#Art of Fantasy 90: Neal Adams (Legends)

ws_the_art_of_neal_adams_1024x768We kick this special spotlight on legends off with American comic book artist, Neal Adams. Born on June 6, 1941, Neal began his career with Archie comics and slowly worked his way up the ladder, doing commercial work here and there. It took a while but his unique style began drawing attention and in 1962 he started working for the NEA newspaper syndicate on the Ben Casey comic strip.

He later moved on to Warren Publishing’s black-and-white horror-comics magazines and from there he took the jump to DC comics. His steady climb to legendary status continued uninterrupted from there.

Neal co-founded the graphic design studio Continuity Associates in 1971, and as a creators-rights advocate, he helped secure recognition and pensions for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

As a kid reading comic books, Neal’s art easily stood out for me. The way he drew his characters, their faces and proportions and angles were so alive with action and energy, so different from the others. His illustrations possessed a distinct flavor, a tone that was all its own, and which I enjoyed a lot. Trying to remember the effect his art had on me is like recalling a memory with the ambiance and emotion intact. Sometimes you just feel it. Not everything requires words.

Neal also illustrated paperback novels for the Tarzan series from Ballantine Books and Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian, which I really loved, and the chief reason I’m featuring him today.

He was inducted into the Eisner Award‘s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Harvey Awards‘ Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999.

Below is a small collection of his work. Each image links back to where I found it. Enjoy!











From what I’ve read, Neal promoted sword & sorcery comics back when the genre was barely recognized or known in the comic book industry. He was one of the early artists who worked on Howard’s Conan. Savage Sword of Conan #1, published in 1974, featured a Red Sonja story written by Roy Thomas with Neal as the inker and penciler. Neal later also contributed to Conan the Barbarian #44 – #45 (November-December 1974), and Wulf the Barbarian #2 (April 1975). He did the covers for Savage Tales and the Conan comics, and in Savage Tales #4 (May 1974), Neal was one of the inkers on “Night of the Dark God.”

Another interesting and awesome bit of fact is that Neal worked as a storyboard artist on the film, Conan the Barbarian (1982). Clearly a Conan fan, Neal has done many book illustrations of Conan, and given that this blog favors fantasy in all its guises, he is a welcome addition to Art of Fantasy (Legends).



(Sources: 1, 2, and 3)


Who was Sir Julius Vogel?

julius_vogel_ca_1870sA couple of months ago I mentioned that my three stories in These Broken Worlds received a nomination for a Sir Julius Vogel Award. For those who don’t know, The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are held each year at the New Zealand National Science Fiction Convention to celebrate and recognize achievement in New Zealand science fiction, fantasy, horror, and science fiction fandom.

Alas, I never made the short list, but being nominated felt awesome. I wrote this at the time in response:

My first ever nomination for words I wrote. I know it’s just a nomination and that the number of nominations will decide who lands on the final ballot, but as I write this blog, glee pumps through my veins and it’s a good feeling.

Which brings me to today’s post. I want to give you some context to the award by talking about the author it is named after. As a speculative fiction writer, I found the history interesting and I hope you do too.

Sir Julius Vogel was a prominent New Zealand journalist and politician who was also elected Prime Minister of New Zealand twice during the 1870s. Historian Warwick R. Armstrong said this about Sir Vogel’s strengths and weaknesses as a politician:

“Vogel’s politics were like his nature, imaginative – and occasionally brilliant – but reckless and speculative. He was an excellent policymaker but he needed a strong leader to restrain him….Yet Vogel had vision. He saw New Zealand as a potential ‘Britain of the South Seas’, strong both in agriculture and in industry, and inhabited by a large and flourishing population.”

148846_1Not so strange then, perhaps, that this politician also enjoys the status of being the first New Zealander to have published a science-fiction novel. Anno Domini 2000, or, Woman’s Destiny, published in 1889, predicted a utopian world where women held the top positions of authority in government.

And wouldn’t you know,  New Zealand became the second country to entrench women’s right to vote, after the Isle of Man in 1881. In 1893, Elizabeth Yates became Mayor of Onehunga, the first time such a post had ever been held by a woman anywhere in the British Empire at the time. From 1998 to 2008 New Zealand continuously had a female Prime Minister. In fact, at one stage all five highest government positions (Queen, Governor-General, Prime Minister, Speaker of the House and Chief Justice) were simultaneously held by women.

