Friday, August 12, 2011

Comic Cuts - 12 August 2011

It has been a week of ups and downs. I've managed to complete the work on the Vanity Fair cartoons mentioned over the past couple of weeks and have moved on to a new set of historical illustrations with a bit more variety for the Look and Learn picture library. The work is fiddly and repetitive and not nearly as exciting as it sounds.

Wednesday was D-Day - a trip to the dentists to have my mouth mauled and a filling that had dropped out replaced, plus a couple of other fillings that needed attention that I think date back to when I was in my teens. The lady doing the work was very nice and said I'd been very brave, which made me feel like I was nine rather than forty-nine. The next 24 hours were spent living on soup and soft rolls and feeling paranoid that every chew was going to dislodge the work that had been done and I was going to end up back in the chair with the clamps and the drill. However clean and efficient the surgery, however polite and friendly the staff, in my mind dentists always conjure up that scene from Marathon Man.

On a happier note, I've received my copy of Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss, which title belies the fact that it is pretty much a definitive guide to his non-SF works as well, at least as far as thriller and war cover art is concerned. There is also a fabulous selection of artwork from Foss's movie work, designing for such films as Dune (the unmade Alejandro Jodorowski version), Alien, Superman, The White Ship (unmade), AI (when Stanley Kubrick was developing the film rather than when Spielberg took over) and Die Sturzflieger (1995 German SF movie).

The bulk of the book is taken up with some 400 of Foss's covers and artwork painted for portfolios, magazine illustrations, calendars, advertising and posters. Taken from original artwork, the pictures are superbly reproduced... in fact, I found myself wondering why some of the images were off-colour before realising that I was so used to seeing badly printed and badly weathered versions which had altered the colouring. The reproduction is sharp and the design just as sharp, as you would expect from Rian Hughes, who has co-authored the book with Foss's daughter, Imogene.

I'm unashamedly a fan of Foss's work - you may have spotted that over the years! - so it is fascinating to learn more about him in the introductory material, with pieces by Rian and Imogene as well as Jodorowski and Jean Giraud (Moebius).

I was involved in a bit of Foss-spotting for the book but, rather than making me biased towards the book, I was rather more worried that it would somehow not live up to my expectations. Thankfully, Hardware lives up to its subtitle and I'm reasonably sure that there isn't a single SF cover missing from this collection. In fact, it took me almost a week to spot any errors at all (a single, solitary erroneous caption on page 98 which mistakenly lists the cover of Subspace Encounter as Revolt in the Galaxy, correctly shown on page 179; you can see both covers on my E. E. 'Doc' Smith cover gallery).

The book is a hefty tome, 24½ x 31½ cm with 240 pages on good art stock paper and more than earns its cover price of £24.99. Buy two and you can wallpaper your office!

Today's random scans: I'm updating a few old posts with pics that I've come across recently. First up, the Panther paperback edition of The Veils of Fear by Geoffrey Mark (1962), which has a signed cover. I'm wondering if this is 'Barye' (i.e. Barye Phillips), but I'm not 100% sure of the signature and I don't recognise it as a reprint of a US paperback cover. Maybe someone else with better eyesight can take a guess.

Next up... Reefer Boy, Hal Ellson's classic from Pedigree. If you recall, I mentioned last June that there was a copy of the book for sale online for around £850. Well, it's still for sale.

And still they come: Galactic Cluster by James Blish (New English Library, 3rd imp., 1968) with quite a surreal cover. Now, I've nothing against surreal, but I've always preferred painted to photographic covers. To my mind, the publishers using photographic covers went to extremes of abstraction, especially with their science fiction covers. Some of the NEL/Four Square Books' covers were terrible and I've included one such below: Fritz Leiber's novel Gather, Darkness!, first serialised in Astounding in 1943, was about a post-Atomic War religious society with a resistance movement who disguise scientific advances behind a cloak of witchcraft. Four Square chose to illustrate this with a... well, I've never quite figured out what it was. Possibly a broken glass lamp shade shot against the sky. But it doesn't say "The second atomic age is menaced by witchcraft!" It's too abstract for me.

Next week: Paul Temple will have to take a break over the weekend as I've not had time to clean up the next batch, but he'll be back next week. Instead, we'll have the Hammond Innes cover gallery I was promising a few weeks back. I'll have a couple of other smaller galleries next week to break up the black and white and then head back into classic SF territory with Clifford D. Simak next weekend. And I have a Colin Forbes gallery for thriller fans to run at some point.


  1. Any chance, Steve, ever of a run of Rip Kirby or Axa - the first fondly remembered from my youth - the last just fondly remembered!

  2. I'm a huge Barye Phillips fan and that's definitely his signature. LOVE your blog, btw! Great seeing covers and work that obviously would not be accessible on this side of the pond!


  3. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for confirming the signature. Glad you like the blog - there are plenty of blogs that cover American paperbacks and do it far better than I could, so I concentrate on British paperbacks which don't get much coverage.

  4. Hi Mike,

    Rip Kirby and Axa are unlikely; for starters there would probably be a charge... Bear Alley costs me a lot in time and I can't afford to let it cost me money as well.

  5. The cover on the Geoffrey Mark novel, which has been identified as a Barye Phillips, is a swipe from John D. MacDonald's "The End of the Night" published in the U.S. by Fawcett - originally as a Crest (s464)in 1961, later as a Gold Medal (d1633, R1969, T2365 etc)) from 1966.



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