Forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artists: John Alvin

Sunday , 10, September 2017 3 Comments

John Alvin (1948-2008) is an artist whose art you have seen many times but did not know it. John Alvin painted the movie posters for a good portion of 1980s blockbusters including most Disney movies from the 80s and 90s: Toys, Under Siege, Radio Flyer, The Black Cauldron, Red Dawn, The Dark Crystal, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Young Frankenstein, The Princess Bride, The Lion King etc.

For whatever reason, John Alvin did some book covers for Pinnacle Books.

Pinnacle Books reprinted some of the Harold Lamb biographies and biography novels during the late 1970s sword and sorcery boom. Reading Harold Lamb is a far more worthwhile endeavor than most quickie schlock sword and sorcery novels of the time.

This is real strange, Alvin did some covers for the “Richard Blade” series by “Jeffrey Lord.” “Jeffrey Lord” was Manning Lee Stokes, Roland Green, and Ray Faraday Nelson. Most of the covers were by Ken Kelly. Alvin did at least five covers for this series. I always viewed the Richard Blade series as a bottom feeder series for a bottom feeder publisher. The idea was combining James Bond with sword and sorcery. A secret agent is sent to alternate dimensions in each book.

Movie poster work is probably a better paying job than paperback covers. His art graced movie tie in paperbacks in the 1980s and 90s. He also did some Star Trek and Star Wars work.

If you go to the internet movie data base, there is a very long list of his movie work. He also did some concept art for movies that can be found at

I like the covers for the Harold Lamb paperbacks. It is in the Frazetta tradition, sort of like early Carl Lundgren. It would have been interesting had he done more book cover work for a better publisher than Pinnacle.


  • Emmett Fitz-Hume says:

    I’ve never heard of Richard Blade. But if you say it’s a bottom feeder, I’ll believe you.

    The concept however sounds intriguing.

  • Stan Wagenaar says:

    I have enjoyed the few Blade books I have read thus far. Best to approach them for what they are; cheesy, violent sexist “men’s adventure ” schlock. They certainly don’t aspire to be high brow literature, and that’s fine with me.
    I have several of the Lamb books with these covers. I like the art a lot, but the words within the covers is the real treasure. Lamb is without peer when it comes to these type of biographies.

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