Three Success Lessons from Alex Schomburg

The Marvel(ous) Puerto Rican

All Winners Comics cover by Alex Schomburg

Antonio Alejandro “Alex” Schomburg Rosa was born on May 5th, 1905 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. He was the fourth son of Guillermo Schomburg and Francisca Rosa.

And before you ask, no, he was not related to that other famous Puerto Rican, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the father of negro history. Still, Schomburg might be a German last name but Alex was 100% Puerto Rican, a second-generation one, grandson of German immigrants.

He was an artist, cartoonist, and graphic illustrator.

In 1928 he drew pulp magazine covers. In the early 1930s he became one of the cover and interior artists for Timely Comics (now call Marvel Comics).

Jack Kirby and Stan Lee may have created Captain America, the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and other heroes, but it was Alex Schomburg who drew them.

I’ve always felt that Alex Schomburg was to comic books what Norman Rockwell was to The Saturday Evening Post. He was totally unique, with an amazing distinctive style. You could never mistake a Schomburg cover for any other artist’s. When it came to illustrating covers, there was simply no one else in Alex’s league. —Stan Lee on Alex Schomburg

He also drew the comic book covers of another favorite of mine, the Green Hornet. Lucky guy, to be there at the beginning of comic books and get to draw so many iconic characters.

Alex Schomburg

Alex Schomburg found a second career in the 1950s, mostly by necessity. Pulp magazines were dying and comic books popularity was down.

He was married with two children. Hence, unemployment was not an option.

Thus, he launched a second career as a science fiction cover illustrator for books and magazines. His work ethic and style translated into the new medium.

Schomburg created some of the most iconic covers in science fiction and fantasy.

Moreover, he was the kind of cover artist whose artwork told a story. Indeed, you wanted to open the pages and find out what happens. That is a skill itself that separates the best artists from the mediocre ones.

So, what can the Puerto Rican illustrator, a true example of the American Dream, teach us about success?

Lesson #1: Never Miss a Deadline

Alex Schomburg illustration

Stan Lee famously said Schomburg never missed a deadline. His work was always on time. In an industry where time is money, and with a quick turnaround (comics are published monthly), the cover art had to be on time by necessity.

We Puerto Ricans are infamous procrastinators. It is ingrained. Yet, Schomburg showed us the value of timely work.

magazine cover by Alex Schomburg

Besides, the 1920s and 1930s were the time of the Great Depression and World War II.

Being late meant not getting paid. Being constantly late meant coveted work assignments going to another artist.

Worse, editors won’t hire you.

If you wanted to make money in the comics industry, or the publishing industry, you could not afford to be constantly late.

If meeting your deadlines is a sign of professionalism, Alex Schomburg was a consummated professional.

Lesson: Success rewards those who demonstrate reliability and professionalism by always meeting their deadlines.

Lesson #2: Read First, Then Draw

Alex Schomburg illustration

I believe Schomburg was so successful and effective as an illustrator because he always read the story before drawing the art. And then, he made sure the cover reflected the story.

Likewise, in life, we need to do our research and gather facts before we act.

You can tell who is prepared and who is not; who did their homework and who did not. Preparation is a sign of professionalism. Professionals know what they are doing and their work reflects that.

No one would call a Schomburg cover generic. His book covers were more than art; they were tantalizing advertisements for the content inside those covers.

Lesson: Success comes to those who prepare themselves before they act. Be prepared. Read first.

Lesson #3: Be Prolific

Alex Schomburg illustration

There are many one-hit wonders out there. They struck gold once, maybe twice, never to be heard again. Yes, they were successful but it was fleeting.

Conversely, the truly successful keep putting out work after they hit it big. They keep producing after lots of rejections and failures.

They never stop because they are about the art, the work, the craft.

Art collectors believe Schomburg created over 500 comic book covers alone. Not to mention the pulp covers or his other magazine and novel illustrations. Astounding.

Alex Schomburg autograph

Success is not a numbers game. Nevertheless, successful people succeed because they try more times than most. And they don’t stop after hitting big.

Schomburg made a name for himself as a pulp artist, comic book artist, magazine illustrator, and science fiction cover artist because he was willing to be prolific.

Lesson: Don’t aim for a masterpiece. Instead, create a significant body of work people will remember you by.

Alex Schomburg Final Lesson

Alex Schomburg illustration

How did a Puerto Rican end as one of the most respected comic book and cover illustrators? Newsflash: It was not talent alone.

He moved to Harlem at the age of twelve and started his freelance studio at the age of eighteen with his older brothers.

Captain America #31 comic cover by Alex Schomburg

A Puerto Rican in the 1920s, 1930s New York? With an accent? Before the Civil Rights movement?

Did he face discrimination? Probably.

And yet, he became successful and we still remember him.

How many artists from that period do we remember?

Besides Jack Kirby or Will Eisner? Not many.

Alex Schomburg is remembered not only because of his art, but also his professionalism. He created dynamic art (check those covers again), full of meaning, full of details, and a hint of danger.

Alex Schomburg photograph attributed to Vargas

Art that demanded attention. Like its creator. Therefore be like Schomburg.

Be so good they cannot ignore you. Be so professional they don’t care you have an accent. Be so amazing, even the great ones pay you respect.

Be consistent, be prepared, be prolific, meet your deadlines. Not a bad success formula.

Reader, are you a fan of Alex Schomburg’s artwork? Do you prefer his pulp art, his comic art, or his novel art?

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March 2023