Norman Rockwell is considered by many to be the Great American illustrator. He's pretty great, but I would give the title to another Norman -- Norman Saunders (1907 - 1989) -- because he set the standard for so many different genre illustrations over the decades that it's hard to believe one person could do so much.
A new coffee table art book from the Illustrated Press about Norman Saunders (written by his son David Saunders) just came out and I've been devouring its 368 technicolor pages, filled with examples of his work from the 1920s to the 1980s. The illustrations are arranged chronologically, and the book feels like a history of popular print media. Saunders was a prominent illustrator for Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, Modern Mechanics, pulp detective, western, war, and science fiction magazines, men's adventure magazines, and bubblegum cards and stickers, including Wacky Packages and Mars Attacks. Anyone interested in 20th century magazine illustration pretty much has to have this book in his or her library.
NORMAN SAUNDERS (1907–1989) was the legendary illustrator of Mars Attacks, Wacky Packages, Batman, Pre-Code Comics, Men’s Adventure, Paperbacks, Pulp Magazines, and Sci-Fi. His unique artistic vision influenced the visual language of American pop culture throughout a century of changing fashions, and continues to inspire today’s important visionaries. Savvy collectors have long dreamt of a book on the entire lifework of Norman Saunders, and that dream has finally come true with the world’s first book to present his finest paintings in radiant reproductions, to savor the extraordinary artistry behind so many iconic images, familiar from timeworn vintage collectibles.Norman Saunders
The artist’s son has written an insightful biography, seasoned with quotes from the artist and his associates, chronicling the frontier childhood and training of an illustrator who rose to the top of his profession, and then spent WWII in China painting travel sketches. When Saunders defied the corporate forces of conformity during McCarthyism he was relegated to underground world of subculture publishing, where he continued his remarkable career by painting countless icons for Pre-Code Comics, Men’s Adventure magazines and Bubble Gum Trading Cards, until his happy rediscovery by fandom in his twilight years.
This is the consummate reference book on the entire lifework of Norman Saunders, with over 880 illustrations, of which more than 300 are from original art, including 30 working drawings, and 30 reference photos as well as 30 historic family photos, and checklists of all published works. 368 pages, 9”x12”, full-color, hardbound with dust jacket.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects