A few years ago I found this illustration in a 1954 issue of Saga magazine. It's by an artist named Ray Houlihan...
... and I was quite taken by his style.
I hoped I'd be able to find more of Houlihan's artwork, although I hadn't come across it in any of the mainstream magazines, like Collier's or the Post, of which I'd already amassed a substantial number of issues.
Happily, not long after that, I acquired a small stack of Bluebook magazines from the early '50s. I was delighted to discover that Houlihan had illustrated stories in a couple of the issues I'd purchased.
The distinctive look of his pen and ink technique really made an impression on me.
Here's a spread by Houlihan from this September 1951 Bluebook story.
Notice how effectively he alternates light, shadow, light, shadow across this composition. Impressive. The limitations of printing on Bluebook's cheap pulp paper doesn't diminish anything in Houlihan's illustration. In fact, the combination of that course paper and Houlihan's rough-edged pen technique seem to be made for each other.
Another Bluebook story illustrated by Houlihan, this one from 1953.
Much like the Saga illustration at the top of this post, here it appears that Houlihan used a scratchboard overlay sheet to add texture and detail on the single colour plate.
At that time, I managed to find just one more set of story illustrations by Ray Houlihan in the March 1953 issue of Bluebook.
Aside from this handful of illustrations from some men's adventure magazines, from a brief period in the early '50s, I could locate no other examples of - or any biographical information about - Ray Houlihan.
It was as though he'd appeared only briefly and in just one place...
... then slipped quietly away into the ether, never to be heard from again.
The Internet was a very different place back then, with far fewer resources than are available today, just six or seven years later. Recently I dug out the back-up CD on which I'd saved these scans of Ray Houlihan's art and did a little looking, both online and in my now even larger collection of old magazines.
I'm happy to report that I now have quite a bit of information about and 'new' artwork by Ray Houlihan. The entire picture is still incomplete...
... but what I've managed to find I'll share with you this week.