Ellene Politis, 1947 (Norman Saunders's wife and model)
Norm Saunders' career was launched when his contributions to Captain Billy's Whiz Bang resulted in a job with Fawcett Publications, where he was employed from 1928 to 1934. He explained in 1983 the events that led 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.
During World War II, Saunders served with the Military Police overseeing German prisoners. Transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers, he supervised the construction of a gas pipeline following the Burma Road. During his off hours, he did watercolors of Burmese temples.
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 from parents prompted 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 an illustrator for magazines, books and trading cards.
Saunders original painting "The Ones" for the May 1951 issue of the science fiction pulp magazine Marvel Science Stories, sold at auction for $50,788 in August 2010.
Norman Saunders by David Saunders
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: The Illustrated Press, Inc.; First Edition edition (January 20, 2009)
Amazon: Norman Saunders
This spectacular new 368-page hardcover monograph is the catalog raisonne of the extensive career of the legendary artist Norman Saunders. From his work as one of the top pulp illustrators, to his paintings for men's adventure magazines, paperbacks, comics, Mars Attacks, Wacky Packages, and more, this book provides a thorough overview of his life's work. Illustrated in full-color with hundreds of images culled from Saunder's extensive archives.
David Saunders is the son of Norman Saunders, and a noted fine artist showing with the Fischbach Gallery in New York. He is an authority on the art of the pulp magazines, and has contributed numerous articles on this subject to Illustration magazine. Some of these articles have featured the artists Norman Saunders, Rafael DeSoto, John W. Scott, Allen Anderson, Frederick Blakeslee, and Gloria Stoll. David Saunders lives in Long Island, NY.
Mars Attacks Cards