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Forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artists: Jack Gaughan –

Forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artists: Jack Gaughan

Sunday , 17, September 2017 2 Comments

Jack Gaughan (1930 – 1985) was a ubiquitous illustrator for both science fiction paperbacks and magazine covers in the 1960 and 70s. He appears to have been Donald Wollheim’s main artist at Ace Books in the 1960s and a prominent artist for D.A.W. Books in the 1970s.

Gaughan was right up there alongside Frank Frazetta for producing paperback book covers in the 60s when fantasy suddenly became a major genre. Howard, Leiber, Tolkien, Norton, Moorcock– Gaughan did covers for all.

Donald Wollheim was a head of the curve reprinting Robert E. Howard’s sword & planet novel Almuric in 1964.

Andre Norton helped kick-start the fantasy movement of the 60s with her “Witch World” series that started in 1963. Disguised at sword & planet, the series took on an increasingly fantasy orientation with each book. Gaughan did the covers for them.

Wollheim discovered a copyright loophole with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books when Tolkien showed no interest in paperback editions. Jack Gaughan did the covers for the infamous “pirate” editions from 1965.

  1. Warner Munn wrote a sword & sorcery novel, “King of the World’s Edge” for Weird Tales in 1939. Ace Books reprinted the book in 1967. Gaughan did the cover.

Lancer Books published Michael Moorcock’s novel Stormbringer and the collection The Stealer of Souls in 1967. Frank Frazetta must not have been available so Jack Gaughan did the covers for Moorcocks first American paperbacks featuring Elric of Melnibone.






Jack Gaughan produced a lot of covers for D.A.W. Books in the 1970s. He continued producing covers for Andre Norton including the very first D.A.W. paperback (The Spell of the Witch World, 1972). Some of the Dray Prescott paperbacks by Kenneth Bulmer had Gaughan covers.

To round things out, he did the covers for the first paperback editions of The Book of Fritz Leiber and The Second Book of Fritz Leiber. The second book featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Gaughan was less prolific after 1980 though producing covers for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He died rather young at age 54.

Gaughan is not as memorable as Frank Frazetta but there is unique look to his covers. His characters and landscapes have a distinctly medieval background. I can’t think of a classical Greco-Roman look to any of his covers off hand. He liked megalithic standing stones in his art. His cover to an issue of Worlds of Fantasy is moody and effective. L. Sprague de Camp once said that Donald Wollheim had thought of reprinting the Conan stories. Had he known that most of the stories were never copyrighted, we might have seen some Ace collections with Jack Gaughan covers.




  • deuce says:

    Gaughan was never that high on my list, but he was certainly a mainstay of fantasy art in the ’60s. His style was often a bit crude, but some of his paintings possessed a certain rough power that other, more technical artists lacked. Many of his layouts were quite good, just lacking in execution somewhat. I would’ve liked it if he’d done more work in the style he used for the Munn novel. That almost reminds me a little bit of Tom Barber or maybe Tim Kirk.

    ISFDB gives Emshwiller cover credit for the Lancer editions of THE DYING EARTH, but I think that’s incorrect. It doesn’t look like Emsh’s other work but it does look like classic Gaughan. I could be wrong, but I think I’m right. Check it out:

    IMO, it was misattributed from the get-go. That begs the question of why Gaughan never said anything, of course. All I know is that the cover, to me, doesn’t look like any of Emsh’s other work. In fact, I always just assumed it was Gaughan.

  • I appreciate his work more now than I used to. He could do anything asked of him. From fantasy to sci-fi and all in an instantly recognizable style.

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