Sword and Sorcery Artists: Stephen Hickman

Sunday , 10, December 2017 3 Comments

The mid-1970s was a golden age for new artists coming on the scene: Tom Barber, Carl Lundgren, Doug Beekman, Richard Hescox, Steve Fabian etc. One of those whose career weathered the changes in book cover art is Stephen Hickman (b. 1949).

His website has this to say:

“Hickman’s work has earned him critical acclaim, including a World Science Fiction Convention’s Hugo Award, 6 Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists and 2 Spectrum Gold Awards.

Since 1976 Hickman has illustrated over 425 covers for Ace, Baen, Ballantine, Bantam, Berkeley, Dell, Del Rey, Doubleday, Phage Press, Tor, Warren Publications and others.

In 1988 Hickman wrote The Lemurian Stone (Ace Books), which formed the basis for his Pharazar Mythos illustrations, The Lion Pavillion, is one example, and is also reproduced along with The Archers, in the 1994 edition of Spectrum.

In 1994 he was awarded a Hugo Award from the World Science Fiction Convention for the United States Postal Service’s Space Fantasy Commemorative Booklet of stamps, the first official recognition by the government of the SF genre. “

The SF Encyclopedia has some more biographical information:

“He attended art school for two years at the Richmond Professional Institute (Virginia Commonwealth University) alongside such future luminaries as Michael W Kaluta, Phil {TRUMBO} and Charles Vess. His introduction to the world of sf art came when he and Michael W Kaluta attended the 1967 New York Comics Convention, where they met artists like Frank Frazetta and Roy G Krenkel. Thereafter Hickman did some Fanzine illustration before, in 1972, gaining his first professional artistic job, producing teeshirt designs. In 1974 the Art Editor at Ace Books saw Hickman’s portfolio and bought some items for stock art; with this sale, Hickman became a full-time professional artist. The first piece published was as the cover for Lady of the Bees (1976) by Thomas Burnett Swann.”

I became aware of Stephen Hickman from the book Tomorrow and Beyond: Masterpieces of Science Fiction Art (1978). My brother had this book and I used to go through it while listening to albums (remember those). I can remember being wowed by the cover for Moondust.

Thomas Burnett Swann is a fading author. A favorite of Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter, he died rather young despite producing a fair number of novels. Unfortunately for Swann, most were rather short by today’s standards. Swann often reworked stories ancient mythology, especially those of the classical Mediterranean world. His fiction was unique. He was too adult for the young adult market but too juvenile for the adult market.

He produced four posters of scenes from The Lord of the Rings. You used to see them in record stores. They were generally in a long rectangular box next to the Frazetta display. I had the “Battle Before the Gate” poster on my bedroom wall.

Steve Hickman’s art is ornate. Baroque might the word to describe it. He likes using the color gold in his paintings.

Hickman wrote a novel, The Lemurian Stone (Ace Books, 1988) which is a decent fantasy. It tends towards the Michael Moorcock end of the fantasy spectrum.

I have to mention Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors (Baen Books, 1987) by Robert E. Howard. Glenn Lord, long time agent for the Robert E. Howard copyright holders, told me this book sold well. It must have as it was on the shelves until sometime in the mid-1990s. One of the best covers for a Robert E. Howard book ever done.

While not sword and sorcery, I like Hickman’s cover to Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer (Baen Books, 1988).

Steve Hickman, like Michael Whelan, has produced book covers right up to the present. Titan Books produced a recent book of his art, The Art of Stephen Hickman: Empyran that came out in November 2015.




  • deuce says:

    Hickman painted a couple of memorable covers for Savage Sword of Conan. He also did this excellent cover for Haggard’s NADA THE LILY:


    I only vaguely knew about Hickman’s friendship with Mike Kaluta and Vess. Pretty cool. His paintings definitely have a kind of baroque feel. I would love to see him tackle REH’s Thurian Age, Jack Vance’s Dying Earth or any of Clark Ashton Smith’s settings, Like Poseidonis or Xiccarph.

    Word is, Hickman will be doing the cover for a new anthology of Dunsanian tales entitled THE SIMRANA CYCLE. He’d be perfect for that.

  • Ardashir says:

    I used to own that Jirel, and I still own and love the both ‘The Mythos and Kindred Horrors’ and ‘John the Balladeer’. In fact the latter was where and how I learned the name of the man who wrote both ‘Oh Ugly Bird!’ and ‘The Old Gods Waken’, two of my favorites from my high school years.

    Thanks for giving me the name of the wonderful artist who did both those covers.

  • Familiar with some of these covers, but not the artist. Thanks again for shedding some light on these great artist.

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