RSS Feed

‘Art’ Category

  1. SF Magazine Cover Gallery for Sept. 1961

    September 6, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    The September 1961 cover of Analog Science Fact-Fiction would be the last that H. R. van Dongen would paint for John Campbell’s Astounding/Analog. van Dongen made his first pulp magazine sell to Super Science Stories in 1950, and except for a few paperback covers, all but disappeared after this issue of Analog was published. Little is known of van Dongen’s personal life and one suspects his name may have been a pseudonym borrowed from Dutch avant-garde artist Kees van Dongen. The illustration depicts a scene from the first installment of  Harry Harrison’s “A Sense of Obligation” (aka Planet of the Damned) which would be nominated for a “best novel” Hugo in 1962.


    The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction that month had another cover by the prolific Ed Emshwiller (Emsh would paint eight of F&SF’s twelve covers in 1961). I’m uncertain which story is being depicted on this cover.  It is dominated by the woman in the foreground, distressed perhaps by the alien structure or creature in the lower left corner. Her rescuers are barely discernible on the horizon.

    Amazing Stories‘ cover sported one of those Alex Schomburg paintings one would expect to see on the cover of Popular Mechanics. This cover depicts a scene from Philip Jose Farmer’s “Tongues of the Moon” in which American and Soviet colonists on the Moon go to war with each other.

    Schomburg spent the 1940s working in comic books for companies like Marvel’s precursor Timely Comics. Stan Lee called him the Norman Rockwell of comic books. Before he left comic books for magazines in the early 1950s, Schomburg had drawn almost 600 covers for comic books featuring characters like Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch. The amount of detail he put into even the most ephemeral of media was matched by only a few other artists of the time (like George Evans with whom Schomburg shared cover duties on Aces High ).

    Despite his reputation for detail, Alex Schomburg wasn’t above knocking out an occasional uninspired clinker like the rather boring cover that month for Amazing‘s sister magazine Fantastic Stories of Imagination. The van Vogt story has an “and-those-sole-survivors-were named-Adam-and-Eve”  denouement which Schomburg does nothing to conceal with his cover.

    Brian Lewis of Jet-Ace Logan fame illustrated the cover that month for the British science fiction magazine, Science Fiction Adventures. His work in color is startlingly different from his clean and detailed work in black and white comic strips. Influenced by surrealists like Paul Klee,  Max Ernst, and Richard Powers, Lewis’ non-strip art utilized strong colors laid on thick. This style is on display in this cover featuring out-sized garden produce and a distant ruin of some lost civilization. He painted about one hundred covers for British science fiction magazines between 1954 and 1962. He then moved into animation where he worked on projects like Yellow Submarine. Throughout his career he never strayed far from the weekly comic strips, working on characters like Vampirella (Warren) and Dan Dare (in 2000 AD)


  2. Kirby Covers

    August 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd


    Here’s an interesting exercise in putting yourself in the shoes of a comic book reader fifty years ago. Pretend you have never heard of the Fantastic Four when you walk into your corner drugstore and see these Jack Kirby covers on the magazine rack. Are you immediately drawn to the new title or do you have to take a closer look before you realize it’s not just another monster book?




  3. Jet-Ace Logan and the Missing Spaceships

    August 23, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    A few weeks ago I came across some 50-year-old British comic strip art while researching illustrator Sydney Jordan and was surprised by how much more detailed and “clean” it looked compared to American comic strips and comic books from 1961. The absence of color may have something to do with that impression but I suspect the British artists simply took more time penciling and inking than their harried American counterparts. I spent a bit of time online searching out  samples of strips like Jeff Hawke and comic book serials like Captain Condor, but as impressive as the art was in those titles, nothing was more striking than that found in a strip published in the British comic book Tiger.

     Jet-Ace Logan ran from 1956 until 1968 (switching from Comet to Tiger in 1959). The titular hero was a space pilot with the RAF, 100 years in the future. He and his wingman, Plumduff  were entrusted to thwart the plans of nefarious aliens, smugglers, and other space-baddies. Here are two beautiful pages from the fall of 1961, drawn by an artist I know nothing about; Brian Lewis. Click for a larger view.

  4. Look Mickey!

    August 21, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

     The above painting is widely recognized as Roy Lichtenstein‘s first work to employ cartoon or comic book imagery. Painted in 1961, Look Mickey was adapted from the 1960 children’s book Donald Duck Lost and Found. In Lichtenstein’s transformation of the storybook illustration by artists Bob Grant and Bob Totten, the composition is simplified and rendered in the bold outlines and primary colors of a mass-produced image, making it appear even more “pop” than the original picture. It’s interesting to note that the source material wasn’t a comic book and that the inclusion of a speech balloon was, perhaps, Lichtenstein’s way of making the image appear even more crassly mass-market by associating it with the cheap and prolific comic book industry of the early Sixties.

    The original image (most of it, at least) can be seen here. There appears to be some sort of pissing contest over who discovered the source material for Look Mickey and it’s impossible to find an unadulterated scan from the original Little Golden Book that it was based on. Also, never underestimate the perils of displaying Disney artwork without the proper permissions and fees.

