Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Carl Kidwell (1910-2003)

Illustrator, Author, Teacher
Born August 8, 1910, Washington, Indiana
Died July 2, 2003, New York, New York

Carl Edmund Kidwell was born on August 8, 1910, in the southwestern Indiana town of Washington. As a child he suffered from a prolonged illness, which forced an end to his formal education at the grade school level. He held a variety of jobs as a young man, including being a painter for the B & O Railroad. During the war years, Kidwell served as a radioman aboard the USS Indianapolis, USS Quincy, PC 608 (a patrol craft), and PC 1238 (a submarine chaser). Three of those four craft were lost, two by enemy action. Kidwell's brother, Logan Kidwell, also served on the USS Quincy. Unlike Carl, Logan Kidwell didn't come home.

Carl Kidwell's art career evidently started with the U.S. Navy. Sometime during the war, he was transferred to the staff of The Chaser, the magazine of the Submarine Chaser Training Center in Miami, Florida, where he worked as a designer and illustrator. His illustrations also appeared in the magazine Our Navy. I don't know when Kidwell was stationed at the center, but I wonder if he would have crossed paths with Lieutenant Lafayette R. Hubbard, USN, who went through training there between November 1942 and January 1943. A science fiction author from before the war, Hubbard--better known as L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986)--went on to invent Dianetics and to found the Church of Scientology.

After the war, Carl Kidwell went to New York and began a career as a freelance illustrator, author, and teacher. The earliest credit I have found for him is work for Blue Book in May 1946. In the field of fantasy and science fiction, Kidwell illustrated "Music from Down Under" by Joe Kennedy for Other Worlds Science Stories (Oct. 1951) and "The Seamstress" by E. Everett Evans for Weird Tales (Jan. 1952). During the 1950s and '60s, he created illustrations for juvenile mystery, adventure, and historical books, including three of his own, Arrow in the Sun (1961), The Angry Earth (1964), and Granada, Surrender! (1968). Kidwell returned to fantasy in the mid-1960s with covers for the digest-sized Magazine of Horror and Startling Mystery Stories.

The last credit I have found for Carl Kidwell is illustration for Smugglers' Island by Martha C. King (1970). After a long life and career, he passed away on July 2, 2003, in New York City and was buried in his hometown, just a few blocks away from his boyhood home.

Carl Kidwell's Illustration in Weird Tales
"The Seamstress" by E. Everett Evans (Jan. 1952)

Further Reading
Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1916-1966 (Vol. II in the series) includes a brief entry on Carl Kidwell.

The Chaser, the magazine of the Submarine Chaser Training Center in Miami, Florida, in print during the war years. Carl Kidwell was not the cover artist here, for the art is signed "LLO" in the lower left. However, Kidwell may very well have gotten his start as an illustrator while on the staff of The Chaser.
After the war, Kidwell went to New York (just like hundreds of other artists and writers) in hopes of landing a job in the nation's publishing capital. Kidwell illustrated a number of juvenile novels over the next two decades and wrote three of his own. Here's the cover of Granada, Surrender! from 1968.
After Weird Tales gave up the ghost in 1954, publisher after publisher tried reviving it in either form or spirit. Robert A.W. Lowndes (1916-1998) made a couple of efforts during the 1960s, first with Magazine of Horror, which ran for 36 issues between 1963 and 1971. Carl Kidwell provided cover illustrations for two issues. This one is for "The Torture of Hope" by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam in the issue for August 1965.
Lowndes' next effort was Startling Mystery Stories, 18 issues of which appeared between Summer 1966 and March 1971.  Here's another Kidwell cover, this one for Fall 1966.
Kidwell's created this cover for Magazine of Horror, November 1965, illustrating "The Devil's Pool" by Greye la Spina, author of several stories published in Weird Tales, including . . . 
"The Devil's Pool" from the June 1932 issue with cover art by J. Allen St. John. Thirty-three years later, Carl Kidwell drew on the same scene for his cover illustration. You can decide for yourself which is the better drawing.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Rock on Carl - our great uncle. Thanks for the research.

  2. Glancing at some of my belongings, I came across "The Chaser". I thought the artwork was interesting, so I looked up the artist, Carl Kidwell. Sure enough, I typed in his name & I found him to have been quite well known. I have 3 of "The Chaser" mags where he IS the cover artist, with each one being signed by him. One is from March 1945 and the other two are from April 1945. I will be listing them on ebay. I have had them listed before and it's very possible the one shown here is one from my collection. You can find these listed if you go to Advanced Search and search for my store or by my seller ID: shareurpassion or ShareUrPassion Thanks for your article, it was a great read. Susan