Bill Ward with Some of His Muses
I recall the very first time I saw a drawing by Bill Ward. It was in an early issue of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Ward used to run a full-page ad offering to do original drawings for a fee. Naturally given the context the center of an ad was Torchy the narrow-hipped, huge-breasted young woman whose misadventures he drew for Quality Comics.
The art was awful. But you could tell that the cause was in his hands. Either Ward had arthritis or his fingers were shaking. An awful thing for an artist. In his last years Jack Kirby would leave the room to sign an autograph so no one could see his hands shake. (And Wally Wood killed himself when his vision began to fail.)
After I opened my used bookshop in which I also sell comic books I became more familiar with Bill Ward’s oeuvre.
His Torchy art when he was a young man was fine. The Torchy stories were mildly funny in a sexist way. Ditzy Torchy was as anatomically improbable as Ward women always were. Her body literally caused traffic accidents and left men drooling.
The decline of the American comic book industry in the 1950s saw Ward move on to pretty girl gag cartoons. Stylistically this would remain Bill Ward’s most mature work. The illustrations had an appealingly limpid quality. The emphasis was on glamour of a cheap and obvious sort. Despite the mink stoles and gowns the women had faces that somehow always look vulgar however lovely they ostensibly are.
That market also went into decline. Ward became an active contributor to From Sex to Sexty. We had a stack of those in the shop a few years ago. (I’d seen the magazine on the newsstands as a boy but never the interior.) The magazine was as lowbrow as it gets. The gags were always obvious.
I think I recall reading that the publishers Ward worked for after his glamour gag period paid much less. This forced him to draw faster. Quantity was necessary for Ward to sustain his income. Ward’s work became sloppy, his line much less fluid.
At some time Bill Ward started doing covers and interior illustrations for pornographic books. And as you must know if you are visiting Femdom Artists he became one of the most popular illustrators of sadistic women ever. I have no idea how much his porn work paid. But those publishers were notoriously cheap.
Often I’ve wondered which of the qualities of that work came from Ward and which were at the editor’s behest. Breasts as big was the women’s heads may have been the latter. Not that Ward ever drew a flat-chested woman.
The appeal of Bill Ward’s Femdom art lies in the outré and extreme situations he depicted. Women shooting arrows at men, knocking them down the stairs, sticking electric prods up their sphincter. The women were the most relentless sadists. Even Steffi could match their violence and cruelty.
I loved it. For a time.
Then a lover pointed out how awful the women’s faces looked. Suddenly the drawing of the woman wearing stilettos as she jumped up and down on a man’s buttocks no longer seemed as exciting. Eventually all I could notice were the awful eyelashes (as if the women applied eyeliner with a trowel), anatomical exaggerations, aesthetic failures.
Bill Ward no longer stoked my masochistic fantasies.
But I’m sure that you gentle reader still love Bill Ward’s fierce female sadists.
I wish someone with a more attractive style would recreate some of those drawings or least create new ones with the same disturbing intensity.
I think that I read Bill Ward never felt shame in his kinky work. He certainly deserves our respect.
(Please feel free to leave a comment telling me about your favorite Bill Ward drawings.)
Originally posted 2010-09-01 05:24:17.