Saturday, May 14, 2011

Louise Altson (1910-2010)







artist Louise Altson circa 1951 (photo courtesy and © the Altson family)




This was originally written as a short obituary for Roy Thomas' ALTER EGO Magazine. I then decided to expand it into a career spanning Timely article to cover her comic book work in much more deserved detail, detail that a short printed obituary could not provide.


The world of fine art and golden-age Timely comic books lost a wonderful talent recently when artist Louise Altson passed away at Abbey Delray South, in Delray Beach, FL on March 9th, 2010 at the age of 99. Most of the non-comics personal biographical data that follows comes from her obituary in the Palm Beach Post that ran from March 16 to March 21, 2010 :


Renowned portrait artist, Louise VandenBergh Altson ('Weeze'), 99, of Delray Beach, FL passed away on Tuesday March 9th at Abbey Delray South, where she resided for many years. Mrs. Altson was born on July 4, 1910 in Antwerp, Belgium, the daughter of Alphonse and Louise VandenBergh. She began her professional training at the age of 12 with well known artist Leon Brunin, a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. She later studied at the Polytechnic School of Art in London, England, where she specialized in portrait painting and figure composition, winning several scholarships and the gold medal of merit. She was accepted to exhibit for several consecutive years at the Royal Academy in London before coming to the United States in 1939. Settling in New York City with her family, Mrs Altson began her career by illustrating children's books, comic books, and magazines. Associated with Portraits Inc. of New York since 1948, her portraits and portrait groups included the families of President George and Barbara Bush, Tommy Dorsey, the DuPonts, and the Woolworth family. Her ability to secure a true and sympathetic likeness, made her an outstanding figure in the field of contemporary portraiture. Louise trusted God daily for artistic guidance and inspiration. She shared her artistic talent through her portrait work throughout the United States. She had a love and passion for her art, her family, and life; she was always ready for the next party. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends, who were honored to have her for so many years. Mrs. Altson is survived by sons, John, and wife,Barbara, George, and wife Carol, and daughter Jean Knight Truax and husband Terrence, 8 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. She is pre-deceased by sister Madeleine Doty and son-in-law Kevin Knight . (1)

As I completed this piece, I had been able to turn up only a handful of examples of Miss Altson's non-comic industry work. With the generous help of her family I will update this post over the next few weeks with additional images, so check in frequently.

I want to start with the somewhat cropped portrait below painted in 1953 of Pauline Robin Bush, the three year old daughter of future president George Bush and his wife Barbara. Known affectionately as "Robin", this beautiful child would sadly die of leukemia on October 11, 1953, just 2 months shy of her 4th birthday. Miss Atlson told the Palm Beach Post on July 25, 1987, "That's the one portrait I painted with tears" (2). The painting hangs in the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University. 





Faith, along with family, were the most important elements in the long life and artistic career of Louise Altson. She frequently used her children and family members as models in her work, and received inspiration from her faith throughout her life. Several times she rendered magnificent biblical-themed paintings for the churches she attended living in different parts of the country. 

In 1953 her work titled "The First Vigil" was commissioned and hung in the chapel of the Community Church of Douglaston, on Long Island in New York, where Louise and her husband lived starting in 1950. This painting was featured on the cover of the New York Sunday News for December 20, 1953. Last week I finally tracked down the painting, still hanging in the chapel of the church. The current pastor, Adrienne Hausch, told me the original pastor at the time of the painting's completion was her grandfather, and that she'd grown up with the image, seeing it daily for 58 years. I'll shortly have images of that painting up here.

Recently I was contacted by Father Erich A. Zwingert, the rector of St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church in Delray Beach, Florida, who presided over Louise Altson's funeral in march of 2010. Father Zwingert sent me photos of another painting that hangs in his church, one of the last major works of art Louise Altson rendered, a large image of the Holy Family 15 feet tall by 7 feet wide, hanging in the nave of the church she attended from 1989 until her death in 2010. 

The painting was begun in the early 1980's and completed in 1991. Louise's daughter Jean was the model for Mary, her late husband the model for Joseph and her son Travis the model for the baby Jesus. According to Father Zwingert, Louise partly worked on this painting on her hands and knees. 


Louise Altson - "The Holy Family"



St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church in Delray Beach, Florida



Here are additional painting examples. In 1946 Louise began working for the Toronto Star Weekly newspaper. Their woman's section carried a fiction short story and Miss Altson did the illustrations accompanying the text. She did approximately 40 installments and at least 2 Christmas covers. Here below is a clipping of one of the newspaper entries from May 22, 1950 and the original painting below that. The Toronto Star Weekly clipping was supplied by daughter-in-law Carol Altson.


