June 29, 1923
|Died||May 1974 (aged 50)
|Pseudonym(s)||ENEG, Van Rod, Bondy|
|The Bronze Bomber|
Eugene "Gene" Bilbrew (June 29, 1923 – May 1974) was an African-American cartoonist and fetish artist and was among the most prolific illustrators of sexually oriented pulp fiction book covers. In addition to signing his work with his own name, he drew under a range of pseudonyms, including ENEG ("Gene" spelled backwards), Van Rod, and Bondy.
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, for instance 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 1950 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 later notability came when he became a fetish artist at Irving Klaw's Movie Star News/Nutrix company. He also had many illustrations published in Exotique, a fetish magazine between 1956 and 1959.
When his career waned with the coming of relaxed censorship laws in the 1960s, he increased his use of heroin. At the age of 50 Gene Bilbrew died of an overdose and was found in the back of a mob-owned 42nd Street 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.
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