually a very religious man and not exactly the counter culture rebel that you would expect. Wolverton was baptized into Herbert Armstrong’s Radio Church Of God(later named, The Worldwide Church Of God), and even became a church elder. His son, Monte Wolverton, is an editorial cartoonist, who sometimes has a style a little bit like his father. Strangely, Monte Wolverton has actually done the artwork for some issues of THE PLAIN TRUTH Magazine, the religious publication of The Worldwide Church Of God. This church later faced an ugly split and even lawsuits over Herbert Armstrong’s works, and THE PLAIN TRUTH is no more as a print publication.
Some counter culture artists such as the underground artists were greatly influenced by the works of Basil Wolverton. One artist that was greatly influenced by Wolverton was Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Roth started out as a beatnik hot rod designer, who captured a contract to design and build custom cars and promote model kits with Revell during the 1960’s. But, as The Beatles became popular in the mid60’s and boys started to buy guitars and stopped building model kits as much as they once did, Roth began to turn his interests toward building three wheeled chopper motorcycle trikes. Roth eventually became an associate of The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and created CHOPPER Magazine, and Revell canceled their contract with Roth. But, Roth was known for his own intricate and outrageous artwork as well, including Rat Fink, who was like the antiMickey Mouse. Strangely, Roth also became quite religious as well, joining the Mormon faith and dropping his friendships with motorcycle club members, although there are many Christian bikers or bikers who belong to organizations like Clean & Sober.
Wolverton’s art was so cutting age and intricate, that it only continues to impress despite many years. He was one of the greatest comic artists of all time, although his art was so intricate that it usually involved just one panel and not an entire strip or comic of his own works.
In terms of comic art, Basil Wolverton was one of the greats of all time.
Born in 1909, Basil Wolverton died December 31, 1978, but left the art world a rich legacy of off-beat and outrageous illustrations.