Remember this picture (above)? I put it up a week ago to illustrate the point that Wally Wood certainly loved his Ikea furniture. I kinda like it too. Thanks to Ikea, anybody can have a 50s bachelor pad at a reasonable price.
Anyway, I thought the picture above deserved a second look. It reminds me that the young and struggling Wood was probably pretty dependant on his magazine reference. Before he worked on Mad, Wood shared an office with realistic artists Frazetta and Williamson, and was under a lot of pressure to improve his realistic drawing quickly.
For interior backgrounds Wood seemed to prefer reference that that emphasized perspective and the blocky nature of furniture. My guess is that he chose these because he was insecure about his use of perspective and found the clarity and simplicity of these mathematical pictures to be helpful.
I like to think that somewhere along the line it dawned on him that the simple perspectives he was using were funny. Maybe he began to laugh at his own pictures. Maybe after a point he decided that competing with Williamson and Frazetta for realism was pointless, and he broke out into pure style.
You could argue that his handling of human characters evolved the same way. At first Wood relied heavily on magazine reference. The girl above strikes a fashion magazine pose when she points her gun. Look at her legs and feet. That's an odd way to stand when you're supposed to be in the throws of murderous passion.
Eventually Wood would transcend this too obvious use of reference, but a lot of people believe he did uniquely interesting work in this period, when he had a foot in both worlds, and was making a transition to something more stylized. The reference anchored him, made his work more complex. The space patrol girl is funny in her model pose, but she's also dignified, confident, and iconic. Her contradictions make her a puzzle that we enjoy trying to solve. And it all takes place in a bizarre bachelor pad full of obsessively blocky shapes.