Sunday, February 19, 2012

Andrew Bensen (1902-?)

Artist, Illustrator, Comic Book Artist
Born 1902, Norway
Died ?

Too often, artists are given short shrift. Andrew A. Bensen is no exception. He worked as an artist for over three decades. His work was seen by thousands if not millions. Yet little is known of his life. Born in Norway in 1902, Bensen was a babe in arms when his parents, August B. and Leda (her Christian name was Alida or Elida), arrived in the United States in the year of his birth. The family settled in the Chicago area where they were enumerated in the censuses of 1910-1930. In 1930, Andrew Bensen was living with his family in Oak Park and employed as an artist when the census taker found him. I don't know anything more about his early life except that he created the covers for Weird Tales for May 1926 and Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories for August 1926. (1)

In later years, Andrew Bensen illustrated Westerns tied to television and movie stars. According to the Grand Comics Database, Bensen drew comic book stories for Dell's Roy Rogers Comics in the late 1940s and early 1950s under his own name and under a pen name, Al McKimson, which he shared with other artists, including the brothers Chuck and Tom McKimson, Pete Alvarado, John Ushler, Randy Steffen, Hi Mankin, Mike Arens, and Alex Toth. Other cartoonists who worked on Roy Rogers Comics included John and Sal Buscema and Russ Manning of Tarzan fame. Bensen's adaptations for books included Roy Rogers and the Ghost of Mystery Rancho by Walter A. Tompkins (1950), The Spirit of the Border (1950), also by Tompkins, and Gene Autry and the Golden Ladder Gang by W. H. Hutchinson (1950). (2) All three books were published by Whitman Publishing, a subsidiary of Western Printing and Lithographing Company of Racine, Wisconsin, which at the time was about halfway through its long partnership with Dell Comics.

I have one last credit: In 1960, Bruce Publishing of Milwaukee issued a book called My Jesus written by Father Gerald T. Brennan and illustrated by Andrew Bensen. That would imply that Bensen was still living as of 1960. It also suggests to me that he was still located in the Chicago area. (3) Now (Oct. 21, 2016), I have word from Tim E. Wolf that Bensen died in 1975.

Notes
(1) Coincidentally or not, the cover stories for both issues were by Arthur J. Burks. I presume Burks' story for Weird Tales was set in the West. If that's so, then all the work I have found by Andrew Bensen is in the Western genre except for the aviation illustration shown below.
(2) Walter A. Tompkins was a prolific author of Westerns whose credits included scripts for The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid TV series. William Henry "Old Hutch" Hutchinson (1911-1990) was another of those characters who helped build this country and who are sadly disappearing from our midst. Wrangler, cowboy, boiler fireman, mucker in mines, purser on passenger ships, U.S. Navy man during World War II, author, producer, teacher, and newspaper columnist, Hutchinson was even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
(3) In keeping with two recent themes in Tellers of Weird Tales: First, Andrew A. Bensen was a Scandinavian-American contributor to "The Unique Magazine." Second, Walter A. Tompkins was evidently a radio operator and wrote stories in the "radio adventure" or "radio pulp" sub-genre.

Andrew Bensen's Cover Illustration for Weird Tales
"The Ghosts of Steamboat Coulee" by Arthur J. Burks (May 1926)

Further Reading
I wish I could point the way to further reading on Andrew Bensen, his life, and his career, but I'm afraid I couldn't find anything. I hope a reader will have more to offer.

Andrew Bensen's lone cover for Weird Tales (May 1926) is not widely known and can be hard to find. It didn't appear in Robert Weinberg's Weird Tales Story (1977) or Alistair Durie's Weird Tales (1979). It's not easy to find a reproduction on the Internet either. I think I know why, for Bensen's illustration is completely lacking in weird or fantastic elements. It could be the cover for any pulp magazine.
The endpapers of  Gene Autry and the Golden Ladder Gang by W. H. Hutchinson (1950). Note the artist's signature in the bottom right.

Updated October 21, 2016.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

5 comments:

  1. After some thought it occurred to me that if he worked in Chicago and did any Advertising Copy or Book Covers he must be in the Union!..Might be an Avenue to explore?
    Cheers! And happy hunting!

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  2. The source for the GCD's credits for Roy Rogers comics was the late Robert W. Phillips ("Rawhide Bob") who wrote several books on Roy Rogers and was working on one on western comics when he died. Bob believed that Benson helped out on the comics from 1949 to 1956. If so, this would suggest he was in the Los Angeles area (or close enough) during this time. However he took a Havana cruise out of NYC in 1954.
    Someone on Ancestry.com says his full name was Andrew August Benson and that he died in 1975 in Dundee, Illinois. they don't say East or West Dundee.

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  3. Steven,

    Thanks for the further information and clarifications. It sounds like the place to start is the library in Dundee to see if they can dig up an obituary.

    TH

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  4. Andrew Bensen died 1975
    good blog
    Tim E. Wolf, www.zeitreisender.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Wolf,

      Thanks for the information. Do you have a source?

      Terence Hanley

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