February is Black History Month and I thought it would be an appropriate time to shed a little light another African-American comic book pioneer. Last year, I did a piece on Matt Baker, the best known African-American comic book artist of the Silver Age. After Baker, Alvin (A.C.) Hollingsworth may be the second most significant comic book creator of the Golden Age. Here’s a brief look at the man and his body of work.
Born in 1928, Hollingsworth got a very early start in the comics field, reportedly working as an assistant on Holyoke’s Catman Comics at the age of twelve (the earliest full credit I could find was 1945 – which would make him 16 or 17). He attended NYC’s High School of Music and Art with none other than Joe Kubert, and received a degree in Fine Arts from Cit College of New York. He would leave the comic book industry in the 50s and went on to a very successfully career in fine art. As part of the Spiral Group in the 60s, Hollingsworth’s work focused on topics such the Civil Rights movement, women's struggles and urban life. He also hosted You’re Part of Art, a ten-part series for NBC. He also produced the well loved murals on the Don Quixote apartment building in the Bronx. Patrons of the Guggeinheim Museum may be family with the children’s book I’d Like the Goo-Gen-Heim, written and illustrated by Hollingsworth in 1970. It was out of print for years, but has recently be republished and is available through the museum.
Hollingsworth worked for a variety of publishers in numerous genres. The splash page above is from Captain Aero Comics #23 (August, 1945). Still a high school student when this book was published, you can see that it has the crudeness that was widespread throughout Golden Age comics of the period. Over the next few years, Hollingsworth would provide work on a fairly regular basis to both Fiction House and Fox, mainly in the war and jungle genres.
By 1948, he was working off and on with the Simon and Kirby studio, contributing to titles such as Justice Traps the Guilty and Headline Comics. The page I’ve included is taken from Headline Comics #30 (June-July, 1948). Now a 20 year old, Hollingsworth style is looking much more mature, and the influence of the likes of Simon & Kirby, as well as Mort Meskin is apparent.
By the early 50s, Hollingsworth was working very steadily in the horror genre; provide stories for publishers such as Avon, Key, Trojan and even Comic Media. His work is dynamic and his work is a clear step above that of most of his peers, particularly in his pacing and storytelling. I’ve been lucky enough to read several of his stories from the pre-Code era and I find them to be very enjoyable. The splash page above is frrm the Avon one-shot City of the Living Dead (1952), and the piece at the very top is from Dark Mysteries #9 (October-November, 1952).
Like many creators during the first two decades of comic books, Hollingsworth went on to pursue other interest, eventually becoming a full professor at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York. He passed away in 2000, leaving behind an impressive body of work and was most certainly an inspiration for generations of New York City artists. He remains a footnote in comic book history, but hopefully these samples of his work (like the cover to Beware #8 from 1954) serve as proof that he was a talented comic book artist worthy of wider audience.
For more comic book talk (and a sample of full Hollingsworth horror story), please stop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent