My favorite science fiction series has always been Perry Rhodan, with the first German episode published in September 1961 (authors Karl Herbert Scheer and Clark Darlton) by Moewig Publishing. Although the U.S. editions ceased in 1979 after #137, in its native Germany the series continues to this day in various forms, with over 3,200 episodes in the main series and counting. According to author Andreas Eschbach, reading Perry Rhodan would roughly compare to reading 560 Harry Potter books.
The covers and internal illustrations for the first 1,800 German episodes were created by Johnny Bruck. Today a number of illustrators work for Perry Rhodan, with Alfred Kelsner being the only one still painting original art (vs. digital graphics). Perry Rhodan is considered the most successful science fiction series in Germany – a true classic!
Original art for Perry Rhodan #415 (August 15, 1969) by Johnny Bruck
As a teenager in the late 1970’s, my favorite science fiction series was Perry Rhodan. Although the U.S. editions ceased in 1979 after #137, in its native Germany the series continues to this day in various forms, with over 3200 installments in the main series and counting.
Some of the earliest SF art I ever collected, starting at the old Chicago Comicon in the late 1980’s, were U.S. Perry Rhodan covers by artists Gray Morrow and George Wilson. In Germany up to that time, the primary cover artist was Johnny Bruck (a few of which were reprinted on early printings of some of the U.S. editions). For decades I tried to find Bruck PR covers, but with no success.
About six months ago, an avid SF art collector in Switzerland, Markus Rohrwild, began to post loads of Bruck PR covers on the Comic Art Fans site. He was friends with Bruck’s widow and had acquired hundreds of paintings from her. I eventually reached out to him to see if any might be for sale, and I was extremely pleased when he agreed to sell some to me.
Realms of Fantasy covers by Luis Royo. Row 1: October 1997, April 1998, October 1998. Row 2: December 1999, October 2001, December 2002. Row 3: October 2004, August 2005, June 2006
Three days ago I wrote a quick piece about a pair of late 90s Ace paperbacks by Cary Osborne, Deathweave and Darkloom. The thing that first attracted my interest — as it often is — was the great covers for both books, in this case the work of the talented Spanish artist Luis Royo. Royo got his start in Heavy Metal in the early 80s, and by the mid-90s was a fixture on SF and fantasy book covers in the UK and US. IMDB credits him with well over 300 covers, for every major book publisher, including Bantam, Tor, DAW, Roc, Ace, Questar, Avon Eos, Pocket Books, HarperPrism, the Science Fiction Book Club, and many, many others.
Royo has a distinctive style, one well suited to selling adventure fantasy, and he helped launch the career of several major genre writers of the era, including Julie E. Czerneda (with her Trade Pact novels), Walter Jon Williams (Hardwired), David Gemmell (Druss the Legend), Elizabeth Haydon (The Rhapsody Trilogy) Sara Douglass (The Wayfarer Redemption), and many others.
Science Fiction Book Club mailer from 1964, featuring From theTwilight Zone. Art by Virgil Finlay
As I related in the first three installments of this series (parts One, Two, and Three), like tens of thousands of science fiction fans before and after me, I was at one time a member of the Science Fiction Book Club (or SFBC for short). I joined just as I entered my teen years, in the fall of 1976, shortly after I’d discovered their ads in the SF digests.
The bulletin of the SFBC, Things to Come – which announced the featured selections available and alternates – sometimes just reproduced the dust jacket art for the books in question. During the first couple of decades of Things to Come, however, those occasions were rare. In most cases during that period, the art was created solely for the bulletin, and was not used in the book or anywhere else. Since nearly all of the art for the first 20 years of Things to Come is exclusive to that bulletin, it hasn’t been seen by many SF fans.
In this series, I’ll reproduce some of that art, chosen by virtue of the art, the story that it illustrates or the author of the story. The first installment featured art from 1957 and earlier, while the second installment covered 1958-1960 and the third installment dealt with 1961-1963. In this fourth installment I’ll look at the years 1964-1966, presented chronologically.
The Rape of the Sun by Ian Wallace (DAW 1982). Preliminary sketch and final cover by David B. Mattingly
As a teenaged science fiction and fantasy fan growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I loved DAW Books. They had some great authors and great cover art, and all those yellow spines looked sweet next to each other on the bookshelf.
