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Biographies of the Stars

Al Williamson

Al Williamson was born in New York on March 21, 1931. His family moved to Bogota, Columbia when he was still a child and Al spent most of his adolescence there.

While in Bogota, the youngster found comics, including Alex Raymond's "Flash Gordon", Hal Foster's "Tarzan" & "Prince Valiant" and the art of South American comic strip great Jose Luis Salinas' "Hernan el Corsario".

He moved back to New York in the 1940's and attended Artist's & Illustrators school (later the School of Art & Design) where he was taught by Burne Hogarth, among others. Burne saw promise in the young man's work and let him do some pencils on his Tarzan Sunday pages in 1948. While at Artists & Illustrators he met and befriended Roy Krenkel and Frank Frazetta, and the three of them became lifelong friends and collaborators.

Al's first work appeared in Heroic Comics #51 (1948), and his long career was launched. Over the next few years he worked at Toby Press, ACG, Eastern and others before he secured continuous work at EC.

He immediately began appearing in most all of the EC titles, but it became obvious from the start that his forte was science ficton, and it is in this area that Al excelled while at EC. He quickly became a staple in the EC titles Weird Science and Weird Fantasy.

During this time his artistic style began to solidify as well, showcasing the fine lined technique that has become so well identified with the artist. Influenced by Raymond, Foster and Salinas, and then being exposed to Lou Fine and Will Eisner, Williamson's art became one of the leaders in the realist style of comic art that later became the norm when artists Leonard Starr, Stan Drake, John Prentice and Neal Adams popularized it.

Unfortunately, Al was in the same boat with everyone else when the comics business universally went under in 1955, hastened by left wing advocates of censorship.

During this time he worked mostly at Atlas (Marvel) illustrating horror, western, adventure and whatever else he was assigned. he also worked at Prize with Jack Kirby & Joe Simon for a few years in the late fifties, and ACG as well. For a while from the late fifities through the sixties Al did quite a bit of assisiting comic strip artists who made good use of his work. He worked with Prentice on Rip Kirby, a strip originated by Alex Raymond that he liked tremendously, he did some work on the Dan Flagg strip and reportedly helped some with Alden McWilliams Twin Earths strip.

Then in 1964 a big break came. Warren publishing was starting a new line of black & white magazines in the vein of EC and James warren/Archie Goodwin were rounding up as many of the EC artists as they could. The resultant titles, Creepy & Eerie, were only moderately successful, but they were an excellent showcase for the artists whose work appeared in them. Frazetta covers, stories by Williamson, Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres, Johnny Craig and Steve Ditko amongst others. These were absolutely fabulous, and lavish comic magazines. But their praise was short lived as publisher James Warren was so continually late with paying the artists that the original crew all left within a couple of years.

Al then went on to King, where he drew several issues of a Flash Gordon comic book. These books are very highly regarded by fans and rightly so. the fantastic artwork makes these books classics in their own right. As a note, Williamson is the only comic book artist I know who has drawn both of Alex Raymond's creations, Flash Gordon & Rip Kirby.

After illustrating the Flash Gordon books, Al became the artist on the syndicated strip, Secret Agent X-9 (another Raymond strip) which later became Secret Agent Corrigan. He drew this strip for almost two decades, beginning on January 20, 1967.

He drew the Star Wars strip for a period at the request of Star Wars creator George Lucas, a longtime comics fan. He also drew several issues of the Star Wars comic book for Marvel, where he eventually became the inker for the Daredevil, over John Romita Jr's pencils. He remained on Daredevil for quite some time, starting with issue #237 and working on most of them up to #289.

Al has worked on many more projects than this article could possibly begin to mention. Over the course of some five decades he has been recognized as one of the top artists in comics, recieving many accolades for his work over the last fifty years.

He frequently makes appearances at comic book conventions to the happiness of lucky fans who get to meet and chat with this talkative and personable legend of comic art.

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