Eugene "Gene" Bilbrew (June 29, 1923 – May 1974) was an African-American cartoonist and fetish artist and was among the most prolific illustrators of fetish oriented pulp fiction book covers. In addition to signing his work with his own name, he produced art under a range of pseudonyms, including ENEG ("Gene" spelled backwards), Van Rod, and Bondy.
June 29, 1923
|Died||May 1974 (aged 50)|
|Pseudonym(s)||ENEG, Van Rod, Bondy|
|The Bronze Bomber|
He began his career at the Los Angeles Sentinel, an African-American newspaper, where he illustrated the comic strip series The Bronze Bomber that he coauthored with Bill Alexander. The Bronze Bomber was the first black superhero. He also wrote the series Hercules in Health Magazine. Throughout his life, he took freelance assignments within the African American community, later producing modernized cover art for Victorian-era lottery numbers books such as the Gypsy Witch Dream Book and Old Aunt Dinah's Dream Book for the Wholesale Sales Corp.
Around 1951 Bilbrew became an assistant to the hugely influential comics artist Will Eisner, on The Spirit, where Bilbrew took over the back-up series Clifford—a little-kid humour page—after its originator Jules Feiffer was drafted into the army. Bilbrew's Clifford was syndicated as a weekly comic strip by General Features from 1951 to 1952.
Bilbrew's notability began in the early 1950s, when through the suggestion of Eric Stanton, he enlisted as a fetish artist to produce work for Irving Klaw. He also produced many illustrations for Leonard Burtman, publisher of Exotique, a fetish magazine between 1955 and 1959.
While his career waned with the coming of relaxed censorship laws of the 1960s, his substance abuse worsened in the early 1970s. According to Eric Stanton, Gene Bilbrew died of an overdose in the back of a Times Square adult bookstore in May, 1974.
- Social Security Death Index, SS# 565-24-5141.
- Daley, Brittany A., Hedi El Kholti, Earl Kemp, Miriam Linna, and Adam Parafrey (eds). Sin-A-Rama; Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House, 2005. Print.
- Hyperallergic Daily magazine article, "A Long-Lost Artist of the 1950s Sexual Underground" by Jim Linderman, 5 January 2015 at hyperallergic.com Jan 6, 2015
- Bilbrew bio at WristRope.com.
- Bilbrew entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books: 1928–1999. Accessed Oct, 25, 2018.
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