As for Anno Domini 2000, it tells a futuristic story in which women rise to positions of power and citizens travel freely in aluminium ‘air-cruisers’. Vogel wrote the novel after stepping down as New Zealand’s Premier, a role in which he promoted a future where men and women would enjoy social and political equality.

In features Hilda Fitzherbert, the 23-year-old Imperial Prime Minister of the British Empire, who is caught between a villainous Australian republican and Emperor Albert, the dashing young ruler of the Federated British Empire. The future of the world is at risk when an Anglo-American war breaks out.

Generally not my cup of tea, not that I even drink tea, but then, I am also not of English stock, so I’ll reserve my opinion until I have read the book.

In his introduction to the 2000 edition, academic Roger Robinson listed some of Vogel’s other predictions. I’ve reproduced a few here:

  • Australian politicians move to secede from United Britain to establish a wholly independent republic
  • Europe becomes fully federated
  • British royalty is strengthened by marriage between the ‘Emperor’ and a commoner woman of great charisma
  • The news media and their inveterate interest in celebrity gossip exert considerable political influence
  • A social welfare system provides living comforts even for the poor, including subsidised accommodation in ‘splendid edifices of many storeys, with constant self-activating elevators.’
  • Electricity is the prime source of domestic light and heat and most houses in hot climates have air conditioning.
  • Air travel is universal, in lightweight aluminium ‘air-cruisers’ powered by ‘quickly revolving fans’. (This was 14 years before the Wright Brothers’ flight).
  • There is instant communication technology in the form of ‘hand telegraph’ or ‘noiseless telegraph’, which politicians have fitted to their desks and journalists use to transmit copy directly to their newspapers.

515yqpppgflRobinson’s overall impression of Vogel is that the man was “…a utopian prophet of rare percipience.” Unfortunately, the novel did not sell well but later received posthumous recognition for its accurate representation of a future New Zealand. The book was reissued with an updated cover in 2001, and in 2002 the University of Hawaii Press published the very first American edition.

Hurricane Press released an ebook version in 2013, but whoever is responsible for the ebook’s atrocious cover should be chained to a metal chair and forced to watch the Kardashians for 48 straight hours without bathroom breaks. At least the ebook includes a retrospective chapter describing the origins of the book and the early newspaper reviews.

I don’t normally involve myself in politics, for various reasons, none of which I’m willing to elaborate on here (I’m neither left nor right). Besides, this blog is about fiction and art and books and word adventures. My reasoning for sharing this tiny piece of New Zealand history is simply because I thought you might find it interesting. At the very least, it puts the Vogels in context.

And there you have it. Tiny bits of information about the speculative fiction community this side of the world.





#Art of Fantasy 89: MONSTERS PIT Studio


It’s funny, this week both my fantasy post and the science fiction one over on Kōsa Press feature artists from Spain. Not planned, of course, just one of those pleasant coincidences.

As for today’s fantasy artist(s), MONSTERS PIT Studio provides artwork for the film, videogame, advertising, and publishing industries. Their services span the creative spectrum and include high-end concept art, illustration, supervision and art direction, even marketing.

Below is a small sampling of one of their artist’s work. Each of the images links back to the site of origin. Enjoy!












MONSTER PIT Studios must be doing something right because their list of clients includes Konami, Codemasters, Paizo Publishing, Nintendo, Lightbox Entertainment, Creating Games, and Gamezone.

I chose to feature only one artist’s work because I love the monochromatic-like palette they utilise and because it reminds me slightly of Ariel Perez’s work in terms of composition and texture. That is not to say this artist lacks originality. Far from it, in fact. Today’s collection shimmers with an old school ambience that is unique in style and tone, and very much well within the realm of what I consider awesome.

Talking about awesome, next week’s post will be the 90th instalment of “Art of Fantasy.” I’m excited. I never expected this series to endure, and yet it has, and I am glad for it. Last week’s post featured a living legend and it made me wonder whether I shouldn’t do something special for the next ten posts.

So, from next week and until “Art of Fantasy 99,” I’m going to feature legends of old. Masters of the art of fantasy who beguiled us and kidnapped our imaginations and magicked our daydreams, who made us read secretly instead of doing our homework. I’m going to feature those artists and point the spotlight on them, on names and art I haven’t seen in ages. I’m looking forward to this. It’s going to be incredible.

