Forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artists: Roy G. Krenkel

Sunday , 11, June 2017 5 Comments

Roy Krenkel (1918-1983) is an artist primarily associated with Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks. He attended Burne Hogarth’s classes at the School of Visual Arts. He did work with Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta for EC Comics in the early 1950s.

Krenkel also drew interior art in the waning days of the pulp magazine for Marvel Science Stories, Space Science Fiction, and Fantasy Fiction. His first sword and sorcery illustration was for L. Sprague de Camp’s “Pusad” story “The Stronger Spell” in the November 1953 issue.

A new chapter opened with Krenkel producing a huge number of illustrations, both cover and interior, for George Schithers’ Amra (Volume II). The cost of tracking down issues of Amra today is worth the price just for the Krenkel art.

His art for Amra might have gotten the notice of Donald Wollheim, editor at Ace Books. Krenkel began producing 22 covers for Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks. The art harkened back to J. Allen St. John’s work for Burroughs’ hardbacks forty years earlier. Krenkel won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist for 1963.

He worked with Frank Frazetta doing layout for some Warren Magazine illustration. There is also the story that Krenkel helped Frazetta with layout on some of the iconic Conan covers for Lancer Books.

Krenkel himself had the chance to produce a cover for a Robert E. Howard book. A friend of mine (the late Steve Tompkins) said to me that Krenkel’s cover for King Kull (Lancer Books, 1967) epitomized the sword and sorcery genre. Lin Carter had the painting in his house at one time.

L. Sprague de Camp’s The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate is technically an historical adventure but has some elements close enough to fantasy to be reprinted by Lancer Books in 1968 packaged as sword and sorcery. Krenkel painted the cover for this one.

Donald Grant tapped Krenkel to lavishly illustrate the hardback collection of Robert E. Howard’s crusader stories, The Sowers of the Thunder (1973). Some consider this the best illustrated REH book ever produced.

Donald Wollheim used Roy G. Krenkel for some Burroughsian fiction. Krenkel produced very appropriate covers for two of Lin Carters sword and planet series set in the world of the Green Star.


Philip Jose Farmer wrote two novels set in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Opar set thousands of years ago when Opar was part of a thriving civilization. Krenkel did the covers for the first editions of these entertaining novels.

Krenkel’s last great book was for Robert E. Howard’s The Road of Azrael collection (Donald M. Grant, 1979).

Krenkel is another artist who failed to make the jump past the 1980 barrier. He died from cancer in early 1983.

His art has a definite retro look that looks back to Joseph Clement Coll and J. Allen St. John. Some of his covers are very dynamic, others are static. He was the master of the spectacle on parade. His characters do tend to have a “Roman” look to them. Perhaps Victor Mature was Roy Krenkel’s ideal man model. Krenkel was the master of ancient cities. No one was better.

There has been some retrospective art books of Roy G. Krenkel. I have Swordsmen and Saurians (1989) in addition to many 1960s Ace paperbacks.

  • Tyr says:

    I am very much enjoying this series on forgotten Swords and Sorcery artists. Thank you the ones you have posted so far, and I hope to see more in the future.

  • deuce says:

    I love Krenkel’s work, preferring his line art to his paintings. He was a diehard Robert E. Howard fan.

    It can be argued that he was Frazetta’s best friend. It seems likely that Roy advised Frank on the Lancer Conan paintings since Frazetta claimed just about a year before his death that he never read the Conan books.

  • I was thrilled to be able to accompany C.J. Henderson on a visit to see Roy Krenkel in the hospital very shortly before his death. Now both are gone, alas.

  • Scott Cupp says:

    Live RGK. Bought a Krenkel sketch with a saber tooth cat just yesterday!

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