Wally Wood

No, not Wally World (either the fictional theme park in the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation or the nickname for Walmart), but the cartoonist Wally Wood, creator of “Panels That Always Work”:

(Hat tip to Jason Parker-Burlingham.)

From Wikipedia on Wood and his famous compendium of advice:

Wallace Allan Wood (June 17, 1927 – November 2, 1981) was an American comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work in EC Comics and Mad. He was one of Mad‘s founding cartoonists in 1952. Although much of his early professional artwork is signed Wallace Wood, he became known as Wally Wood, a name he claimed to dislike. Within the comics community, he was also known as Woody, a name he sometimes used as a signature.

In addition to Wood’s hundreds of comic book pages, he illustrated for books and magazines while also working in a variety of other areas — advertising; packaging and product illustrations; gag cartoons; record album covers; posters; syndicated comic strips; and trading cards, including work on Topps’ landmark Mars Attacks set.

“Panels That Always Work”: Wood struggled to be as efficient as possible in his often low-paying work-for-hire. Over time he created a series of layout techniques sketched on pieces of paper which he taped up near his drawing table. These “visual notes,” collected on three pages, reminded Wood (and select assistants he showed the pages to) of various layouts and compositional techniques to keep his pages dynamic and interesting. (In the same vein, Wood also taped up another note to himself: “Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up.”)

In 1980, Wood’s original, three-page, 24 panel (not 22) version of “Panels” was published with the proper copyright notice in The Wallace Wood Sketchbook (Crouch/Wood 1980). Around 1981, Wood’s ex-assistant Larry Hama, by then an editor at Marvel Comics, pasted up Xeroxes of Wood’s copyrighted drawings on a single page, which Hama titled “Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work!!” (It was subtitled, “Or some interesting ways to get some variety into those boring panels where some dumb writer has a bunch of lame characters sitting around and talking for page after page!”) Hama left out 2 of the original 24 panels as his Xeroxes were too faint to make out some of the lightest sketches. Hama distributed Wood’s “elegantly simple primer to basic storytelling” to artists in the Marvel bullpen, who in turn passed them on to their friends and associates. Eventually, “22 Panels” made the rounds of just about every cartoonist or aspiring comic book artist in the industry and achieved its own iconic status.

Note the technical terminology in the panels — giving names to many of the techniques.


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