Louise Altson - Toronto Star Weekly - May 22, 1950


A gorgeous work! I wish I had access to the entire uncropped image to display here!  

(Image from The Bruce Webber Gallery)


Louise also worked for a while in commercial art. Here from the 1940's is a Kellogg's Rice Krispies advertisement that was blown up onto a billboard.







Other paintings of interest:



Portrait of Lorraine Harris Katz (1951)

crop and close-up




Portrait of Martha Anne Hart (1952)


Two Shih Tzu dogs (1974)



Louise Altson began her career by illustrating children's books and magazines. One of her accounts was Little Golden Books where she painted the cover to NURSERY SONGS, one of the initial twelve releases in the long-running series that debuted in September of 1942. The interior art was by Corinne Malvern




Louise Altson - NURSERY SONGS - Little Golden Book -1942 (4th printing, Jan/43)


Louise Altson - NURSERY SONGS - Little Golden Book - 50TH Anniversary Edition (1992)


Altson also illustrated NURSERY RHYMES (cover and interior) for Whitman's Tell-A-Tale Book line in 1945. Here is the cover and I've included 3 double pages as examples below.



Louise Altson - NURSERY RHYMES (Whitman Publishing) 1945











By 1944, Louise Altson showed up at Timely Comics in the Jean Goodman supervised, Bessie Little edited, teen girl's magazine MISS AMERICA MAGAZINE.  Here she illustrated fiction text story splashes in a beautiful, photo-realistic style (including the Dec/44 cover). Altson would continue contributing to MISS AMERICA into 1947 and then in 1949 branch out as a cover painter on teen and romance comic books like JUNIOR MISS, CINDY SMITH, MITZI'S ROMANCES and four consecutive issues of PATSY WALKER, #'s 25,26,27 and 28 in late 1949 and early 1950. After this she vanished from comic books for good, painting magazine and book covers for a while, before working almost exclusively as a portrait painter for the rest of her career.

One of the book cover accounts she had was for Julian Messner, Inc. Publishers, who published a series of books under a line called "A Romance for Young Moderns" beginning in 1946. Louise Altson painted over 20 book covers for this series, several images of which I will present below.  The original painting for Prima Ballerina resides with the Altson family.

Louise Altson covers:

  • Lark, Radio Singer by Helen Diehl Olds 1946
  • Connie,Theatre Director by Karen Van Lissel 1946
  • Gloria, Ballet Dancer by Gladys Malvern 1946
  • Janice, Airline Hostess by Alice Rogers Hager 1947
  • Roberta, Interior Decorator by Marjorie Mueller Freer 1947
  • Joan, Freelance Writer by Alice Ross Colver 1948
  • Marcia, Private Secretary by Zillah K. MacDonald 1949
  • You Can’t Tell About Love by Helen Diehl Olds 1950
  • Kathie, the New Teacher by Lucile G. Rosenheim 1950
  • Lynn, Cover Girl by Nina Wilcox Putnam 1950
  • No Pattern For Love by Beryl Williams 1951
  • Prima Ballerina by Gladys Malvern 1951
  • Showcase for Diane by Marjorie Mueller Freer 1951
  • The Right Job for Judith by Enid Johnson 1951
  • Lucky Miss Spaulding by Eleanor Arnett Nash 1952
  • A Cap For Corrine by Zillah K. Macdonald 1952
  • Gay Enterprises by Marjorie Mueller Freer 1952
  • The Girl in the White Coat by Helen Wells 1953
  • Magic in Her Voice by Pauline Panzer 1953
  • Miss Library Lady by Ann McLelland Pfaender 1954

One cover was done for Farrar & Rinehart, Inc.
  • A Job For Jenny by Faith Baldwin 1951

Of note to us above is the name of Nina Wilcox Putnam (1888-1962) as the author of Lynn, Cover Girl. Miss Putnam was a prolific novelist and screenwriter, who wrote the original story the classic horror film The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff, was based on.


Boris Karloff in THE MUMMY

She also was a feature writer and columnist for Timely's MISS AMERICA MAGAZINE throughout the 1940's and most likely knew Louise Altson through that connection, having appeared in over 15 issues together.


