A ‘Marvel’ Illustrator

Spread the love

Meet the Artist: Alex Schomburg

By David Bates, Contributing Writer

The cover of Marvel Comics no.7

The comics industry has a growing roster of Asian, African-American and Latino artists who have a hand in creating the books that land in comic book stores every day.

That wasn’t always the case, but way back in the 1940s one trailblazing immigrant from Puerto Rico made Marvel Comics his artistic home. And in the early 1960s, he adopted Newberg as his actual home.

Alex at his desk

Today, the non-descript ranch house at 608 N. Meridian Street in Newberg is housing for George Fox University undergraduates. This is Schomburg House, named for Alex Schomburg, who moved there in 1962. Although most of his comic book work was behind him by then, he was still a working artist.

Schomburg was born on May 10, 1905 in Puerto Rico to Guillermo Schomburg and Francisa Rosa, one of seven children and six sons. They were a prosperous family, and able to move Alex to New York when he was twelve. He attended public school in Harlem, and in 1923 he and three brothers started their own art studio. 

He found his way into the comic book world by freelancing. His black-and-white illustrative work started showing up in the pages of some of the early pulps — Radio Craft, Popular Western and Thrilling Adventures, among others. 

He was in an ideal position to ride the wave of a publishing industry that swelled in the late 1930s; the precursor to Marvel, Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics, began publishing stories about characters with names like the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and during WWII, Captain America.

From the late 1930s into the mid-1940s, Alex produced more than 500 comic book covers, including all but about a dozen of the first 69 issues of the Marvel Mystery Comics series. A generation of American kids who grew up reading and later collecting Golden Age comics were likely to have seen his covers.

His work was imaginative, splashy and highly detailed, perfect for the eye-grabbing mission of a comic book cover on a magazine rack. Ron Goulart, author of “Comic Book Culture: An Illustrated History,” called Alex “the Heironymous Bosch of comics.” 

At the website for the Estate of Alex Schomburg, you’ll find a testimonial from one of the artist’s biggest fans, Stan Lee himself. 

“I’ve always felt Alex Schomburg was to comic books what Norman Rockwell was to the Saturday Evening Post,” Lee wrote. “He was totally unique with an amazing, distinctive style…we used to wonder how he managed to get so much detail in every cover.”

Alex had another claim to fame — he was among the artists who worked with director Stanley Kubrick in the 1960s on the visual design for “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Today, you can find Schomburg’s work at Marvel Unlimited, the online repository of the comic giant’s catalog and read more about him at www.AlexSchomburg.com.