Monday, March 11, 2024

Basil Wolverton Collection donated to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

From The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Monte Wolverton has donated a significant collection of his cartoonist father Basil Wolverton’s archives, ephemera, and some original art to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Basil Wolverton (1909-1978) was best known for his contributions to Mad magazine and Timely Comics (the pre-cursor to Marvel Comics), and his characters Powerhouse Pepper and Spacehawk. 

Self-described as a “Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People who Prowl this Perplexing Planet”, Wolverton’s idiosyncratic and frequently-grotesque style stood out among his peers, and gained him cult following among future generations of cartoonists. 

In 1946, Wolverton’s work was introduced to a national newspaper reading audience when he won a contest to depict “Lena The Hyena, the World’s Ugliest Woman” for Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip (read more).

This collection, meticulously organized, preserved and donated by his family, contains roughs and page layouts for his comics, fan mail, personal and business correspondence, photographs, juvenilia, ephemera, newspaper articles and other publicity, and high-resolution negatives and copies of various pieces. 

Of particular note are Wolverton’s personal daily journals from 1923 to 1925 and 1941 to 1974, as well as a notebook containing short stories and sketches he created between ages nine and eleven.

“This collection offers a fascinating window into the comic book business in the 1930s through the early ‘50s,” said his son, Monte Wolverton, “with correspondence from editors (including Stan Lee) who were offering direction and advice. 

Such specifics may be less documented for other comic artists who were not working remotely as my father was on the West Coast.” 

Also among the correspondence are “rejection slips from nearly every major magazine in the United States from the 1940s and ‘50s”.

Wolverton’s unique sense of humor, hobbies, and perspective on the world are reflected in the collection. 

“It’s a rare delight to get this level of insight into the development, daily musings, and professional journey of a cartoonist,” said Caitlin McGurk, Curator of Comics and Cartoon Art, 

“Wolverton’s work is frequently requested by our patrons and researchers, and we’re so grateful to his family for entrusting us with the preservation of his legacy.”

“I consider the Billy Ireland to be to be the number one institution in the United States for the history of comic artists and cartoonists—designed to be accessible to scholars and researchers” said Monte Wolverton. 

“I have great confidence in head curator Jenny Robb and the highly professional staff!”

Patrons can access this collection by visiting the Lucy Shelton Caswell Reading Room. 
Please contact to set up an appointment. 
To learn more about the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum visit

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