EDD CARTIER : Illustration In The “Pulp” Age

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 near Teterboro airport, where Edd’s uncle was a mechanic. He grew up fascinated by aircraft, and this sense of wonder at the futuristic world of flight would be echoed in the sleek spaceships he later drew for Astounding. While in grade school, he was allowed to paint Christmas pictures on the tavern’s large plate glass windows. Since many of his childhood drawings were humorous, his friends and family suggested to him that he should plan a career as a cartoonist, and years later Cartier commented, “In fact, I have been accused of putting too much humor in my illustrations.”

In his teens, he designed costumes for school plays and illustrated his 1933 high school yearbook. Listening to cowboy music, he practiced lasso tricks. Fascinated by the paintings of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, the young Cartier decided to become an illustrator specializing in Western art. In 1933, he began attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, 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, and hired him to produce drawings for Wild West Weekly, and other Street and Smith titled like Movie Action and Detective Story, paying eight dollars per drawing. Later, when Tom Lovell, the regular artist of the Shadow, the largest selling Street and Smith’s pulp magazine, decided to pursue a career as a painter, James hired Cartier full time.

At the height of the Great Depression, the Shadow was America’s greatest hero: this mysterious, lurking crime fighter in a black cloak and broad-brimmed black hat had bi-weekly printed issues and adventures, voiced by the likes of Orson Welles. On the nation’s most-popular radio show, he entered American living rooms with the famous introduction: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows”. By dramatically placing thick swaths of black and turning blank spaces into shafts of brilliant light, Cartier perfectly evoked the murky world of the Shadow. “The gritty atmosphere of The Shadow’s relentless fight against crime gave me the opportunity to illustrate a weird and fantastic world,” Edd Cartier wrote in an introduction to “City of Crime/Shadow Over Alcatraz” (2008), a reprint of two Shadow stories by Sanctum Books. It was a world, he wrote, of “dark hallways, one-room flats, spooky mansions, dingy subways, dead-end alleys and fog-shrouded wharves.”

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. The regret, one can speculate, is that contact with Rockwell could have catapulted Cartier into the pages of The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s. The notion that Cartier could have become some kind of Rockwell clone doesn’t wash, if that is indeed what Scott was suggesting.

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 revived 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. He illustrated for other Street & Smith mystery magazines, including The Whisperer, The Wizard and Detective Story Magazine, and then expanded into fantasy and science fiction. 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 Isaac 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 humor as one of the major elements to illustrate stories. He left his work for the Shadow in 1940 to concentrate completely on science fiction and fantasy and became one of the most influential artists to work during the Golden Age, roughly 1939-1943,” says Weinberg. In 1941 he enlisted in the Army; his 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. As paperback books and television began to kill off the pulp magazines (The Shadow, for example, ceased publication in 1948), Cartier moved into book illustration, most notably with the specialist sf publishers Gnome Press and Fantasy Press. Supporting a family on the low pay of freelance science fiction art prompted Cartier to seek employment in a different field, and he found a position as a draftsman for an engineering firm during the 1950s, and then as art director for a company specializing in business art, calendars, logos, even lottery tickets. 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.

During his entire career he created more than 800 illustrations for “The Shadow” and hundreds of illustrations for numerous other science fiction magazines; he did serious illustration but also whimsical drawings, and he sometimes managed to incorporate both into a single picture. Good examples of this kind of production are the drawings he made for Travelers of Space, a 1951 anthology of science fiction short stories originally appeared in the magazines ‘Planet Stories, Astounding, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories. In addition to illustrating the book’s cover, Cartier collaborated with writer David Kyle on “The Interstellar Zoo,” creating a menagerie of bizarre, detailed, and strangely compelling beings from other worlds. Their familiar anatomical structures – flippers, tentacles, antennae, gills – are combined in novel yet plausible ways so that we can almost imagine how these alien creatures move when not in two-dimensional captivity.