    Happily, Lichtenstein’s Look Mickey was donated to the National Gallery of Art by the artist and his wife in 1990 in recognition of the Gallery’s 50th birthday. Wouldn’t it be cool if the Walt Disney Company commemorated the 50th birthday of Lichtenstein’s first work of cartoon/comic pop art by releasing the source image into the public domain?


  5. Monster Pants

    August 16, 2011 by The Belated Nerd


    I’m not sure how Jack Kirby went about creating the monsters he drew for Marvel (nee Atlas) comics in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Did he start with a naked monster and then draw short pants on it or did each new creation start with an empty pair of patented Kirby Speedos? Kirby Speedos date back to the early 1940s when they were sported by Captain America and Bucky over pairs of long pants. The long pants were dispensed with when Jack started drawing monsters. I mean, who ever heard of a giant monster wearing long pants?

    So, crowd around the catwalk for the fashion show and try not to get stepped on by the models!







  6. The Black & White World of Virgil Finlay

    August 12, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    I spend a lot of time searching out cover images from 50-year-old magazines, comic books, and paperbacks. Interior art is harder to find on the Internet so I’m always happy when I can find some to compliment a post on an old comic book or pulp magazine. What took me by surprise this week was the discovery of some great black & white artwork printed on the back of Amazing Stories in 1961; all by the great fantasy, science fiction and horror illustrator, Virgil Finlay!

    Although he worked in other media like gouache and oils (one of his color illustrations graced the Oct, 1961 cover of Galaxy), Finlay is best remembered for his detailed pen-and-ink drawings, utilizing meticulous stippling, cross-hatching, and scratch board techniques.

    The gallery below contains illustrations printed on the back cover of Amazing Stories in late 1961 and early 1962. The text is exerted from stories featured in each issue. Click for a larger view.





  7. SF Magazine Cover Gallery for August, 1961

    August 10, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    The August, 1961 cover of Analog Science Fact-Fiction featured cover art by John Schoenherr. His painting features a six-legged rhinoceros-like creature adapted to survival on a high-gravity planet.  Depicting aliens whose morphology fit their ecology was a specialty of Schoenherr’s. His freelance work for the Bronx Zoo in the early 1960s must have provided excellent training for designing alien creatures like the ones in this painting.




    The cover of Amazing Stories that month featured cover art by the great Ed Emshwiller for a John Jakes story called “The Highest Form of Life”. Despite the gadgetry, the most intriguing feature of this painting is the expression on the face of the dolphin in the foreground; is it a display of benevolence of malice?





    The cover of Galaxy Science Fiction that month also featured a painting by Ed Emshwiller. I’m not sure if this illustration is meant to depict a scene from any of the stories within, however, it is a neatly subdued representation of the “damsel abducted by a monster” theme that was slowly fading from favor in the more “serious” science fiction magazines.





    Illustrator Mel Hunter‘s trademark was the “lonely robot”. This skeletal automaton was often depicted in scenes of postapocalyptic desolation or cosmic isolation. A sketch of the little robot usually accompanied the autographs Hunter signed for fans. I’m not sure of the story context for the August, 1961 cover of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction but it must have been with some bemusement and even a little hope that Hunter placed his creation in a museum of modern art.




    On the other side of the Atlantic New Worlds Science Fiction featured cover art by comic strip artist Sydney Jordan. The cover depicts a robot mourning the death of his creator, a theme used many times before and since in  literature and film.  Jordan drew a daily science fiction adventure strip called Jeff Hawke from 1955 to 1974.  I can’t think of a better way to conclude today’s post than with a Jeff Hawke strip from August 1961:


  8. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (in Concept)

    July 30, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

     I have to admit I am hesitant to post an entry about Irwin Allen’s 1961 film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. There are millions of fans of the movie and the TV show it spawned and I can’t get away with the kind of lazy research that passes muster when writing about the plot of a 50 year old comic book that barely anybody alive remembers reading. So, this weekend, the 50th anniversary of when Voyage to the Bottom of Sea was playing in theaters, I’m merely going to post some great pictures of the concept art used in pre-production, and a few of my modest observations based on nothing more than a couple casual viewing of the film when I was a kid.


    This, apparently, was the original design of the submarine Seaview. It’s missing the iconic “manta” bow of the final design and the windows are enormous! I remember thinking how impractiacal the windows on the movie and TV version were. The windows on the submarine in this picture just scream peril.

    I really like this picture! It’s a lot more expressive of a sky on fire than the roiling red glow seen in the film.

    I’d forgotten there was a giant squid in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. If I’d remembered that, I would have mentioned it in last week’s post about Jules Verne’s banner year in film. Surely, Voyage is only the second most famous story featuring a submarine and a giant cephalopod.

    Here’s a view through the interior of the “bigger windows” Seaview, made even more frightening by a gauntlet of sea mines. Granted, windows in a submarine are worth a few points in the terror department, but I think I’d have a hard time following the story worrying that at any moment a stray mine, or (illogically) sinking chunk of ice, or stray baseball could doom the entire crew of this technological wonder.