Norman Saunders  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Norman Blaine Saunders (January 1 1907March 7 1989) was a prolific commercial artist who produced paintings for pulp magazines, paperbacks, men's adventure magazines, comic books, and trading cards. On occasion, he signed his work with his middle name, Blaine.

Saunders was born in Minot, North Dakota. His earliest training in his eventual profession was though a mail-order art course. Saunders' career was launched when he started contributing to Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, and that led to a job at Fawcett Publications, where he was employed from 1928–1934. He once explained the curious events that led up to his arrival at Fawcett's offices in Robbinsdale, Minnesota:

I was hitchhiking, got into this Model-T Ford with a big trunk strapped up and these two guys in front. One of them had a gun, a rifle. He said, "Keep your eye peeled on the back, kid, see if there are any police or motorcycle cops or something." What the hell was this? These two guys had robbed somebody, or tried to, out in North Dakota, and they had stolen this car from some farmer and were trying to get away. As we got to the outskirts of Bemidji, I was getting awful nervous. There at the town they saw a sand pit with a big hole dug out of it, and they took this car over and got out and pushed it in. They went that way, and I went this way. That night I caught a freight train to Minneapolis. I took a streetcar ride to the end of the line, and there was a two-story bank there and a big sign: "Robbinsdale, the home of Fawcett Publications." I said, "By gosh and by gracious, we got us a real true publisher here!" There was where they were printing Captain Billy's Whiz Bang.

He left Fawcett to become a freelance pulp artist, moved to New York and studied under Harvey Dunn at the Grand Central School of Art. He painted for all the major publishers and was known for his fast-action scenes, his beautiful women and his ability to meet a deadline. He worked in almost any genre—Westerns, weird menace, detective, sports, and the saucys (sometimes signed as "Blaine"). He was able to paint very quickly, producing one hundred paintings a year—two a week from 1935 through 1942.

In 1958, Saunders obtained his first assignment from the Topps company, painting over photographs of baseball players who had been traded, so that they would appear to be wearing the jersey of their new team. Topps soon employed Saunders to create artwork for many other cards. He was hired to paint scenes for one of the most successful of all non-sports card sets: Mars Attacks in 1962. Letters of protest poured in from parents, prompting Topps to issue the cards under a different company name. His Wacky Packages cards were even more commercially successful. He also produced a number of less well known trading-card series, including: Ugly Stickers, Nutty Initials, Your Own Name and Civil War News.

His daughter, Zina Saunders, is also a prolific and successful illustrator for magazines, books, and trading cards.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Norman Saunders" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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