Actually this post is really about Fletcher Hanks, I just decided to refer to Basil Wolverton because people say their work is very similar and Wolverton is more widely known, although neither are terribly famous. I’ve heard many people refer to Wolverton’s style of drawing as “spaghetti and meatballs art”. I’ve never heard anyone use the same derogatory slur referring to Hank’s work.
People always compare my work to Wolverton’s and I can see why they do so. From what I know of him our personalities are similar in certain ways, we both put a lot of humor (albeit unconventional humor) into our pictures, and we both use quite a bit of cross hatching, although my pen technique is a little more baroque than his.
I really like this kind of weird stuff. I’ve been aware of Basil’s work since I was 13 or 14, but I only recently discovered Hanks. Before I go any further, here are both of their wikipedia pages:
I recently read a couple of his endeavors in an anthology I had and became intrigued, so I looked for more of his comics on Ebay and Amazon.
There were two anthologies of his work available on Amazon, “I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!”, and, “You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!”. I wanted to get the first one because it had Stardust in it, and for some reason I liked that quirky character, but, alas, it has become something of a collectors item and is priced much more than I am willing to pay, so I got the second one that was much, much cheaper. Also I take solace in the fact that I heard someone say it was the better of the two.
Some are tempted to call him an “outsider artist” but bear in mind he was a paid commercial artist who made product for publication. Fortunately he was alive at the right time, when these types of comic books were first being made, so the field was a little more experimental and they had not yet solidified into a formula. His correspondence school art education was more than adequate to get him work in the young business of comic book art.
I like his stuff because it’s so childishly surreal. Although his father was a minister his mother had money of her own and she spoiled him terribly as a child. As with a lot of over indulged children he took to drink when faced with the responsibilities of adulthood. I read he once kicked his four year old son down a flight of stairs while in a drunken rage. If that is any indication of the type of guy he was, one could say he was certainly a, ummm, “passionate” individual.
Unfortunately he only made 51 stories, then he mysteriously vanished from the annals of comic book history in 1941. I assumed maybe he signed up for the army to fight the Japs or something and got killed, but I heard he actually found a woman with money to take care of him so he no longer needed to work. Evidently he, like a lot of people, only wanted to be an artist because he thought it would be an easy life and perhaps he was a little disillusioned. It’s a shame because it would have been very interesting to see where his work would have gone and how it developed had it been allowed to mature, but life is always at war with art and life almost always wins.
There is hardly any information about him from his last comic story until his death in 1976 when he was found frozen to death on a park bench in Manhattan. Apparently he lost his battle with the bottle and died a penniless derelict.
Wolverton lived a much more healthy and fulfilling life than Hanks and didn’t die in such embarrassed circumstances, but maybe that was because Basil’s thing was religion instead of firewater.
^One of Wolverton’s more well known efforts.
(All other drawings are by Hanks)