Artist, Illustrator, Comic Book Artist
Born 1902, Norway
Died January 4, 1976, Carpentersville, Illinois
Too often, artists are given short shrift. Andrew A. Bensen is no exception. He worked as an artist for half a century and 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) Bensen, 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 published credit: In 1960, Bruce Publishing of Milwaukee issued a book called My Jesus written by Father Gerald T. Brennan and illustrated by Andrew Bensen. I have further information, too, that Bensen lived and taught art in Carpentersville, Illinois, during the 1960s and '70s. (His addresses were 228 North Western Avenue, 220 North Western Avenue, and Route 31, Carpentersville. He lived in that village, located northwest of Chicago, for twenty-eight years in all.) Bensen was still teaching as late as July 1975. He died at home in Carpentersville on January 4, 1976, and was survived by his wife, Phyllis (Barry) Dianant Bensen; a stepdaughter, Joyce Dianant; and his younger brother Fred. (3)
(1) Coincidentally or not, the cover stories for both issues were by Arthur J. Burks. Burks' story for Weird Tales was set in the West, thus all of the artwork 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)
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. Update (Dec. 7, 2018): See Bensen's obituary in the Cardunal Free Press, Carpentersville, Illinois, January 8, 1976, page 6.
|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, and December 5, 2018.
Text and captions copyright 2012, 2018 Terence E. Hanley