The first problem anyone investigating the work of the American illustrator Charles Wesley Copeland (1924-1979) runs into is another American illustrator named Charles Copeland. Charles George Copeland (1858-1945) was a well-known name in illustration for many years, and his work is readily available today on the internet and in many art publications. Books from the turn of the 20th century featuring his illustrations are usually available on eBay. When you type "Charles Copeland illustrator" into Google, Charles George Copeland is the one that pops up. At first I wondered if Charles Wesley Copeland was the son or grandson of Charles George Copeland, but I learned they were not related. At least one of the artist websites online confuses the two Charles Copelands. They have a listing for Charles George Copeland, correctly noting his death in 1945, and showing a sample of his work. Then they add some of the 1960s men's adventure magazine illustrations credited to Charles Copeland, as if the former Copeland was somehow able to reach out from the grave and create new art throughout the next two decades, including Korean War scenes and 1962 automobiles.
An online search for paperback covers brings up the excellent Ace Image Library site noted on the Copeland paperback checklist here under Ace Books. In addition to that wonderful FESTIVAL OF DARKNESS original art, they also have an Ace book called THE ANGRY ONES (Ace D420) credited to Copeland. I know that Dr. Michael Smith, the University of North Carolina Wilmington scholar who maintains that site, does not just randomly speculate about credits. Somehow the story had been spread over the years that THE ANGRY ONES was a Copeland cover.
But in my opinion this cover art does not look like a Copeland. To be safe I showed THE ANGRY ONES to my expert witness, Copeland's sister Evelyn Roberts. She said it was definitely not her brother's work.
It looked to me like the work of a different artist I admired, a name I did not know at that time. I just thought of him as "the guy who did the Avons by Chester Himes." All four of the classic Avon T's by Himes appear to be the work of the same artist. Fortuitously, I have a friend who knew that name. I visited Art Scott, co-author of THE PAPERBACK COVERS OF ROBERT MCGINNIS and paperback bibliographer extraordinaire. Art showed me a Pyramid that looked like the same artist. Bless the wonderful staff at Pyramid, they often credited cover artists on the back cover. The Pyramid was credited to George Ziel, and Art and I began to notice other paperbacks, familiar Aces and Avons and other Pyramids and more, that all looked like Ziel. I started to notice wonderful paperback cover reproductions on various websites that invariably said something like "I don't know who the artist is, but I sure love this cover art." And so we decided to create the first GEORGE ZIEL CHECKLIST, which will be my next catalog.
Ace D420, cover by George Ziel
One of the Ace covers we agreed was George Ziel was OUT FOR KICKS (Ace D378) by Wilene Shaw. For years, the Pulpcards postcard reproduction of this cover credited the artist as Charles Copeland. I asked Jeff Luther at Pulpcards who his source was for that information and he replied "R.C. Holland." (If you visit Pulpcards fine website today you will find OUT FOR KICKS now credited to the correct artist.)
Before they retired, R.C. & Elwanda Holland edited a groundbreaking paperback fanzine called BOOKS ARE EVERYTHING. I am proud to have been a contributor. They distributed a huge amount of true information, but in issue #23, in the letters to the editor column, a reader wrote in and noted the similarities between two Avon covers, THE WILD ONE (Avon T194) and THE CRAZY KILL (Avon T357). He called it a "swipe job". Holland replied:
"...it's not a swipe at all but another great GGA cover by Charles Copeland, who was working for Avon during this time period. Granted, they have the same looks and pose, but Copeland did this with a lot of his paintings."
Everybody makes mistakes, especially editors and fanzine writers and booksellers. The Lord knows I've made more than my fair share. (For example, I'm the bonehead behind the misconception that Russell Trainer was a pseudonym. I was told some misinformation and ran with it instead of fact checking. Russell Trainer was a real person, the publisher of Cameo Books and Aware Press, and the author of countless paperback originals. His biography is now available on wikipedia.) I think my old buddy R.C. was mistaken about Copeland, who never worked for Avon Books. I suspect he combined two different artists into one in his mind, and once that was set he identified all George Ziel covers as Copelands, including THE ANGRY ONES and OUT FOR KICKS and THE WILD ONE and THE CRAZY KILL, all four of which you will see on our George Ziel checklist (coming soon).
While we are on the subject, during the course of preparing this checklist I interviewed Samson Pollen, who painted hundreds of marvelous men's adventure magazine illustrations during the same period Charles Copeland did them. Mr. Pollen was kind enough to answer all my questions and provide background for my research. I showed him THE GIRL FROM HATEVILLE by Gil Brewer (Zenith ZB-7), which R.C. Holland attributed to Rudy Nappi. Samson Pollen informed me THE GIRL FROM HATEVILLE was one of his own paperback covers.