Wallace “Wally” Wood was truly one of the great comics illustrators of his era. Right now, as we mentioned yesterday, his estate is embroiled in a battle with Netflix and/or Marvel. At issue is his influence on the character of Daredevil; during his brief run on the title, he made some significant decisions that arguably saved the character and laid the foundation for what Frank Miller would do with it later.
But Wood’s work on Daredevil, and indeed all of his work on superheroes for Marvel and DC, isn’t really what makes Wally Wood so special. He predates the Silver Age of comics—he was a regular contributor to EC titles including Mad, Shock SuspenStories, Two-Fisted Tales, Weird Science and Weird Fantasy. If Wood had never drawn a single frame on Daredevil or any superhero comic book, he would still be remembered as one of the greats of his era for his EC work alone.
This being Memorial Day, though, we are thinking of Wood the soldier and the soldier’s cartoonist. Soldier: Wally Wood enlisted in the Merchant Marine just as the war was ending, and with the Army’s 11th Airborne Division in 1946 and served in occupied Japan. The Wallace Wood Estate posted this image on Facebook:
And then there’s Wally Wood, the soldier’s cartoonist. While at EC, Wally Wood worked on every genre in the company’s catalog, including war comics. Here are a few Wally Wood covers from Frontline Combat:
While Wood could illustrate anything—anything—EC wanted, his style was particularly suited to humor. Here’s a famous page from Mad that lampoons traditions of war movies and plays on Wood’s well-known love of sound effects:
After his run on Daredevil, Wood returned to military-themed comics with a title of his own invention: Sally Forth. The stories of a buxom, often naked female military commando started in Military News in 1968, then resurfaced in 1971 in Overseas Weekly, a publication aimed at male American soldiers serving overseas. Sally Forth‘s run finished in 1974. Comics fans familiar with Little Annie Fanny, created by Mad alumni Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder for Playboy, might note a similar vibe. These are scans of original art for sale at ComicArtFans.com:
Wally Wood was a Heavy Metal kinda guy—unfortunately, he never published in the mag during his life. Wood committed suicide in 1981, and was honored with a feature in the February 1982 issue.
In memory of Wally Wood, and the various soldiers he sought to entertain, we hope you’ve had a restful and enjoyable Memorial Day.