Top 2019 Books: #6 Brain Bats of Wolverton

Lena the Hyena – Wolverton’s Winning Entry in Li’l Anber Ugliest Woman Contest

#6 Brain Bats of Venus: The Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton, Vol. 2 (1942-1952) by Greg Sadowski, Fantagraphics, $44.99

Volume 2? You have to wonder if any biographer really needs a two volume bio-reprint to cover the life and art of a single cartoonist. To be fair, Sadowsky’s treatment gives up a massive share of space to reprinting much of Basil Wolverton’s best published work and revealing sketch and spec pieces. But in fact, Wolverton was as singular and curious a character as his art. This volume focuses mostly on his horror and sci-fi work, which was often batshit imaginative. But there is also his caricature art, advertising work, and more. Also interesting and included here are his many failed attempts to break into comic strip syndication with some of his screwball comedy characters of the 1940s like Scoop Scuttle (below). And of course Wolverton leapt from obscurity to fame when his Lena the Hyena caricature won Al Capp’s contest to depict the world’s “ugliest woman.” Wolverton remains a seminal figure. His break from any previous comic art style anticipated (and was revered by) the comics underground more than a decade later.

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Wolverton made several unsuccessful attempts to break into what every comic book artist viewed as the mother lode – newspaper comics syndication. Among his several failed attempts to break into strips, he translated his Scoop Scuttle screwball comic book character to a daily format on spec.

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