So Ugly…It’s Beautiful?

Lena the Hyena appeared in Al Capp’s comic strip Li’l Abner in 1946.

Basil Wolverton (1909 to 1978) became famous as a cartoonist by winning a contest. He submitted the picture of Lena to Al Capp’s newspaper strip to answer the question of what Lena, who had been appearing for weeks in Li’l Abner underneath a black square with an editor’s warning printed on it that she was just too ugly to be revealed, actually looked like. Capp ran the contest to depict Lena and selected Wolverton’s drawing from among 500,000 entries. I think Capp got it right when he chose this to be the world’s ugliest woman.

Wolverton had done comics before this one amazingly ugly picture. He did Spacehawk for Target Comics up to 1942, and he did a comic series called Powerhouse Pepper for Timely Comics (which is the company that became Marvel after the 1940’s.) But Lena not only brought him fame, it really started him down the path of his intensely detailed “spaghetti and meatballs” style of rather ugly comic art.

He used millions of little dots and lines to create art that would really soak up the printer’s ink supply and gave his artwork a uniquely “pointillistic” look.

Recognize these as portraits of Presidents and politicians?

Here’s Wolverton’s portrait of Bing Crosby.

And here’s monster movie monarch, Boris Karloff.

But what really made Wolverton’s unique artwork popular and lucrative was his uniquely twisted and downright ugly portraits.

ugh! wotta beauty!

Ain’t this one… um… unique?

He would go on to be featured in Mad Magazine, Cracked, Panic Magazine, and Topp’s trading card series of Ugly Posters. He managed to do work that reached amazing levels of monstrously ugly humorous mastery of pen and ink drawings.

For years Basil made me laugh. But there’s no denying it… Basil masterfully drew really, really ugly artwork.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, cartoon review

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