As for the 100th post? Obviously, I need to do something really special. I’ll let you know when I find out what it is.






Art of Fantasy 88: Esteban Maroto

portada_las-leyendas-de-san-jorge_editorial-planeta_201503061122It’s been a while since I featured a legend, so I’m doing it today. We’re going back in time, folks. I give you Spanish artist, Esteban Maroto. A comic book artist, illustrator, painter, writer, and well, a living legend.

Although he initially built his reputation outside the States, Maroto is best known for the short stories and covers he illustrated for Creepy, Vampirella and Eerie during the 70s and 80s and Marvel’s ConanRed Sonja, and Dracula. His ‘Manly’ serial also found its way to the States under the title ‘Dax the Warrior.’

Other comic books he later worked on include AmethystZatannaAtlantis ChroniclesThe Savage Sword of ConanCadillacs and DinosaursDracula: Vlad the Impaler, and X-Men Unlimited, to name just a few.

Below is a small selection of his earlier work. Each image links back to the site of origin. Please sit back and enjoy.














Born in Madrid in 1942, Maroto began his art career under Manuel Lópezin’s guidance in the early 1960’s with the long-running series Cinco por infinito, published in English by Continuity Comics as “Zero Patrol.” Maroto later ventured into fantasy and science fiction with Buck John and Merlo the Magician. His reputation for drawing powerful yet voluptuous female figures grew quickly and he became a popular romance artist. Maroto would later contribute to the German magazine, Roy Tiger, and create his two best-known serials, Manly and Tomb of the Gods.

His real breakthrough came with the comic strip Five for Infinity (“Zero Patrol” above). It established him as an artist and writer and gave credence to his unique drawing style which would later become so easily recognizable. Maroto used decorative and ornate detail in his illustrations while his characters and settings appeared more barbaric. This marriage of lush and savagery made his art stand out and were particularly suited for the emerging heroic fantasy and sword-and-magic subgenres of the 70s. Elements in his art remind me of John Buscema’s style, maybe even a bit of Frank Frazetta, too.

It’s good to look back at the outliers of old. To revisit their work and appreciate the journeys they took us on and for the awesome memories they gave us. They were the ones who enticed us to pick up a book and read, who lured us with covers of barbarian warriors and scantily clad vixens and the promise of a good story. They piqued our interest for adventure and fantasy and so we give thanks by making sure they are never forgotten.

What did you think of today’s post? Let me know in the comments below. And if you’re interested in sci-fi art, you can see this week’s Art of Science Fiction here.



(Sources:  Lambiek and Daven Carlen. You should visit these pages. They have far more detailed information on Maroto and a host of other artists.)


Skelos – The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy

18537e83871cbcc130446f8c90396638_originalA few months ago, I supported a Kickstarter campaign for the first issue of Skelos: The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark FantasyThe campaign was a massive success, receiving $19,318 from 499 backers after setting a modest goal of only $2,000. Massive success is indeed accurate, but then, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Skelos is a “horror and fantasy journal featuring short fiction, essays, poetry, reviews, and art by both seasoned pros and talented newcomers,” and that right there is the core reason for its success.

Of course, some of that success might be attributed to the fact that this first issue includes a fantasy story by Robert E. Howard (Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane) that’s never been published before. On top of that, Howard’s story is illustrated by the illustrious Mark Schultz (Xenozoic Tales, Coming of Conan, Prince Valiant). I’ll be honest, this alone is an adrenaline shot straight to the heart for me.

Volume 1 also features a new sword-and-sorcery novelette by Keith Taylor (Bard series, Cormac Mac Art), which is his long-awaited sequel to the classic “Men from the Plain of Lir” originally published in Weird Tales. I’ve never read the story, unfortunately, but I plan to remedy that soon enough. And, as with Howard’s story, this one is also illustrated, this time by Tomás Giorello (Dark Horse King Conan).

So yes, a lot of awesome in just two short paragraphs and reason enough why I supported this campaign.

And I received my copy this morning.


The magazine also includes a number of short stories from talented writers like Charles Gramlich, Dave Hardy, Jason Ray Carney, Ethan Nahte, Scott Hannan, Keith West, and a bunch of others, including a fully illustrated adaptation of Grettir and the Draugr from the Icelandic Sagas by Samuel Dillon.

The editors of Skelos are Mark Finn, author of the World Fantasy Award-nominated Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E Howard; