“Alex Schomburg was totally unique.” says comic book legend and former president of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee.
“I remember hearing Timely Comics publisher Martin Goodman tell me time and again how great a cover illustrator Alex was, and how he wished we had more like him. He was the only artist I knew able to combine strong, dramatic layouts, and exciting superhero action with a simplistic, almost cartoony style of execution. One could never be sure if Alex was an illustrator who approached his work like a cartoonist, or a cartoonist who chose to render his artwork like an illustrator.”
And there you have the essence of legendary pulp and comic book artist Alex Schomburg. He was a pulp cover artists as well as an interior illustrator and he was also a talented comic book artist. His art style was smooth, owing to his use of the airbrush, and was easily adaptable to the needs of the comic book format as it existed back in the late 1930’s right up until 1950.
Antonio Alejandro “Alex” Schomburg was born May 10, 1905 in Puerto Rico. His parents had seven children, one daughter and six sons, of which was the youngest. (The fourth-born son, August Schomburg, also became a pulp artist.)
The Schomburg family were rather prosperous. They lived in an upper class coastal neighborhood in San Juan. They spoke English fluently. The family also had a second home in Aguadilla, where another pulp artist, Rafael M. DeSoto, was born in 1904. The two artists knew each other as children and remained in contact throughout their remarkably parallel lives.
Schomburg moved to New York City in the early 1920s, where he began work as a commercial artist with three of his brothers. In 1928, the brothers’ partnership ended and Schomburg found work with the National Screen Service, creating lantern slides and working on movie trailers there through 1944.
During the 1930s, in addition to working for the NSS, Schomburg freelanced Better Publications, producing interior line art for Thrilling Wonder Stories and others of the company’s pulp magazines. His skill at drawing anything mechanical soon had him illustrating aviation covers for Flying Aces and electronic equipment for the Hugo Gernsback pulp Radio Craft. Schomburg’s first science fiction-themed cover was for the September 1939 issue of Startling Stories.
The following decade, Schomburg freelanced primarily for Timely Comics, the 1940s forerunner of Marvel, displaying his talent for slam-bang action tableau. In dynamic covers featuring Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, other Timely superheroes or any combination thereof, Schomburg filled every square inch with flamboyant characters, flames, knives, guns, explosions, Nazis, Japanese, and pretty girls in need of rescue. He mastered the use of the airbrush, signing many of his airbrushed covers “Xela”. Schomburg drew between five and six hundred covers during this Golden Age of Comic Books.
In the early 1950s, Schomburg left comics and spent the remainder of his career on covers and illustrations for: science fiction magazines; astrology publications; and books, including the Winston juvenile series.
Throughout his career Schomburg received numerous accolades and awards including being nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 1962. He won the Frank R. Paul Award in 1984 and the Inkpot Award in 1985. He won a Chesley Award (A.S.F.A. Award for Artistic Achievement) in 1986 and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Kansas City Comic Con in the Fall of 1989.
Schomburg died in Beaverton, Oregon on April 7, 1998