An annoyance of mine are illustrations of stupid weapons, generally for book covers. I enjoy reading history. I enjoy reading fantasy fiction with pre-gunpowder settings. Over the years, I think most frequent readers of fantasy fiction read non-fiction works on weapons and tactics from the days of cold steel.
The Osprey Men at Arms booklets especially with all those wonderful Angus McBride paintings educate you on weapons and armor. Over time, you know enough to call ox manure on some illustrations.
Exhibit A: Frank Frazetta’s wife’s nephew, Ken Kelly. Kelly has done some fine faux-Frazetta paintings. Most people I know agree that his earlier work is his better work. Look at this. A shirtless guy holding a club that is a boulder supported by a stick. One would be hard pressed to drill a hole in a small boulder to hold the handle let alone in this make-believe time.
Not to mention your arm would get tired in a short period of time. The control would be horrible. There were some stone battle axes from the Corded Ware/Battle Axe cultures in Europe who may have been the progenitors of the Celts. We still don’t know if those stone axes were for showing or fighting. But a boulder on a stick? Come on!
Exhibit B: Ken Kelly again, this time for one of the Horseclans books. I have a problem with oversized axes. Ever split wood or even better use an axe to cut down a tree? Bigger is not better. Again the size issue.
Exhibit C: Now we move to Boris Vallejo, another artist from the same period as Ken Kelly. I don’t see any advantage to having an overly long handle. Notice the outward flare of the blade towards the bottom. That is not going to enhance cutting. In fact, you might get the bottom edge with the acute angle caught on something.
Double-bladed axes are rare in European history. You don’t even see them much even in Asia. The Indians had some but they were not these huge, ridiculous figurative steroid blades. Your Viking axe was often not that big. The Irish took to the axe with a vengeance during the Viking wars and you never see huge two handed axes shown from the time. Yes, the Saxon huscarls did use the Dane axe at the Battle of Hastings. They were not double-bladed though.
I hate to bring in Rafael Kayanan. He was in the Robert E. Howard United Press Association at the time I was the Official Editor. I like his art but sometimes his weapons are, shall we say, heavy handed.
I love the overall look of this drawing. The mood is great. What the hell is that weapon? It looks like a cross between a club and an axe. Again, you get into the whole balance of the weapon being off. Also, a good rule of thumb in life is if something is made to do multiple jobs, it will do most if not all poorly.
Last, another Kayanan piece with an outlandish spear. Again, a weapon that has the appearance of being off balance. A Classical Era Greek hoplite would probably say “What the hell is that?”
Rafael Kayanan knows his knife fighting. He has been a fight choreographer for some movies and T.V. shows.
I love cool weapons. There are plenty of them to be found in history. I know lots of this is artistic license. The end result looks hokey all too often.