Sunday, December 11, 2011

George Wunder, Artist

In Glorious WunderColor!

All my comics-reading life I've had a love-hate relationship with George Wunder. His was a nearly impossible assignment: to take over an iconic American comic strip from its superstar creator almost at the apex of its popularity, and make it his own. There were many reasons why Wunder's Terry never reached the heights of Caniff's. Some of them, like the fading interest in heroic adventure strips ,weren't Wunder's fault. Others, like his clunky stories and increasingly-idiosyncratic way of drawing people, were. Taken together, I still feel GW has gotten a raw deal from comics historians. He put a lot of skill and effort into Terry. Especially during its first decade, Wunder's Terry was a visual feast of elaborate chiaroscuro inking and ambitiously-detailed backgrounds. And there was something else, the subject of this post: beautiful Sunday page coloring.

When George Wunder took over Terry, the palette available to Sunday page colorists was still broad. Wunder made the most of it. He had a knack for making unusual color choices--greens, purples, pale yellows--which when laid over his film-noir artwork created stunning pages unlike anyone else's. The three samples I show here date from mid-1949.
Interestingly, Wunder's color schemes would have looked garish printed on quality paper. The softening and yellowing effect of newsprint contributed mightily to the beauty of the pages.

Years ago I read somewhere that Wunder's wife had colored his Sundays. This is quite possible, of course. I just haven't seen any other reference to her contribution. I did see a couple of illustrations Wunder did after retiring from Terry. I think they were for a book about military uniforms. He drew them comics-style in ink, then colored them with watercolosr. The color schemes were identical to those of the Terry Sundays. And being painted on bright white board they looked really garish. Which reminds me of something that happened to me because of my love of WunderColor--a story I'll tell some other time.

1 comment:

BobO said...

As a kid in the 1950's I was dazzled by George Wunder's panels everyday and the Sunday page with the wild color was even more interesting. I would spend lots of time looking at all the minute detail in each panel. I remember thinking that this man must be real good and fast or he spends many hours to produce this and why spend so much time? Hal Foster's Sunday page for Prince Valiant was also highly detailed. Certainly Caniff was better but his panels didn't have the detail of Wunder to me.