Friday, March 14, 2014

Matt Fox (1906-1988)-Part 1

Matthew Fox
Illustrator, Cartoonist, Comic Book Artist, Advertising Artist, Graphic Artist, Painter
Born November 8, 1906, New York, New York
Died February 20, 1988, West Haven, Connecticut

Little is known of Matt Fox. Most of what you'll find on the Internet is recycled from one or two sources. The Wikipedia entry is cribbed from Art in Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures, 1940-1980 by Dan Nodel (2010). To its credit, The Internet Speculative Fiction Database lists Fox's birthdate, birthplace, and death date. At least somebody somewhere did some original research. The Connecticut Death Index says he never married. If that's the case, it's unlikely that he had children. Matt Fox may very well have died alone, as is the fate of so many artists, including Hugh Rankin, Hannes Bok, and Wally Wood. There may not have been anyone to carry on his memory. Fortunately, we are beginning to remember him now.

I know this much: Matt Fox was born on November 8, 1906, in New York City. I'm afraid I can't confirm the names of his parents, although I have candidates. The best candidates I have found were residents of Atlantic City, New Jersey. On a blog called Potrzebie, the author, named Bhob, recalls meeting Matt Fox in North Bergen, New Jersey, at the home of Calvin Beck, publisher of the magazine Castle of Frankenstein. That was in the mid-1960s. If North Bergen was close to home for Matt Fox, then maybe he was the same Matt Fox enumerated in the U.S. Census in Atlantic City in 1910, 1930, and 1940. If they were one in the same, then Matt Fox the artist was the son of Matthew Fox, Sr., a bricklayer, and his wife, named Fannie. And, if the same Matt Fox was living in Atlantic City in 1940 and working as a painter, then he was married after all. His wife was named Kathleen.

That's a lot of speculation. I'll continue with some facts from an entry, written by Fox himself, in The Who's Who of American Comic Books, edited by Jerry Bails (1971):
*MATTHEW (MATT) FOX (1906- ) Artist. Major influence: Alex Raymond; Cartoons; Adv art; Lithographs; Pulp illus; Covers of Weird Tales (oils), Color woodcuts; Water colors; Oil paintings; Etchings, Comic book credits: (p) & (i). Youthful: (1952-3) fantasy; Marvel: (1952-6) horror, s-f; (1962-3) s-f, fantasy.
The asterisk indicates that Fox wrote the entry himself. (P = pencils, i = inks, s-f = science fiction.) That may be as much as what is generally known of Matt Fox.

So Fox was a cartoonist, illustrator, comic book artist, advertising artist, watercolorist, painter, and graphic artist, with lithographs, woodcuts, and etchings to his credit. He worked in those fields from the early 1940s into the 1960s. I don't know of any original art published after the 1960s, unless his work for Marvel Comics in the 1970s was original rather than reprinted. (Fox's work was reprinted as early as the 1970s and as recently as this decade.) There isn't any mention of schooling. I suspect that Matt Fox was self taught, for his work is primitive, not in a crude way, but with real primitive power. (Jack Kirby, another artist of great power, was also more or less a primitive artist.) Although he claimed Alex Raymond as an influence, the look and technique of his art is far removed from the slick, dry-brush (Flash Gordon) or pen-and-ink (Rip Kirby) style of Raymond. Fox's art reminds me of no one's so much as that of Basil Wolverton (1909-1978). Fletcher Hanks (1887-1976) might also be put in the same category of uncategorizable artists. (1)

Matt Fox served eleven months in the U.S. Army, from January 13 to December 13, 1943. According to The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Fox's first drawings in the genres of fantasy and science fiction were published during those eleven months. They included his first interior illustration for Weird Tales, in March 1943. His first cover followed a year and a half later, in November 1944, just in time for Fox's thirty-eighth birthday.

To be continued . . .

Notes
(1) Like so many artists before him, Fletcher Hanks died alone. His frozen body was found on a park bench in New York City.

Original text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

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