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Anderson, Allen

Entry updated 26 June 2023. Tagged: Artist.

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Working name of American artist Allen Gustav Anderson (1908-1995), sometimes credited as Fred Anderson or Anderson. Taking a correspondence course in commercial art with the Minneapolis-based Federal Schools, Inc (aka the Federal School of Applied Cartooning), he received his diploma in 1928 and worked for Fawcett Publications in Minneapolis as an artist 1929-1939, befriending fellow artist and early influence Norman Saunders. In 1940 Anderson went to New York, working for several Pulp magazine publishers. He joined the Navy when the US entered World War Two, where he taught sign painting. On leaving the Navy he returned to the pulp magazines, but also did work for Comic book companies – mainly Ziff-Davis. Following his second marriage in 1953 Anderson left the magazine and comic industry to become a professional sign painter and start an ad agency.

Anderson specialized in cover art; he does not appear to have produced any interior art for sf magazines, nor any strips for comics – though it should be borne in mind that the creators of many magazine illustrations and, in particular, comic strips have never been identified.

In terms of sf and related genre work, Anderson's periods of productivity were 1940-1942 and 1947-1953 (pulp magazines) and 1951-1952 (comics). He provided the cover art for the Winter 1942 issue of Planet Stories and all but one or two of that magazine's covers between Spring 1947 and May 1953, 30-31 issues in all: the definite exception is September 1952, by Herman Vestal; the Fall 1950 issue is uncredited in ISFDB [see links below], but is very much in Anderson's style. He also did the covers for the first 7 issues of Planet Stories' 1950s companion magazine Two Complete Science-Adventure Books, plus 2 issues of Spicy Mystery Stories (early 1940s) and the sole issue of Stories of Sheena – Queen of the Jungle (1951) (see Sheena, Queen of the Jungle). Of his covers for non-Fantastika magazines, at least one is sf-related: the Winter 1952 issue of Detective Book Magazine, which featured A E van Vogt's novelette The House That Stood Still.

Anderson's sf and related comic art involved covers for Alice #10 and #11 (1952), which concerned the Lewis Carroll character; Amazing Adventures #2, #4 and #5 (1950-1952); Crusader from Mars (1952) #1; Eerie Adventures #1 (1951), a horror comic; Lars of Mars #10 and #11 (1951); Nightmare #1 (1952), another horror comic; Space Busters #2 (1952) and Weird Thrillers #2 and #3 (1951-1952), yet another horror comic.

Anderson's artwork was visually stunning, clean, dynamic and thrilling, and usually centred on glamorous women. In the early 1940s, when he was mainly working for crime magazines, these tended to be damsels in distress (see Clichés); for his one sf cover for that era, Winter 1942 Planet Stories, that woman is part of a crowd sensibly fleeing Nelson S Bond's nude "Colossus of Chaos", whose left foot is crushing a City and whose modesty is protected by a passing cloud (see Taboos). Anderson's covers after World War Two often featured more spirited female protagonists (or antagonists) (see Women in SF): his first post-war cover for Planet Stories was the Winter 1947 issue, illustrating Erik Fennel's "Black Priestess of Varda", where an accessorized cat-o-nine-tails-wielding brunette with a blue marmoset on her shoulder lays into a gun-wielding, carbuncled Alien; in the next (Spring 1947) a red-head is gleefully firing a gas gun at her attackers (Gardner F Fox's "Sword of the Seven Suns") – in both the heroic males are relegated to the background. Anderson's covers for the rest of the decade – though still memorable – often showed women in more vulnerable poses; even so, whilst the Summer 1947 issue features a sword-waving villain looming over the heroine, she is determinedly ripping a doubtless plot-significant amulet from his neck (Fox's "Vassals of the Lode-Star"). From 1950, most of his Planet Stories covers either have a woman holding centre stage or sharing it on equal footing with the hero: standouts include the March 1951 issue – arguably his best – where a redhead in body-fitting black armour is athletically swinging an axe at a mass of tentacles (Leigh Brackett's "Black Amazon of Mars"); September 1951 with a 70 foot blue skinned giantess cold-bloodedly examining a human male (Theodore Sturgeon's "The Incubi of Parallel X"), and May 1952 where a blonde, ray-gun in her holster and a knife strapped to her arm, blows an elaborate horn to rally her alien troops (Poul Anderson's "War-Maid of Mars").

Anderson's covers for Two Complete Science-Adventure Books were split by a diagonal line, the image on each side illustrating one of the two stories: despite the more limited space most of these were impressive. His comic covers were more traditional, but entertaining – however Amazing Adventures #4, titled "Invasion of the Love Robots Adonis 2-PX-89" is one of his best (though the two Alice covers are disappointing). Many of Anderson's non-Fantastika covers are also excellent; he was in the top tier of cover artists.

Allen Anderson was not related to Murphy Anderson (1926-2015) who did interior artwork in the 1940s and 1950s for Planet Stories and other sf magazines, as well as working on comic strips – mainly for DC, but including some Ziff-Davis titles where Allen provided the covers. [SP]

Allen Gustav Anderson

born Minneapolis, Minnesota: 31 January 1908

died 23 October 1995


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