Friday, July 1, 2011

Pulp Artists: William Reusswig

Of all the artists that painted Wild West Weekly covers depicting my grandfather's characters, William Reusswig (1902-1978) is one of my favorites. His depictions of Sonny Tabor and Johnny Forty-five are lively and dramatic. Some even have a humorous tone to them, such as the "Sonny Tabor's Losing Hand" cover below.

Reusswig seems to have grown up in a relatively normal household, with the exception of the early death of his father when he was six. He grew up in New York and attended Amherst College, where he was a star athelete and captain of the football team. But after college he took a completely different track and started to study art seriously. He started to do illustrations for Colliers, Cosmopolitan, Everybody's, Liberty, Redbook, The Saturday Evening Post, and Country Gentleman.

He sold freelance pulp covers to Ace-High, Action Novels, Adventure, All-Fiction, Argosy, Complete Detective, Detective Book, Detective Tales, Dime Detective, The Frontier, Short Stories, War Aces, War Birds, War Stories, West, Western Story, and Wild West Weekly. Although his tenure with Wild West Weekly seems to have been rather short - the period from 1931-32 - he continued to work for the pulps through the 1930s.

Reusswig seems to have had the characteristics that make for a very successful career as a pulp artist. He was prolific: I counted 97 covers on Fiction Mags Index, which we all know is not a complete list; for one thing, it doesn't include the WWW covers I post here. And that figure doesn't include all the interior artwork he did for the slicks from the 1930s through the 1950s. He was also fast working and versatile: He could go from a western cover to a detective to a pirate theme to a Saharan desert adventure and back again - all within a matter of weeks.

After the war, Reusswig drew comic adaptations and continued to illustrate for magazines such as True, Argosy, Sports Afield, and Outdoor Life, and he and his wife, illustrator Martha Sawyers, co-wrote two books on the Far East that were published in the 1960s.

Although some may prefer other pulp artists' work, you certainly can't argue that Reusswig's covers were eye-catching and spot on when it came to conveying what the pulps were all about: drama, action, escape, and loads of fun.

Below are a sample of some William Reusswig covers. A special thanks to David Saunders' web site Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists, who provided the photo of Reusswig and the biographical notes.

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Deka Black said...

Indeed is eye catching! I'll go with the Dime dtecetive ones.

Walker Martin said...

Excellent post Laurie! Of course I'm prejudiced since I collect the original cover paintings from the pulps, but I've always thought we should give more attention to the artwork.

Thanks to you, David Saunders, and Dan Zimmer of ILLUSTRATION MAGAZINE, perhaps we shall see more articles about the artists.

BISH said...

great collection, Laurie!

Barry Traylor said...

I have many favorite pulp artists and William Reusswig is definitely one of them. Pulp Covers had to grab the passerby and get him or her to part with a dime.
Although I think a distinctive logo also played a large part in getting a reader of say Amazing, Weird Tales or Adventure (to name just a few) to spot his favorite magazine on the newsstand.

Ron Scheer said...

Thanks, well researched and informative. I'm always interested in learning more about the illustrators. As a kid I wanted to do magazine illustration; it fascinated me.

darwination said...

Thanks for the collection of covers and information on Reusswig. I've put up a high resolution cover he did for The Frontier here: