Wednesday, 6 May 2009


NOTE: Edd Cartier died on Christmas Day, 2008, and I wrote the following for the Guardian on 10 January 2009. It was a labour of some love, because I've been a fan of the pulp magazine Shadow since I was in college, and was able to turn that fascination into a 55 page paper for Richard Slotkin's American Studies class. It was a great pleasure for me, while writing it, to get back in touch with Bob Weinberg--we've met twice in the past 40 years--and he was, as ever, both knowledgeable and helpful. But it was an even greater pleasure to pay hommage to Edd Cartier, an illustrator it would seem almost impossible to dislike. I just learned today that the paper will not be able to run the obituary, after all this time that was inevitable. So here it is now, as it would have run for a British audience, and I hope you enjoy....


At the height of the Great Depression, the Shadow was America's greatest hero, with bi-weekly novels appearing in the largest-selling pulp magazine, and adventures, voiced by the likes of Orson Welles, on the nation's most-popular radio show. It was at the height of the Shadow's popularity that Edd Cartier, 22 and just out of art school, began illustrating those pulp novels. The magazine's cover artists could paint dynamic oils, with bright colours and emotive backgrounds, all designed to lure readers in. Interior drawings were more problematic. Pulp magazines got their name from the cheap paper on which they were printed; it soaked up ink, making fine-line drawing difficult. Cartier solved the problem with strong strokes and simple designs, using white space to create lighting effects and diagonals to emphasize the swirling mystery of the Shadow, hidden under a black slouch hat, with blazing twin .45 automatics erupting from beneath his cloak.

Cartier is regarded as the greatest of all Shadow illustrators, whose influence was felt deeply by contemporary artists like Jim Steranko or Michael Kaluta when they revivied the character for paperbacks or comic books. 'He was perhaps the finest pen and ink illustrator ever to work for the pulp paper magazines,' says Robert Weinberg, author of The Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. But Cartier's importance went beyond one character. In the late 1930s he teamed up with editor John W Campbell, who turned Astounding magazine into the flagship for what is now called the 'Golden Age' of science fiction. Cartier illustrated stories by Campbell discoveries like Robert Heinlein and Issac Asimov, but proved a perfect fit for a second, fantasy, magazine called Unknown, which Campbell was launching. Campbell wanted 'realistic' fantasies, and Cartier's art could make the oddest creatures believable. 'Cartier used humour as one of the major elements to illustrate stories. He became one of the most influential artists to work during the Golden Age, roughly 1939-1943', says Weinberg.

Edward Daniel Cartier (Edd came from originally signing his art Ed D Cartier) was born 1 August, 1914 in North Bergen, New Jersey. His father ran Cartier's Saloon, a bar, dance-hall, garage and machine shop near Teterboro airport, where Edd's uncle was a mechanic. He grew up fascinated by aircraft, hanging around with early flyers like Charles Lindbergh, Igor Sikorski, and Howard Hughes, who called him 'Kid'. His sense of wonder at the futuristic world of flight would be echoed in the sleek spaceships he drew for Astounding. Cartier studied applied art at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, under the noted illustrator Harold Winfield Scott. Another instructor was William James, who was the art director for Street and Smith's, the leading pulp publisher. Cartier's ambition was to draw western illustrations, and James hired him to produce drawings for Wild West Weekly, and other Street and Smith titles like Movie Action and Detective Story, paying eight dollars per drawing.

When the Shadow's regular artist, Tom Lovell, decided to pursue a career as a painter, James hired Cartier full time. He made his debut illustrating 'The Sledgehammer Crimes', which appeared on his 22nd birthday in 1936. The quality of Cartier's illustrations was immediately apparent even outside the world of the pulps. The renowned painter Norman Rockwell offered him a job as an assistant, but Scott advised against it, saying 'you'll become another Rockwell; you should remain on your own'. Cartier took the advice, but later said he'd always regretted it.
Cartier's army service during World War II began by drawing maps, but he was serving as a tank machine gunner when he won a Bronze Star for bravery, and was severely wounded, at the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded again, earning a second Purple Heart, when his hospital train was blown up. After the war he resumed illustrating sf and the Shadow, painted five Shadow covers, and drew for Street and Smith's other big title, Doc Savage. He particularly enjoyed working with the pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard, doing covers for his humorous tales like 'The Indigestible Triton'. 'I'm capable of drawing, but I'm not capable of writing these stories, or these thoughts,' he recalled.

As paperback books and television began to kill off the pulp magazines, and Cartier moved into book illustration, most notably with the specialist sf publishers Gnome Press and Fantasy Press. His drawing for Gnome's 1950 calendar features a large-nosed Father Time welcoming the baby New Year, who wears a space helmet and rocket pack on his back. He also used the GI Bill to resume his studies at Pratt, taking a fine arts degree. He worked as a draughtsman for an engineering company, and then as art director for a company specializing in business art, calendars, logos, even lottery tickets. In 1992, he received a life achievement award from the World Fantasy Convention, and recently he had provided the introduction for a reprint of two Shadow novels. He suffered from Parkinson's disease, and produced his final drawing for his family's 2005 Christmas calendar. It showed Santa handing a gift to the Shadow.

He died on Christmas Day, 2008, in Ramsay, New Jersey. His wife of 63 years, Georgia, predeceased him in 2007. He is survived by two sons.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Edd Cartier was my mother's first cousin who hadn't seen one another in years since we moved from NJ to CA. Up until Mom passed in 2003 we always received gnome Christmas cards which will forever be cherished.