Sword and Sorcery Artists: Don Maitz

Sunday , 17, December 2017 9 Comments

Don Maitz (b. 1953) is yet another artist to emerge in the middle 1970s with a legacy of sword and sorcery illustration.

His website has this biography:

“A native of Plainville, CT showed an early interest in drawing and received initial art training from the Famous Artist’s Correspondence School at age thirteen.

Maitz attended the Paier School of Art, Hamden, CT beginning in 1971 after taking evening figure study at the University of Hartford. Maitz was offered work in the comics industry but chose to remain at the Paier School graduating in 1975 at the top of his class. The school offered a fifth year study program where Maitz honed his portfolio and took additional figure classes. His instructors included: Ken Davies, noted still life and trompe l’ oeil painter, Rudolf Zallinger noted muralist and Time Life Books contributor, and Leonard Fisher fine artist and book illustrator, both of the latter honored by Pulitzer Prizes for their art. Student work in the portfolio Maitz produced at the Paier School of Art hung at the Society of Illustrators Student Exhibition and other paintings within this portfolio were soon reproduced by New York City publishing houses as book jackets and magazine covers. This precocious start led to over two hundred commissions from numerous book publishers, and a list of the most prestigious awards that recognize art in the industry.

In 1980 Maitz assisted in organizing and promoting the first group exhibition of fantastic art in an American art museum. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Painters exhibition held at the New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT opened February 24th 1980 to receive record crowds and an extended showing. The small museum boasts an impressive collection and was a favorite source of inspiration for Maitz as an emerging local artist.

In 1985 Maitz accepted a guest teaching position for two semesters at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL. After returning to Connecticut and his publishing assignments, 1989 found Maitz back in Florida to marry Janny Wurts, author and artist, on Casey Key and in early 1990, the couple settled in Sarasota, Florida where they maintain their home and studio today.”

Maitz’s first cover was for the Nelson-Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club omnibus of Leigh Brackett’s Skaith novels.

He replaced Frank Frazetta as the cover artist for the Flashing Swords anthologies for books three (1976) and four (1977). He also got the gig to do covers for Lloyd Alexander’s “Prydain” books in 1976 for the Dell Yearling line.

Yet again, Donald Wollheim jumped on new artist talent and put Don Maitz to work for D.A.W. Books paperbacks. Maitz did some covers for sword and planet novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley Breen, Del DowDell, and David J. Lake.

A big break came with his cover for Morgan Llewellyn’s Lion of Ireland, Playboy Press paperback in 1981. That is when he first came on my radar. I can still remember looking at that book at K-Mart, which used to have a decent book section in those days.

Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer, the first in “Book of the New Sun” series had a Don Maitz cover.

Karl Edward Wagner had a story called “Neither Brute Nor Human.” In the story, writer Damon Harrington writes a series about post-apocalyptic future barbarism featuring Desmond Killstar. Steve Tompkins and I used the term “Desmond Killstar” as short hand for this sort of story. A Desmond Killstar series that was in print for a very long time was Eric van Lustbader’s “Sunset Warrior” series. Don Maitz did the covers.

Pocket Books had a very good science fiction and fantasy line, Timescape Books, edited by David Hartwell. Don Maitz was one of the main artists for that line. One interesting duology was from Adam Corby. Maitz did the covers for The Former King (1981) and The Divine Queen (1982) by Adam Corby. This was an interesting series. Think of a horde of Robert E. Howard’s barbarians dumped into Jack Vance’s Dying Earth. Adam Corby– Who were you? Where did you go?

One of the best 1970-80s sword and sorcery series was “Felimid MacFal” by Keith Taylor. The stories had started in Ted White’s Fantastic Stories in 1975. Keith did a fix up of the stories which became Bard (Ace Books, 1981), the start of a five book series. Only four were published in the U.S. Don Maitz did all the covers for the Ace paperback editions. Get this series.

There was a Celtic and Irish boom in fantasy in the 1980s. It peaked mid-decade when it seemed there was pseudo-Book of Kells lettering on all sorts of paperbacks. Bantam Books got into it publishing thirteen novels by Kenneth Flint from 1981 to 1995. Don Maitz did covers for three of the “Sidhe” series and a reprint of A Storm Upon Ulster. Maitz had the knack of producing Celtic imagery.

A different but interesting style was used for a reprint of Poul Anderson’s excellent Hrolf Kraki’s Saga (Baen Books, 1988).

Sword and sorcery fiction died out in paperback form but Don Maitz had no problem continuing. His style became glossier in the 1980s into the 90s. He was on many a paperback up through the middle aughts. He is producing pirate art these days and appears to be doing alright.

Legends of the Pendragon

The Book of Three

His early work from the 1970s has the look of a stylized Jeff Jones. Maitz had a distinct style in short order that could generally be picked out. His cover for Hrolf Kraki’s Saga has an N. C. Wyeth vibe going on. The cover for The Legends of the Pendragon (2002) is one that I would not have picked as Maitz. Goes to show he has some range.

There have been two books of Maitz art from 1988 and 1993. There were also two trading card sets done in 1994 and 1996. He created the Captain character for Captain Morgan Rum. Art for liquor probably pays better than sword and sorcery paperback covers.




Lion of Ireland

  • John E. Boyle says:

    I’ve always enjoyed this artist’s work; I had no idea he created the Captain Morgan character.

    I owned that edition of Hrolf Kraki’ Saga and four of the Bard books. I didn’t know there had ever been a fifth volume released. Many thanks.

  • Technomad says:

    I liked his take on Flashman (Flashman and the Great Game) and wish it was on one of the TPB editions, instead of a mass-market paperback.

  • D.M. Ritzlin says:

    There are two more books in Adam Corby’s series on Kindle. They’re listed as being co-written by someone calling himself “asotir,” so I suspect they were done without Corby’s permission.

  • D.M. Ritzlin says:

    Also, I detested Kenneth Flint’s “Riders of the Sidhe.” It was like he watched Star Wars and skimmed a book of Irish mythology and thought that made him qualified to write a novel.

  • Ben says:

    I love the nostalgia about K-Mart’s book section… RIP K-Mart.

    I used to love their huge book section, tons of paperbacks of all sorts. Right next to their snack bar that was 50s/60s in theme.

    My local one had a busybody lady who took one of those paint pens and rubbed dots over the “Gor” covers, like Rogues of Gor though… Covering up that slight bit of boob:-(

  • Another great post! I look forward to this post every week!

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