Nina Wilcox Putnam


Here are several Louise Altson book covers for Julian Messner, Inc. Publishers:


Louise Altson - PRIMA BALLERINA



Let's now take a close look at Miss Altson's Timely career. (3)


[10/1/11 addendum] :


Thanks to a reader of this blog, I recently came across a heretofore unknown Timely appearance by Altson, a double-page illustration in the first (and possibly "only") issue of a Martin Goodman magazine titled READ! Vol1, #1 (Jan/43). The magazine is notable for marvelous illustrations by  artists we will see over and over below in MISS AMERICA MAGAZINE and other Goodman magazines and pulps, artists like Peter Driben, Norman Saunders, James Billmyer, Ralph Carlson, Arnold Allen, George Avison (Al Avison's father) and even a tiny spot by Stan Lee! In addition, Louise Altson appears leading off the issue, incorrectly credited (and misspelled) as "R. Alston". Make no mistake, this is Louise.




Vol 1, #1 (Jan/43)





p.4
p.5

p. 4-5 stitched together
end of 10/1/11 addendum
...................................................................................................................................................................

[5/27/12 addendum] :

Another Louise Altson appearance has turned up since this post was published. Just yesterday, while researching Timely artists for a book on Martin Goodman's early publications I'm writing, another double page Altson illustration was discovered in an unexpected place, the bedsheet humor title JOKER Vol 1, #4 (1943-44). I think this was the Winter 43-44 issue although it's not stated inside. Like READ above, the signature is "R. Altson", although this time  the last name is spelled correctly.




JOKER Vol 1, #4 (1943-44)



The cover artist is Albert Fisher, an illustrator who can also be found in issues of Miss America Magazine (the title to be covered below), specifically Vol 2, #1 (Apr/45) & Vol 2, #3 (June/45), issues that do not feature artwork by Louise.

Here is the two page spread:




















JOKER Vol 1, #4 (1943-44), p.22-23 (Louise Altson) 

end of 5/27/12 addendum
...................................................................................................................................................................

[3/16/13 addendum] :

In 1949 publisher Martin Goodman began his 3rd attempt at the paperback market with the introduction of his Red Circle Books line of paperbacks. This series would become know as Lion Books beginning with the 9th issue, although for some strange reason #12 & #13 reverted back to Red Circle Books. Lion Books would ultimately reach #223 in 1955 and was joined concurrently by Goodman's Lion Library line of 175 releases from 1954 to 1957.

The transition book was Red Circle  Books #12 (Dec/49), "Why Get Married? by Token West, a pseudonym for Adelaide Humphries. The book has the familiar Red Circle Books brand on the cover, spine and back cover. Inside, however, it's published by Lion Books, Inc. But more importantly for us, the cover is by Louise Altson. There may be others in this book line and they will be posted here as they are found.






end of 3/16/13 addendum
...................................................................................................................................................................




Louise Altson first shows up in the debut issue of MISS AMERICA MAGAZINE Vol 1, #2 (Nov/44). This is the first issue of the magazine version of the title, having taken the name and continued numbering from a one-shot comic book, converting after a single issue to feature teen girl charm, beauty and fashion tips and fiction text stories, and whose office was on the 73rd floor of the Empire State Building. To free up paper for what was expected to be a best-selling youth-oriented magazine (within a year it was printing over a million copies an issue) (4), Martin Goodman decimated his Red Circle pulp line, leaving temporarily a "single" western pulp, COMPLETE WESTERN BOOK MAGAZINE. The debut issue appeared around September 15, 1944, with Bessie Little as editor and Jean Goodman as supervising editor. (5)

During the course of this post I will mention many of the features and/or contributors to MISS AMERICA MAGAZINE in the issues that feature Louise Altson artwork, but I don't want to get bogged down with extraneous details as I plan a post on the long-running title's history in the future.

The cover model wearing the Miss America costume is 15 year old Dolores Conlon. This issue featured the debut of Patsy Walker. The artist is probably Pauline Loth, who would also pencil the Miss America feature in the same issue. Ruth Atkinson would draw the Patsy Walker feature when her own book debuted later in the middle of 1945



Pauline Loth - Patsy Walker debut in MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #2 (Nov/44)



The Miss America comic feature penciled by Pauline Loth would continue to appear in the first four magazine issues before being supplanted by features like Danny, Betty Blair Reporter, Joyce Reynolds and the aforementioned Patsy Walker, who would eventually be the main star of the title when the magazine issues ended and the title changed back into a regular newsstand comic book in 1950. Pauline Loth as Pauline O'Sullivan, would continue on as fashion editor of the magazine.


Volume 1, #2 (Nov/44):


Vol 1, #2 (Nov/44) ; model is Dolores Conlon

Louise Altson's debut art appears on page 20 and 21. The images are realistic and dramatic. This is one talented artist seriously trained in classic illustration. Other artists in this issue include illustrator James Billmyer and Elmer Tomasch, known as Tom Tomasch to the guys on the Timely comics staff. Tomasch would also go on to a career in fine art after his comic book days. 14 pages of Miss America comic art and 7 pages of Patsy Walker art are also inside.


MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #2 (Nov/44) p. 20

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #2 (Nov/44) p. 21

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #2 (Nov/44) p. 21 (cropped)


Volume 1, #3 (Dec/44):

The very next issue is the only non-photo cover of the magazine's 1940's run. Louise Altson paints the cover instead. 14 pages of Miss America comic art and 7 pages of Patsy Walker story art are also in this issue.



Louise Altson - MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #3 (Dec/44) 


Inside are 3 more pages of illustrations:



MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #3 (Dec/44) p.4


MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #3 (Dec/44) p.5

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #3 (Dec/44) p.5 (cropped)

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #3 (Dec/44) p.10


Volume 1, #4 (Jan/45):

Double-page splash. This issue also has illustrations by Peter Driben and Elmer (Tom) Tomasch, as well as 14 pages of Miss America and 7 pages of Patsy Walker story art.


MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #4 (Jan/45) p.4

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #4 (Jan/45) p.5

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #4 (Jan/45) p.4-5

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #4 (Jan/45) p.51

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #4 (Jan/45) p.51 (cropped)


Volume 1, #5 (Feb/45):

This was a double-page splash also. James Billmyer illustrates a feature in this issue and it also contains 14 pages of Miss America and 7 pages of Patsy Walker story art.



MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #5 (Feb/45) p.4

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #5 (Feb/45) p.5

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #5 (Feb/45) p.4-5



Volume 1, #6 (Mar/45):

James Billmyer also inside. Patsy Walker is now the main comic feature (7 pages) joined by Danny (7 pages), who replaces the Miss America comic feature. Danny appears to be penciled by Mike Sekowsky.


MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #6 (Mar/45) p.4

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #6 (Mar/45) p.5

MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #6 (Mar/45) p.5 (cropped)


Volume 2, #5 (Aug/45):

We now jump ahead 5 months to Vol 2, #5 (Aug/45). Another double-page splash. Patsy Walker has 8 pages and Danny has been replaced by Betty Blair (5 pages), also penciled by Mike Sekowsky. James Billmyer is also again in this issue.


MISS AMERICA Vol 2, #5 (Aug/45) p.5

MISS AMERICA Vol 2, #5 (Aug/45) p.6


Volume 2, #6 (Sept/45):

James Billmyer illustrations along with Patsy Walker (8 pages) and Betty Blair (6 pages). Another two-page spread that I was able to scan decently enough to present here.



MISS AMERICA Vol 2, #6 (Sept/45) p.10

MISS AMERICA Vol 2, #6 (Sept/45) p.11

MISS AMERICA Vol 2, #6 (Sept/45) p.10-11 double-page spread


Volume 3, #1 (Oct/45):

Another double-page spread.  Patsy Walker (7 pages) and Betty Blair (6 pages) also in this issue.



MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #1 (Oct/45) p. 52

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #1 (Oct/45) p. 53

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #1 (Oct/45) p. 52-53

After posting this blog entry I received this e-mail from Louise Altson's daughter, Jean Truax:

"Imagine my surprise, as I am looking through and admiring Mom's illustrations on your blog, to recognize the lead crystal jar in the illustration! I also realized that the pot holding the flowers is one of Mom's pewter bowls that I have that she used often in her still-life's."

Jean then forwarded this photo to me. The crystal jar is still in the family after 66 years!





Volume 3, #2 (Nov/45):

 Double-page spread. Patsy Walker (7 pages) and Betty Blair (6 pages) also in this issue.



MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #2 (Nov/45) p.24

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #2 (Nov/45) p.25

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #2 (Nov/45) p.24-25



Before continuing, I want to pause here and mention a very rare Timely premium advertised in the pages of MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #3 (Dec/45). The ad is for a holiday booklet devoted to Christmas fun, fashion, recipes, etc, produced by the MISS AMERICA staff and offered for 10 cents to readers who wrote in and ordered it. The title is "HERE'S HOW FOR A MERRY CHRISTMAS".


Advertisement for Christmas premium in MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #3 (Dec45) 

Well after 20 years of trying, I "finally" found one!! The cover artwork, I believe, is by Marion Gerrick.


Marion Gerrick - MISS AMERICA premium (Christmas, 1945)



Volume 3, #4 (Feb/46):

Also James Billmyer, Patsy Walker (8 pages) and Betty Blair (6 pages).


MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #4 (Feb/46) p.52

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #4 (Feb/46) p.53

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #4 (Feb/46) p.53 (cropped)


Volume 3, #5 (Mar/46):

A gorgeous double page splash below! Just stunning, and exquisitely rendered. Comic content down to only Patsy Walker (8 pages). 


MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #5 (Mar/46) p.16

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #5 (Mar/46) p.17

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #5 (Mar/46) p.16-17


Volume 3, #6 (Apr/46):

Patsy Walker (7 pages) and an article purported to be written by jazz icon Duke Ellington are also in this issue.



MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #6 (Apr/46) p.14

MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #6 (Apr/46) p.15

Volume 4, #1 (May/46):

Double page spread and Patsy Walker (7 pages).



MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #1 (May46) p.52

MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #1 (May46) p.53

MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #1 (May46) p.52-53


Volume 4, #2 (June/46):

A beautiful double page spread highlights extremely photo-realistic artwork. James Billmyer and Patsy Walker (7 pages) also in this issue.


MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #2 (June/46) p.56

MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #2 (June/46) p.57

MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #2 (June/46) p.56-57

The next issue of MISS AMERICA, Vol 4, #3 (July/46), has a two page spread that is unsigned, or more likely, the signature is cut off at the bottom. Going by all the artwork I've seen by both Louise Altson and James Billmyer in this title, there is more stylized animation in the poses and faces so I think what I'm looking at is James Billmyer rather than the poised and subdued figures of Louise Altson. Therefore, I'm not posting the images here. 

Similiarly in MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #4 (Aug/46), an unsigned two page spread has me unsure. It doesn't look like James Billmyer so it could Louise Altson.  Here it is below. What do you think? 





With the Vol 4, #5 (Sept/46) issue, Bessie Little is replaced as editor-in-chief by Thea Tyler and the title begins to pick up an enormous amount of advertising by top woman's fashion and cosmetics companies. The actual table of contents doesn't start until 20 pages in! The first 19 pages are advertisements!

We jump ahead now 7 months....

Volume 5, #3 (Jan/47):

James Billmyer and 8 full pages of Patsy Walker penciled and inked by Christiopher Rule, who has completely taken over the feature. Rule had been involved since the beginning on and off (mostly "on") as an inker but now is rendering the entire feature by himself.

MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #3 (Jan/47) p.10

MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #3 (Jan/47) p.11

Volume 5, #4 (Feb/47):

This issue marks the return of Bessie Little to the editor-in-chief position. Why she was gone for a while is anyone's guess but she was probably working in other Goodman gossip, romance and/or Hollywood magazines. In addition to Louise Altson's two-page spread below, we will also find artwork by Harvey Kidder, James Billmyer, 8 pages of Christopher Rule's Patsy Walker, and a new 2-page cartoon strip feature called Rusty (not the Timely RUSTY feature), drawn by a cartoonist signing "Dottie", someone who has been drawing tons of spot cartoons in the last 10 or so issues. Dottie usually is short for Dorothy but I cannot place any artist at this time.  There is also an advertisement for the debut issue of Miss America's companion magazine, JUNIOR MISS.....


Junior Miss ad in Miss America Vol 5, #4 (Feb/47)


MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #4 (Feb/47) p.14

MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #4 (Feb/47) p.15

MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #4 (Feb/47) p.14-15


Volume 5, #5 (Mar/47):

In addition to Louise Altson, illustrations by James Billmyer, Harvey Kidder, 8 pages of Patsy Walker another Rusty 2-page strip and a nice full page illo by cartoonist "Dottie" seen below....

"Dottie" full-page illo in Vol 5, #5 (Mar/47)

MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #5 (Mar/47) p.22

MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #5 (Mar/47) p.23



Volume 5, #6 (Apr/47):

Along with the 2-page spread by Altson, look for James Billmyer, Harvey Kidder and 8 pages of Patsy Walker also in this issue.



MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #6 (Apr/47) p.48

MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #6 (Apr/47) p.49

MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #6 (Apr/47) p.48-49




Volume 6, #2 (June/47):

Bessie Little is out again as editor, replaced now by Francis Glencott. Along with a 2-page spread by Louise Altson, look for unsigned James Billmyer, unsigned Harvey Kidder, 8 pages of Patsy Walker and a 4-page feature called "So You Want to be a Cartoonist?", a story about Milt Gross with cartoons by Milt Gross, written by "Cal Cagno, who is known to Timely aficionados as Joe Cal Cagno.  Cal Cagno hails way back to the the early days at Timely as a writer on "Zephyr Jones" (drawn by the unknown Fred Schwartz) and "Mr. E" (drawn by Al Carreno) in DARING MYSTERY COMICS #2 (Feb/40). A second and final installment of "Zephyr Jones" appeared in MYSTIC COMIC #1 (Mar/40). Calcagno was also listed in the masthead credits of KRAZY KOMICS #5 (Jan/43), #11 (Sept/43), #12 (Nov/43), #13 (Jan/44) and TERRYTOONS #4 (Jan/43), #5 (Feb/43), #10 (July/43), #11 (Aug/43), #12 (Sept/43), #13 (Oct/43). These are assumed to be writing credits.


(Joe) Cal Cagno and Milt Gross


MISS AMERICA Vol 6, #2 (June/47) p.24

MISS AMERICA Vol 6, #2 (June/47) p.25

MISS AMERICA Vol 6, #2 (June/47) p.24-25




With the start of Volume 7, #1 (Aug/47), MISS AMERICA undergoes a big change as Stan Lee takes over as editor and art director. The magazine, while still sporting photo covers, will gravitate back towards being a comic book. Nearly all of the fashion pages and commercial advertisements are dropped. A second and then a third Patsy Walker story is added and now the text and feature illustrations are being done by Timely staff artists like Syd Shores, Mike Sekowsky, Christopher Rule, Mario Acquaviva, Frank Carin and Lin Streeter. Ruth Atkinson even freelances illustrations to accompany text stories she writes. Most surprising of all, is the possible discovery of pulp and golden-age Timely artist out of the Chesler shop, Newt Alfred, drawing text illustrations in Vol 7, #13 (Aug/48)! Alfred is known as the pulp artist on The Whisperer and his previous Timely appearances are relegated to features in MYSTIC COMICS  on features like The 3 X's, The Blue Blaze, Zara of the Jungle and The Invisible Man Known As Dr. Gade in 1940. 

Ultimately Marty Nodell becomes art associate on the book with Vol 7, #30 (Jan/50) and contributed a ton of cartoon illustrations. He kept the position, at least via the credit pages, until Vol 7, #35 (Sept/50). Here is his credit in Vol 7, #31 (Feb/50):


Marty Nodell credit


The book is now Patsy Walker stories and 3 text stories. This makes MISS AMERICA identical in format to her sister publication JUNIOR MISS, which is where we will see Louise Altson turn up next.

The format for this "old" MISS AMERICA did not die, though. Starting cover date Fall/49, the "girl's charm and fashion mag" was reintroduced as a regular newsstand magazine published by Martin Goodman's magazine line and titled MISS AMERICA SPECIAL EDITION. Three quarterly issues were released among the Goodman true confession and Hollywood scandal magazines, with the last two titled MISS AMERICA YOUNG LIFE.



Miss America Special Edition Vol1, #1 (Fall/49)


With Miss America's change in "text story" format from one of serious illustration to standard comic art, Louise Altson will spend the rest of her career in comic books painting covers for teen/romance books. 

Before we leave MISS AMERICA completely, I want to mention one more artist who was the most prolific artist contributing to the Bessie Little run of the title, Volumes 1 through Volume 6. The artist was Marion Gerrick, the cover artist seen above on the Holiday/1945 Here's How For A Merry Christmas premium. Miss Gerick was the Sergio Aragones of MISS AMERICA, the title's workhorse, contributing story and article title illustrations, "marginal" cartoons along the borders, ad cartoons, fashion illustrations, "everything" needed in "every" issue published throughout the first 6 volumes except for a short span when she was spelled by "Dottie" and Phyllis Muchow. She usually signed her cartoons and illustrations "Marion", "Gerrick", "M.G.", or sometimes not at all, but her art is unmistakable and immediately identifiable. Miss Gerrick would go on to success in the fine art world and is owed a deserved mention here.




Gerrick MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #1 (Oct45) p.36

Gerrick MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #2 (Nov45) p.18


Gerrick MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #2 (Nov45) p.37


As Louise Altson moved on to painted covers in 1949, first up is JUNIOR MISS.  As I already stated above, JUNIOR MISS was MISS AMERICA's sister title, spinning off it's debut issue as #24 (Apr/47) and continuing 15 additional issues through #39 (Aug/50). The final two issues were as a comic book. The initial issue introduced the Timely teen character Cindy Smith, as drawn by Ken Bald. Stan Lee was from the very start the editor and art director and as also seen above, within 4 months would also take over the reins of MISS AMERICA, turning it into a carbon copy of JUNIOR MISS, that is, comics and text stories illustrated  by "Timely" staff artists, and not the girl's fashion and charm magazine it once was. 

In the middle of the run, three painted covers appeared. #'s 35,36 & 37.

JUNIOR MISS #35 (July/49):

Half of Louise Altson's signature is cut off the bottom of this scan and in every copy of this book I've ever seen.


Louise Altson - JUNIOR MISS #37 (July/49)


JUNIOR MISS #36 (Sept/49):


Louise Altson - JUNIOR MISS #36 (Sept/49)


And the following month in GIRL COMICS #1 (Oct/49) this same cover was used in an ad for the issue:




Ad - GIRL COMICS #1 (Oct/49) for JUNIOR MISS #36 (Sept/49)



JUNIOR MISS #37 (Dec/49):


Louise Altson - JUNIOR MISS #37 (Dec/49)

Next we have PATSY WALKER COMICS, with the second Timely teen character (after Tessie The Typist) and third to get her own title (after TESSIE THE TYPIST and GEORGIE). After debuting in MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #2 (Nov/44), Patsy Walker's feature continued on in every issue of the title until cancellation cover date Nov/58, a total of 126 issues. She got her own title cover dated Summer/45 (lasting 124 issues) and spun off a third title, PATSY AND HEDY, lasting 110 issues of its own. Along the way there was also the 6 issue GIRL'S LIFE (featuring Patsy Walker) in 1954.

There are 4 main artistic periods to the long, 20 year, 124 issue run of PATSY WALKER COMICS from 1945 to 1965. While others squeezed in stories, especially between 1 & 2 below, and there are overlaps with regard to inkers, etc., the epochs still break pretty cleanly.

1) The Ruth Atkinson early years
2) The Christopher Rule years
3) The Al Jaffee Years
4) The Morris Weiss years
5) The Al Hartley years.

Starting in the summer of 1949, and in the midst of the romance glut, Louise Altson painted 4 consecutive covers for this title:


PATSY WALKER #25 (Nov49):

Note the "A Lovers Magazine" heart-shaped colophon on this cover. This appeared on the cover of all/most of the Timely romance glut issues of 1949-1950. Was Timely trying to pass this title as a romance title? A quick look inside would have burst that bubble.

Louise Altson - PATSY WALKER #25 (Nov/49)

PATSY WALKER #26 (Jan/50):

This cover is unsigned but it certainly is Louise Altson. Her signature is most likely hidden under the band of copy at the bottom.

Louise Altson - PATSY WALKER #26 (Jan/50)


PATSY WALKER #27 (Mar/50):

This cover is also unsigned but is definitely Louise Altson. The signature is, again, likely cut off at the bottom.

Louise Altson - PATSY WALKER #27 (Mar/50)

PATSY WALKER #28 (May/50):

Like issue #25 above, you can see Altson's signature 80% cut-off at the bottom.


Louise Altson - PATSY WALKER #28 (May/50)

We now move on to a pair of final covers. The first is MITZI'S ROMANCES #10 (Dec/49). The title began as MITZI COMICS #1 (Spring/48) and changed to MITZI'S BOYFRIEND #2 through  #7 (Apr/49), before finally changing to MITZI'S ROMANCES for the final 3 issues #8-10. In spite of the romantic painted cover below and the "A Lovers Magazine" heart shaped colophon, Mitzi was a teen humor title and not a romance comic.  This issue below has Mitzi stories written by Stan Lee and they are classic teen-humor in the Archie, Patsy, Millie mold. There is no signature on the cover but either it's Louise or perhaps Peter Driben's work. My own copy of this book is pretty ragged so I used a better image I found on Atlas Tales.


MITZI'S ROMANCES #10 (Dec/49):










And lastly, CINDY SMITH #39 (May/50). The character made her debut in JUNIOR MISS #24 (Apr/47), the sister publication to MISS AMERICA, begun during the time Stan Lee helmed  both titles, the latter starting with Vol 7, #1 (May/47). Cindy's debut (and most of her ongoing adventures) were penciled by Ken Bald and she appeared from #24 through #36 (seen above with a cover by Louise Altson). She also received her "own" concurrent ongoing title that lasted 14 issues from #27 (Fall/47, continuing the numbering of KRAZY KOMICS #26) to #40 (July/50).




Ken Bald - JUNIOR MISS #24 (#1) (Apr/47)

CINDY SMITH #39 (May/50):


Once again my own copy is a bit battered. This image is again from Atlas Tales. No signature again but possibly Louise Altson.


? Louise Altson ? - CINDY SMITH #39 (May/50)


There are three last Timely painted covers from this same time period and none have ever been attributed to Louise Altson. One is undoubtedly not Altson's work. The other two... I'm not so sure. I'll show them all below for completion's sake.




