William “Bill” Ward (March 6, 1919 – November 17, 1998) was an American cartoonist best known as one of the most widely published good girl artists, and as creator of the risqué comics character Torchy. He is not to be confused with the British illustrator Bill Ward.
Early life and career
At age 17, Bill Ward, already an art hobbyist, began his professional career by illustrating “beer jackets”, a type of white denim jacket with text or design printed or drawn on the back; Ward charged one dollar a jacket, and by his own count drew hundreds during that summer. He went on to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, where one classmate was future naturist painter Bob Kuhn. Ward graduated in 1941, and through the university’s placement bureau obtained a Manhattan art-agency job at $18 a week, sweeping floors, running errands and serving as an art assistant. He was fired after accidentally cutting in half a finished Ford automobile illustration with a matte knife.
Still rooming at his college fraternity house, he received a call from Pratt regarding another job, assisting comic book artist Jack Binder. He joined Binder’s small art studio, a “packager” that supplied outsourced comics pages to fledgling comic-book publishers, where Pete Riss already was an assistant. The studio was relocating from The Bronx to Ridgewood, New Jersey at the time, to the upstairs loft of a barn; there, Binder drew layouts for Fawcett Comics stories, for which Riss penciled and inked figures. and Ward the backgrounds. Features included “Mister Scarlet and Pinky“, “Bulletman“, “Ibis the Invincible“, “Captain Battle“, the “Black Owl“, and the adapted pulp magazine features “Doc Savage” and “The Shadow“. The studio grew to approximately 30 artists, with Ken Bald as art director.
Ward’s first known credited works are writing and drawing an episode each of the two-page humor feature “Private Ward” in Fawcett’s Spy Smasher #2 (Winter 1941) and Bulletman #3 (January 14, 1942), published closely to each other. His first major job was an issue of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel, after having worked on that C.C. Beck feature in Whiz Comics.
Shortly thereafter, Quality Comics editor George Brenner hired Ward to write and pencil the hit World War II aviator feature “Blackhawk“; Ward confirmably did Military Comics #30-31 (July-August 1944), with the next several issues generally but unconfirmably credited to Al Bryant. He also drew some Blackhawk stories in Modern Comics and some issues of the Blackhawk title itself in 1946 and 1947, occasionally afterward, and then often in the early 1950s. His story “Karlovna Had a True Underworld” from Blackhawk #14 (Spring 1947) was reprinted in the book Comix: A History of Comic Books In America (Bonanza Books, 1971)
Except for four years in the U.S. Army himself later, Ward would remain a freelance artist for the remainder of his career.
Following Ward’s own drafting into the military, the artist created the ingenue character Torchy Todd for the base newspaper at Brooklyn‘s Fort Hamilton, where Ward was based. The comic strip in which she starred soon became syndicated to other Army newspapers worldwide.
She made her comic-book debut as star of a backup feature in Quality Comics‘ Doll Man #8 (Spring 1946), and continued in all but three issues through #28 (May 1950), as well as in Modern Comics #53-89 (September 1946 – September 1949). A solo series, Torchy, ran six issues (November 1949 – September 1950).
Several Torchy stories, including some Fort Hamilton strips, were reprinted in Innovation Comics‘ 100-page, squarebound comic book Bill Ward’s Torchy, The Blonde Bombshell #1 (January 1992). Others have been reprinted in fy Pages #1 (1987); AC Comics anthology Good Girl Art Quarterly #1 (Summer 1990), #10 (Fall 1992), #11 (Winter 1993), and #14 (Winter 1994), and in AC’s America’s Greatest Comics #5 (circa 2003). Comic Images released a set of Torchy trading cards in 1994.
Ward’s last confirmed comic-book work is at least one Blackhawk story in Blackhawk #63 (April 1953); another story that issue is unconfirmed but generally credited to Ward. His last unconfirmed but generally accepted comic-book works appeared the same month: a Blackhawk story in Blackhawk #65 and a Captain Marvel Jr. tale in Fawcett Comics‘ The Marvel Family #84 (both June 1953).
Ward turned to magazine cartooning afterward, doing humorous spot illustrations, some featuring Torchy, for such publications as editor Abe Goodman’s Humorama. Some of Ward’s gag comics were collected in the Avon Books paperback Honeymoon Guide (#T-95, 1956; reprinted as #T282, 1958). Ward was also a regular artist for the satirical-humor magazine Cracked, sometimes signing his work “McCartney”.
He did very occasional comic-book humor stories, such as the four-page “Play Pool” in Humor-Vision‘s satiric Pow Magazine #1 (August 1966), and, that same decade, episodes of “The Adventures of Pussycat“, a risqué feature about a sexy secret agent, which ran throughout various men’s adventure magazines published by Martin Goodman‘s Magazine Management Company. Ward dabbled in underground comics, drawing a pornographic “Stella Starlet” story in publisher John A. Mozzer’s Weird Smut Comics #1 (1985) and a “Sugar Caine” story in issue #2 (1987); both were written by Dave Goode. Ward also illustrated erotic stories, written by himself, in such men’s magazines as Juggs and Leg Show — an article a month for the former in his later years. One feature in Juggs that ran for a year was “Quest for a Big Pair”, featuring the sexual adventures of Harold Brown, who had sexual encounters with busty women. Ward also drew the comics feature “Debbie” in Club magazine.
In a rare turn doing a mainstream comics character, Ward drew the four-page part one of a Judge Dredd story, “The Mega-City 5000”, in the weekly UK comic 2000 AD #40 (November 26, 1977)), reprinted in Eagle Comics‘ Judge Dredd: The Early Cases #3 (April 1986); it was written by John Wagner under the pseudonym T.B. Grover.
- Kroll, Eric, and Martin Holz, ed., The Wonderful World of Bill Ward, King of the Glamour Girls (Taschen, 2006) ISBN 3822812900, ISBN 978-3822812907
- Chun, Alex, ed., The Pin-Up Art of Bill Ward (Fantagraphics, 2007) ISBN 1560977876, ISBN 978-1560977872
- Chun, Alex, ed., The Glamour Girls of Bill Ward (Fantagraphics, 2007), ISBN 1560978465, ISBN 978-1560978466
- ^ Ward states in his autobiography that he succeeded Reed Crandall, the preeminent “Blackhawk” artist, when Crandall was drafted, but Crandall first drew the feature in Military Comics #12-22, and was succeeded primarily by the team of penciler John Cassone and inker Alex Kotzky before Ward took over.
- ^ “Bill Ward: 50 Fabulous Years of Torchy” Checklist
- ^ “The Best Eye Candy Money Can Buy: The Life of Bill Ward, Good Girl Artist”, Eric Kroll, Taschen books, January 15, 2007. ISBN 3822812900. Link retrieved 2007–12-06.
- Women of Ward: Autobiography (official site)
- Lambiek Comiclopedia: Bill Ward
- Don Markstein’s Toonopedia: Torchy
- Grand Comics Database