Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Born in Manhattan on 24 April 1912, the son of Gus Wunder (a florist) and his wife May, George S. Wunder grew up in Kingston, New York. His interest in comics was sparked early and he took correspondence courses – including the International Correspondence School art class – in order to become a professional artist. At the age of 24 he found work at the Associated Press, where he worked alongside famed illustrator Noel Sickles and sports cartoonist Tom Paprocki.
His earliest cartoons appeared in editorial features and strips such as 'Can Hitler Beat the Russian Jinx?' whilst at Associated. He enlisted in the US Army in March 1943 and was released in February 1946 with the rank of Sergeant. Returning to A.P., he drew the factual strip 'See For Yourself' in 1946.
In 1946, Caniff left 'Terry and the Pirates' and – according to Caniff – a hundred artists applied for the job of replacing him. Wunder's submissions were approved by the Tribune-News Syndicate and his first strip appeared on 30 December 1946. Wunder, although recognised as a skilled artist in his own rights, could never replace a unique talent like Caniff and his artwork. His artwork was highly detailed, but some critics consider his characters to all look essentially the same and complain that the stories lacked Caniff's humour.
Wunder drew both the daily and Sunday editions of the strip and was assisted at various times by George Evans, Lee Elias, Russ Heath, Fred Kida, Don Sherwood, Frank Springer and Wally Wood. When Wunder took over the strip, Terry had joined the US Air Force and there he remained throughout the next two and a half decades despite military-themed strips falling in popularity during the Vietnam War. 'Terry and the Pirates' was still carried by around 100 newspapers when, in 1973, Wunder announced his retirement. At the time, Wunder commented: "It's a strip I've enjoyed doing, but on the other hand, it has been, oh, a chore. The sheer mechanics of producing that much work week in and week out ties you down."
With Wunder's departure, the strip came to an end, the last panels appearing on 25 February 1973, Wunder admitting that "the fighter pilot is no longer the glamorous, reckless defender of the free world against all comers. He's now the cold-blooded professional dropping napalm on women and children." His work promoting the Air Force was recognised by the Air Force itself, who awarded the cartoonist their Exceptional Service Award in 1963. Wunder, a member of the Illustrators Club and the National Cartoonists Society, was awarded the latter's Silver T-Square Award in 1970.
In the 1950s, Wunder drew a number of promotional comics featuring Terry for Canada Dry. In the 1970s he wrote and illustrated a number of books on American military history.
Wunder was married to Mildred (nee Smith) and lived in Sherman, Connecticut. He died on 13 December 1987 at New Milford Hospital following a heart attack. aged 75, survived by Mildred and his younger sister, Beatrice Bogert.
Examples of George Wunder's artwork can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.