VENUS #7 (Nov49):


This cover is unsigned and the faces and poses do not look like what Louise Altson was doing in her work.


unknown artist - VENUS #7 (Nov/49)




VENUS #8 (Feb/50):


Again unsigned. I just don't know. The posed serenity is certainly the type of ambiance Louise Altson depicted in her work but this could actually be Peter Driben.




? Louise Altson ? - VENUS #8 (Feb/50)


GEORGIE #25 (Feb/50)[3/26/12 update..."no", this is Peter Driben - Doc V.]


Same month as the above VENUS #8. This could be Louise Altson. I'm just not certain.


? Louise Altson ? - GEORGIE #25 (Feb/50)
["no", this is Peter Driben - Doc V.] 


3/26/12 update.....
 

This copy below has been recently located that sports an actual Peter Driben signature not visible on the above copy. Mystery solved!










For folks who like lists, here is a complete listing of all Louise Altson's Timely work:


TIMELY TEXT-STORY ILLUSTRATIONS:


MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #2 (Nov/44) p.20,21
MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #3 (Dec/44) painted cover, p.4-5,10
MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #4 (Jan/45) p.4-5,51
MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #5 (Feb/45) p.4-5
MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #6 (Mar/45) p.4,5


MISS AMERICA Vol 2, #5 (Aug/45) p.5-6
MISS AMERICA Vol 2, #6 (Sept/45) p.10-11


MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #1 (Oct/45) p.52-53
MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #2 (Nov/45) p.24-25
MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #4 (Feb/46) p.52,53
MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #5 (Mar/46) p.16-17
MISS AMERICA Vol 3, #6 (Apr/46) p.14-15


MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #1 (May/46) p.52-53
MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #2 (June/46) p.56-57
MISS AMERICA Vol 4, #4 (July/46) (? ALTSON ?)


MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #3 (Jan/47) p.10-11
MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #4 (Feb/47) p.14-15
MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #5 (Mar/47) p.22-23
MISS AMERICA Vol 5, #6 (Apr/47) p.48-49


MISS AMERICA Vol 6, #2 (June/47) p.24-25


TIMELY PAINTED COVERS:


MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #3 (Dec/44)


JUNIOR MISS #35 (July/49)
JUNIOR MISS #36 (Sept/49)
JUNIOR MISS #37 (Dec/49)


PATSY WALKER # 25 (Nov/49)
PATSY WALKER # 26 (Jan/50)
PATSY WALKER # 27 (Mar/50)
PATSY WALKER # 28 (May/50)


MITZI'S ROMANCES #10 (Dec/49) [could be Peter Driben]


CINDY SMITH #39 (May/50)


And the unsigned unknown but possibly Louise Altson:


GEORGIE #25 (Feb/50) [3/26/12 update..."no", this is Peter Driben - Doc V.]
VENUS #8 (Feb/50)  ? [could be Peter Driben]




Footnotes and Sources:

  1. Palm Beach Post obituary, March 16-21, 2010
  2. Gilstrap, Kathleen, "Artist Finds Painting a Passion", Palm Beach Post, July 25, 1987.
  3. Vassallo, Michael J. Every scan and iota of Timely-Atlas data above sourced from my own collection and research (except 2 instances indicated)
  4. Goodman, Jean. "Hello, Girls:", Miss America Magazine, editorial, Vol 3, #5, March 1946, p.58
  5. Bradfield, Harriet A., "New York Market Letter", Writer's Digest, ?/1944
  • All photographs except where indicated are courtesy and © the family of Louise Altson.
  • Painting image of the young girl with the mirror is from The Bruce Webber Gallery : http://webbergallery.com/bruce.html
  • List of book cover paintings courtesy the family of Louise Altson.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Mike, I found this fascinating to read, covering aspects I never thought of to check out. Thanks for posting, I love learning some thing new in the wonderful world of comics, this fit the bill very well.

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  2. Thanks Bob! She really "did" have a fascinating career. I still want to find more examples of her portraits to display.

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  3. A wonderful trubute to my mother's work. Thank you!
    John Altson

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  4. John, my absolute pleasure. Your mom was enormously talented. If there's anything you'd like to add, contact me and I'll be happy to update the piece.

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  5. Thank you for such an interesting article containing some truly beautiful artwork from Louise Altson. Must go and look through my old copies of Miss America magazine and Patsy Walkers

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  6. Glad you enjoyed it, Andrew. From the time of the original posting of this article, it's become a work in progress as I've been able to access additional personal information, paintings and book covers I wasn't aware of. That's ok. This will be a permanent ongoing repository for the display of Louise's work.

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