Blog Archives


Michael Whelan (b. 1950) is probably the most successful artist I will cover in this series. If you bought science fiction or fantasy books in the 1980s or 90s, you have seen his work. His website has this say about his story: “A graduate of San Jose University with a BA in Painting and a […]

1980 is like a KT event for many sword and sorcery artists. KT stands for Cretaceous-Tertiary and the mass extinction 65 million years ago. The late Steve Tompkins used the term for any cultural extinction event. It seems Ken Kelly and Rowena Morrill were the go to artists for fantasy paperback covers during the 1980s. […]

Sword and sorcery paperback art had some minor players, some memorable, some not. One artist who produced some covers including one stone cold classic was George Barr (b. 1937). Barr got his start with the second incarnation of Amra starting in the late 1950s. He did a few covers for the Celia Goldsmith era Fantastic […]

There are three artists whose careers started in the pulp magazines, continued with digest magazines, comic books, trading cards, and a few paperback covers: Norman Saunders, Frank Kelly Freas, and Wallace Wood. Norman Saunders (1907-1989) started in the middle 1930s painting innumerable covers for pulp magazines. He did work for comic books. I thought his […]

Virgil Finlay (1914-1971) was one of the first artists of sword and sorcery fiction. Hugh Rankin and Vincent Napoli are almost the only ones who proceed Finlay in the genre. Finlay started in the pages of Weird Tales in 1935. He illustrated Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. Finlay illustrated early […]

Earl Norem (1923-2015) was an artist with a similar background as John Duillo. It is debatable that he is forgotten considering his comic book work is still discussed today. Norem served in the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division in WW II. He saw combat including getting wounded during the breakout into the Po River valley […]

Pulp magazine illustration did have some influence that carried over into post-pulp publications. One of the best examples is Stephen Fabian (b. 1930). Gerry de la Ree wrote in the introduction to Stephen E. Fabian’s Ladies and Legends (Charles Miller, 1993):                 “Stephen E. Fabian came late to professional illustration. Whereas most of our leading […]

John Duillo (1928-2003) is an artist many of you have seen if you collect classic sword and sorcery paperbacks. He is known as the other guy who painted three covers for Lancer Books seminal Conan series in the late 1960s. There is not much information available on John Duillo. He produced covers for the “men’s […]

Jack Gaughan (1930 – 1985) was a ubiquitous illustrator for both science fiction paperbacks and magazine covers in the 1960 and 70s. He appears to have been Donald Wollheim’s main artist at Ace Books in the 1960s and a prominent artist for D.A.W. Books in the 1970s. Gaughan was right up there alongside Frank Frazetta […]

Was Conan a murderer?  Pshaw, I say! When thrown out into the Twit-Box arena as red meat to the lions, the question of when Conan committed murder elicited two responses.  One of which was flat out wrong, the other of which…it’s complicated, baby. In the first case, The Tower of the Elephant, Conan most certainly […]

The second half of the 1970s was a golden age for British paperback cover illustration. Bruce Pennington, Melvyn Grant, Chris Achilleos all created memorable book covers. Another member of this group is Rodney Matthews. From his website: “Born in 1945, in Paulton, North Somerset, Matthews was fascinated by nature from an early age.  He spent […]

At a used bookstore, you might come across a 1970s U.K. paperback with distinctive art. You might have Melvyn Grant or Bruce Pennington art on the cover. There is a good chance it will be Chris Achilleos. From his website: “Christos Achilleos grew up in a rural village near the town of Famagusta in Cyprus; […]