At a Halloween party, a teenager in a stiff Frankenstein mask steals a kiss.
The artist, Al Parker (1906-1985), was a giant among American illustrators. Beginning in the late Thirties and on through four decades, Parker’s sharp, sophisticated art proved wildly popular and massively influential. In the Forties, his covers for The Ladies’ Home Journal shaped popular fashion trends in America and his sparse, modernistic style was so highly praised and widely imitated that he became known as The Dean of Illustrators.
Ever experimenting, staying ahead of the curve he himself had drawn — the so-called “Parker School of Illustration” — the artist amazed his fans and constantly challenged his peers. Famously, in an act of sheer virtuosity, using pseudonyms and working in five different styles, Parker illustrated every story (including Ray Bradbury’s The Swan) in the September 1953 issue of Cosmopolitan. Even Norman Rockwell wrote him a fan letter, stating, “While the rest of us are working knee-deep in a groove, you are forever changing and improving.”
The Halloween cover for the November 1, 1959 issue of the American Weekly newspaper supplement is a superb example of Parker’s urbane wit and typically dynamic composition. The subjects are cheated off center. The girl leans diagonally across the page, her gaze and the costume’s sweptback rabbit’s ears pointing to the large negative space at left. The girl’s costume and the boy’s blazer are also abstract shapes, fields of flat color, with the bold orange pumpkin anchoring the composition, its color picked up in a napkin, the pie, coat buttons and tie, and the teenage monster’s eye.
An interior illustration is a black and white variation of the cover, using the same elements, with the boy revealing his face. The over-the-head Frankenstein mask and monster hand gloves were items widely available in novelty shops or in the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
The illustration’s theme and the issue’s 1959 date make this an important cover, an early acknowledgement by mainstream publishers of the gathering Monster Boom ignited by the Universal Monsters revival on late-night TV. Monster magazines were just getting underway and, soon, trading cards, Aurora kits and countless monster toys would saturate the marketplace.
Al Parker’s fabulous illustration signaled that Monster Kids had arrived.
Al Parker on Lines and Colors.
American Weekly illustration found on The Percy Trout Hour.