In the discussion of comic's greatest artists, and its a short list really, the usual names crop up: Kirby, Eisner, Raymond, Foster, Miller et al. But when we start to look at the completeness that makes one not just a comic artist, but an all around great illustrator, I think that we move on to two names: Cole and Wood. Jack Cole, who is well served by the Chip Kidd designed book, Plastic Man: Form Strectched to its limits, is shown to have conquered not just the four-color comic book in the superhero form, but also the humor and crime genres, and then moved on to his exquisite single panel humor watercolors for Playboy, something that I cannot begin to imagine Jack Kirby or Alex Raymond doing. Cole was the complete package as an artist.
I don't think that Cole was as good as Woody.
This all comes up because I picked up the book Wally's World by Steve Starger and J. David Spurlock the other day, and got the chance to refresh my appreciation for the breadth of Wally's talent. Superheroes, iconic American humor in his parodies for Mad, premiere science fiction artist for EC, elegant horror, spy stuff in Cannon, porn in Sally Forth, and paintings, whether for advertising (as in an award winning Alka Seltzer ad) or with an eye, I believe, towards the paperback book cover market, in a gorgeous painted western scene. Woody, for all his personal demons, was the real deal.
I'm looking forward to getting deeper into the book, with all the associated sadness of knowing how the story ends. This comic business has drawn its share of troubled, tortured talented souls to it, and Cole and Woody perhaps remain the undisputed kings in both arenas.