A long overdue celebration of a remarkably prolific – and criminally underappreciated — comics cover artist, born 100 years ago…
I’ve known the late George Wilson’s work for about as long as I’ve been reading comics. As a kiddie fan of Lost In Space, I once got a Space Family Robinson comic since it was the closest thing to the show. The cover — that one above? By George Wilson – although I didn’t know it at the time.
In all honesty, I didn’t really become aware of the extraordinary scope of Wilson’s work until we began our monthly BRONZE AGE BONANZA feature last year, in which we pick the TOP 13 covers of a given month, 50 years before. Consistently, right there with the likes of Neal Adams, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, John Romita, Nick Cardy and John Buscema, are fantastic covers by George Wilson, month in and month out.
Wilson was amazing. And it yet it feels like only really hardcore fans – or artists – are aware of who he was. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page or even a Facebook appreciation group and I have not been able to nail down a reliable birthdate for him. The best, albeit brief, online bio I can find for him is from the Lambiek Comiclopedia. He was, it turns out, born 100 years ago, in 1921; he died in 1999.
For some time, I’ve wanted to do a salute to his work but never felt confident enough in my knowledge. Enter fantasy painter Joe Jusko, a recurring guest columnist here at 13th Dimension, who it turns out is an enormous fan of Wilson’s artistry. So I enlisted him for 13 GLORIOUS COVERS: A GEORGE WILSON SALUTE and what follows is a superb appreciation of a great artist by a great artist:
By JOE JUSKO
I’m known for producing a lot of paintings over fairly short spans of time. I’ve produced close to, if not more than, 500 fully realized trading-card paintings alone, all on ridiculously accelerated deadlines. Toss in the myriad magazine and book covers, posters, album and advertising art and there is a fairly large body of work in my wake.
Despite all that, I have always been astounded by the incredibly prolific career of George Wilson. His cover work for Dell/Gold Key Comics alone is staggering in not only its breadth and diversity of subject matter, but in the consistency of quality he maintained. No detail ever seemed to be overlooked or fudged.
Period clothes and cars and carriages and ships, as well as animals and dinosaurs of every type were all meticulously and accurately rendered. Architecture, whether historically accurate or completely made up for whatever science-fiction book he was covering was always completely believable. Likenesses, like Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins were always on-point. He modeled for many of his own covers and it’s always fun to spot him.
More than all of that, though, his imagination and design sense both awe and inspire me to this day. Whether depicting a narrative scene or an ethereal montage of story elements, his covers always caught your attention, both through composition and one of the most imaginative and varied color senses I’ve ever seen.
He understood his palette so well that he could play colors off each other that never should have worked, yet did every time. He could be subtle and subdued for historical subjects or psychedelically insane when required.
And he did this month after month on dozens of covers for books as wide ranging as Dark Shadows, Doctor Solar, Grimm’s Ghost Stories, M.A.R.S. Patrol, Magnus: Robot Fighter, Mighty Samson, The Phantom, Star Trek, Turok, Tarzan, Voyage to the Bottom Of The Sea, and so many more. The list is seemingly endless. Add to this his enormous catalog of paperback and magazine work and it becomes almost impossible to understand how he did it.
I’ve heard his work for Gold Key described as looking like comps for finished cover paintings, and that offends me for him. Look at any of the examples I’m including and tell me these aren’t masterfully imagined, designed and executed works of art, all done on a constant schedule that I don’t believe anyone today would even attempt to match.
He has been one of my inspirations throughout my career and I cannot fathom how no publisher has ever found him worthy of a dedicated art book. Seriously, where is The Art of George Wilson? I think someone is overlooking a best-seller and guaranteed Eisner nomination.
Here are 10 more…
— JOHN BUSCEMA: A Birthday Appreciation, by JOE JUSKO. Click here.
— The TOP 13 OVERSTREET PRICE GUIDE Covers Ever, by JOE JUSKO. Click here.