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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: Spotlight on Alvin (A.C.) Hollingsworth

February is Black History Month and I thought it would be an appropriate time to shed a little light another African-American comic book pioneer. Last year, I did a piece on Matt Baker, the best known African-American comic book artist of the Silver Age. After Baker, Alvin (A.C.) Hollingsworth may be the second most significant comic book creator of the Golden Age. Here’s a brief look at the man and his body of work.

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Born in 1928, Hollingsworth got a very early start in the comics field, reportedly working as an assistant on Holyoke’s Catman Comics at the age of twelve (the earliest full credit I could find was 1945 – which would make him 16 or 17). He attended NYC’s High School of Music and Art with none other than Joe Kubert, and received a degree in Fine Arts from Cit College of New York. He would leave the comic book industry in the 50s and went on to a very successfully career in fine art. As part of the Spiral Group in the 60s, Hollingsworth’s work focused on topics such the Civil Rights movement, women’s struggles and urban life. He also hosted You’re Part of Art, a ten-part series for NBC. He also produced the well loved murals on the Don Quixote apartment building in the Bronx. Patrons of the Guggeinheim Museum may be family with the children’s book I’d Like the Goo-Gen-Heim, written and illustrated by Hollingsworth in 1970. It was out of print for years, but has recently be republished and is available through the museum.

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Hollingsworth worked for a variety of publishers in numerous genres. The splash page above is from Captain Aero Comics #23 (August, 1945). Still a high school student when this book was published, you can see that it has the crudeness that was widespread throughout Golden Age comics of the period. Over the next few years, Hollingsworth would provide work on a fairly regular basis to both Fiction House and Fox, mainly in the war and jungle genres.

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By 1948, he was working off and on with the Simon and Kirby studio, contributing to titles such as Justice Traps the Guilty and Headline Comics. The page I’ve included is taken from Headline Comics #30 (June-July, 1948). Now a 20 year old, Hollingsworth style is looking much more mature, and the influence of the likes of Simon & Kirby, as well as Mort Meskin is apparent.

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By the early 50s, Hollingsworth was working very steadily in the horror genre; provide stories for publishers such as Avon, Key, Trojan and even Comic Media. His work is dynamic and his work is a clear step above that of most of his peers, particularly in his pacing and storytelling. I’ve been lucky enough to read several of his stories from the pre-Code era and I find them to be very enjoyable. The splash page above is frrm the Avon one-shot City of the Living Dead (1952), and the piece at the very top is from Dark Mysteries #9 (October-November, 1952).

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Like many creators during the first two decades of comic books, Hollingsworth went on to pursue other interest, eventually becoming a full professor at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York. He passed away in 2000, leaving behind an impressive body of work and was most certainly an inspiration for generations of New York City artists. He remains a footnote in comic book history, but hopefully these samples of his work (like the cover to Beware #8 from 1954) serve as proof that he was a talented comic book artist worthy of wider audience.

For more comic book talk (and a sample of full Hollingsworth horror story), please stop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent

14 Comments

I’m really digging his work here; I don’t think I’d heard of him before.

Pistol-Packin’ Playgirl! That packs a whallop.

That Beware cover is superb. The clothing folds and the globs of the monster is very reminiscent of Meskin, and dare I say Alex Toth. The play of colours and the bold use of blacks has a very appealing (to me at least) geometric look… striking and expressive. Thanks for spotlighting an artist I was only very casually familiar with Scott!

I can see some Toth as well, b-d. I think the Meskin influence is pretty clear.

These samples run over a 9 year period, so you can really see his evolution as a comic book artist.

I have to say that I appreciate this Scott. As a black comic fan, I never heard of A.C. Hollingsworth and vaguely knew of Matt Baker. Nice to learn about some of my pioneers in the pursuit I love.

Thank you!

Nice article. I would’ve liked to see it accompanied with a photo of Hollingsworth, though; if you can find one. Can’t recall ever seeing a photo of Matt Baker either.

Daryll – I’m glad you enjoyed this piece.

Wilbur – I’ve never seen a photo, but I must admit that I did most of my digging around for art. I believe that he was fairly well known in ‘fine art’ circles, so there must be something out there. There is a photo of Matt Baker in the issue of Alter Ego dedicate to him – sorry, don’t have it handy but I think someone referenced it in the comments from last year’s piece on Baker.

Hi Scott –
Thanks for your excellent post about Al Hollingsworth! As you may know, Al was also one of the few (maybe the only) African American artists who provided cartoons to the vintage men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, which I write about on my blog, http://www.MensPulpMags.com. Al defnitely deserves more recognition. Best regards…
– SubtropicBob

jeannie hollingsworth

February 13, 2011 at 9:55 pm

This is Great! I love it ! A C Hollingsworth ia my grandfather an if u would like im sure i could provide u with a picture if ur interested feel free to contact my by email an/or facebook>

Alan Schlesinger

July 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm

In the late 1960’s I was a student at the High School of Art and Design.
I recall an art teacher named Mr. Hollingsworth. All of our art teachers back then came from the “field”.
Could someone tell me if A C Hollingsworth was a teacher at the High School of Art and Design?
Thanks

Miguel Blanco

July 13, 2011 at 3:07 am

Just saw a piece on KPBS here in San Diego. What a fine story and way overdue!

Mr. Hollingsworth was still teaching at A&D HS in the 70s but don’t really know if he is the same. Great show!!

[…] Some of his letters, sketchbooks, catalogs, photos and other papers from 1960 to 1970 are housed at the Smithsonian. Here’s a list of his exhibitions and bibliography, and some of his comic illustrations here and here. […]

Alvin Hollingsworth was my 9th grade home room teacher at ps45 in the Bronx in 1961, he was a great guy and he was a great inspiration to me I also knew his nephew Kent too, in 1995 I visited him at Hostos college, and we talked for a long time.

I have one of his oil paintings I stumbled on.

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