H. J. Ward, Superman Artist

Mar 4, 2019 by

Normally, when we think of Superman’s artists, people such as Wayne Boring, John Byrne, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dan Jurgens, Alex Ross, Joe Schuster, and Curt Swan come to mind. Why doesn’t pulp artist, H. J. Ward pop into our heads?

Born on March 8, 1909, Ward studied at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art. His first sale was made to Teck Publishing’s WILD WEST STORIES AND COMPLETE NOVEL MAGAZINE in 1931. According to artist and art historian David Saunders, “Sensational pulp covers by H. J. Ward were soon appearing on ACE-HIGH WESTERN, ARGOSY, DOUBLE DETECTIVE” and other rough-paper magazines. Although Ward sold freelance covers to many publishers, most of his work was done for Harry Donenfeld’s Trojan line of Spicy pulps. Ward painted covers for THE LONE RANGER MAGAZINE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE STORIES, SPICY ADVENTURE STORIES, SPICY DETECTIVE STORIES, SPICY MYSTERY STORIES, and other Trojan pulps.

By 1940, Donenfeld had assumed control of National Allied Publications, the publisher of ACTION COMICS, Superman’s home. Around that time, H. J. Ward was paid $100 to create a nearly life-size portrait of The Man of Steel. Ward’s painting was used to promote THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMANa radio show that debuted in New York City on February 12, 1940. The painting hung for many years in Harry Donenfeld’s office at DC Comics, and later, in his townhouse. According to Saunders, it was eventually donated to Lehman College, part of the City University of New York.

As we approach the 110th anniversary of the birth of Superman artist H. J. Ward, we recall that “The Man of Steel” is just one of many “Children of the Pulps.” We hope you’ll join PulpFest 2019 from August 15 – 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating mystery, adventure, science fiction, and more as we focus on the pervasive influence of pulp magazines on pop culture across the globe. Click the “Register” button below our home page banner to learn more about joining “America’s Super Pulp Con!”

(Pulp historian David Saunders learned how the painting “of the guy in a red cape and blue tights came to be hanging in the Lehman College library” while researching his book, H. J. WARD, published in 2012 by The Illustrated Press.

David will be discussing “The Secret Life of Women Pulp Artists” at this year’s PulpFest. We hope you’ll be able to join us on Friday, August 16, for David Saunder’s presentation.)

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