As some of you may know, I collect and sell original SF and fantasy art. I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to acquire a number of those DAW cover paintings that I admired growing up. Recently I was given on consignment one of the cooler items that I’ve sold. This was a sketchbook, compiled by artist David Mattingly, containing 34 preliminaries. Mattingly had glued a preliminary to each right hand page. The sizes of the preliminaries varied, but they generally ranged between roughly 4.25” x 7” to 6” x 8”. There were clearly more pages at some point that had been cut out; presumably these contained other preliminaries that were sold separately over the years. Mattingly had given each preliminary a number; these ran from 62 through 113, in order, with gaps for missing pages.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing preliminaries, as they give a glimpse into the artist’s process as well as, in the case of preliminaries there were rejected, a view of what might have been. Most of the prelims in the sketchbook weren’t for DAW books – there were many for Del Rey/Ballantine Books as well as SF digests – but ten of them were. I thought that fellow DAW enthusiasts might enjoy seeing these earlier cover concepts.
“A Sweet cover promised an adventure to be had.” — Irene Gallo, Tor.com
Growing up a child of the late 60s, I stumbled my way into fantasy novels in the dying years of the 70s and through into the 80s. Across this time, there was one man who influenced the books I chose to read more than any other, and by quite a significant margin. No, it was not a particularly skilled author, or a philanthropist uncle who funded my addiction, nor was it a sibling or friendly role model who led by example. The man who guided me through the fantasy/sci-fi landscape of my youth was Darrell K. Sweet, a cover artist.
We have an ongoing series on Black Gatediscussing “Beauty in Weird Fiction.” We corner authors to tap their minds about their muses and ways to make ‘repulsive’ things ‘attractive to readers.’ Recent guests on Black Gate have included Darrell Schweitzer,Anna Smith Spark, & Carol Berg, Stephen Leigh, Jason Ray Carney, and John C. Hocking. See the full list of interviews at the end of this post. This one covers emerging author M. Stern who writes weird/horror fiction and sci-fi. He has had stories appear in Weird Book #44, Startling Stories#34, and Doug Draa’s clown anthology Funny As a Heart Attack. There’s some strange and complicated beauty to be found in all of those. He also has published in several other markets including Lovecraftiana: The Magazine of Eldritch Horror and flash fiction that deals with aesthetics and transgression in Cosmic Horror Monthly #19.
Through the Reality Warp (Ballantine Books, 1976). Cover by Boris Vallejo
Donald J. Pfeil had a brief and mostly undistinguished literary career. He’s chiefly remembered today as the editor of the well-regarded SF magazine Vertex, which ran for three years in the early 70s. He wrote some short fiction (all published in Vertex), and four novels, including a Planet of the Apes tie-in with the undisputed greatest title of the 1970s, Escape From Terror Lagoon. (If I could dream up titles like that, the entirety of Western Civilization would be helpless before me.)
His best-remembered book is Through the Reality Warp, a dopey science fiction adventure featuring a ballsy soldier named ‘Billiard’ (get it?) who’s shot into an alternate dimension to smash stuff and seduce space babes. It has a dismal 2.67 rating at Goodreads (and some heartily entertaining 1-star reviews), but that’s beside the point.
The point — and the only reason this book is remembered at all after 45 long years — is that eye-popping Boris Vellejo cover, featuring a gorgeous alien landscape, a virile space hero. a slavering alien fiend, and…. oh, wow. A cringeworthy amount of exposed space butt, courtesy of an all-male art department.
Johnny Mayhem, man of a thousand faces, leaping from body to body, putting right things that had once went…no wait! That’s the television show, Quantum Leap, which ran from 1989 to 1993. Never mind. Decades before Sam Beckett went leaping through time, there was another bodiless adventurer doing much the same thing. His name was Johnny Mayhem.
Weird Tales, January 1945. Cover by Margaret Brundage
This time we’re jumping ahead in our deep read of the Unique Magazine, to the January 1945 issue. The old guard has largely changed. Howard has been dead for almost six years, Lovecraft out-lived him less than a year. C. L. Moore hadn’t published in WT since 1939, Clark Ashton Smith longer. (Reprints not considered,) That doesn’t mean there were no familiar names. Seabury Quinn, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, and others continued to contribute. New writers, like Ray Bradbury, were coming on. Though the Golden Age was definitely over, that doesn’t mean the magazine didn’t publish quality material.