Antonio Alejandro "Alex" Schomburg was born May 10, 1905 in Puerto Rico. His father was Guillermo Schomburg, born 1845 in Puerto Rico of German ancestry. He was a civil engineer and land surveyor. His mother was Francisca Rosa. She was born 1875 in Puerto Rico. He was the youngest of six brothers and one sister. The fourth-eldest brother, August Schomburg, also became a pulp artist.
The Schomburg family were rather prosperous. They lived in an upper class coastal neighborhood at 50 Calle San Sebastian, San Juan, PR. They spoke English fluently. The family also had a second home in Aguadilla, PR, where another pulp artist, Rafael M. DeSoto, was born in 1904. The two artists knew each other as children and remained in contact throughout their remarkably parallel life stories.
In 1917 at the age of twelve he moved to New York City to join his older brothers. They lived in Harlem at 630 West 124th Street, which is near Broadway. Alex was sent to public school, while his older brothers earned their livings in various creative trades.
In 1923 all four brothers started their own freelance art studio, with Fred as the manager and salesman, William as a clerk, and August and Alex as the artists. They build window displays, lettered signs, and illustrated song slides for theater organists.
That same year Rafael M. DeSoto followed the adventurous example of the Schomburgs and also moved to NYC. Although he could only speak a few words of English, he was encouraged by their example to seek success as an artist in New York City.
In 1928 the Schomburgs sold the business to a manufacturer of slides, and the company then hired Alex Schomburg to work for them.
On November 7, 1928 he married Helen Scott, born 1904 in Northern Ireland of English ancestry. They moved to 1240 Walton Avenue in the Bronx. They raised two children, Diana and Richard.
In 1929 he joined the National Screen Service company as a staff artist, where he helped to produce movie trailers for fifteen years.
In his free time he also created freelance illustrations. His first published assignments appeared in Popular Western, Popular Detective, Radio Craft, Sky Raiders, and Thrilling Adventures. At this same time his brother, August Schomburg, developed his own significant career as a top cover artist for Flying Aces magazine.
He sold his first science-fiction magazine cover in 1939. According to the artist, "One day the publisher asked me to do an illustration for Thrilling Wonder Stories. I had always been interested in science fiction and they liked the way I handled the art work. I enjoy reading the story as much as doing the illustrations. In my opinion an illustration is very important. For instance, give the same story to two different persons...then ask them to picture a certain scene. You can bet they'll be entirely different."
He created interiors and cover paintings for Startling Stories, Fantastic Story, Dynamic Science Fiction, Science Fiction Quarterly, and Thrilling Wonders Stories.
From the late 1930s to the late 1940s he created over five hundred covers for comic books, including Captain America, The Human Torch, Sub Mariner, Black Terror, and The Green Hornet.
He left the comic industry in the 1950s and concentrated on illustrating books and science fiction magazines, as well as the Winston Science Fiction series for young readers.
According to Stan Lee, "Alex Schomburg was totally unique. I remember hearing Timely Comics publisher Martin Goodman tell me time and again how great a cover illustrator Alex was, and how he wished we had more like him. He was the only artist I knew able to combine strong, dramatic layouts, and exciting superhero action with a simplistic, almost cartoony style of execution. One could never be sure if Alex was an illustrator who approached his work like a cartoonist, or a cartoonist who chose to render his artwork like an illustrator. Despite the quantity of work we gave him, despite the care and effort that went into every Schomburg cover, I cannot remember Alex ever being late with any illustration. He was as reliable as he was talented."
His son married and moved to Hillsboro, Oregon. After retiring from illustration the Schomburgs moved to Oregon to live near their son's family.
Alex Schomburg died in Hillsboro, Oregon at the age of ninety-two on April 7, 1998.
© David Saunders 2009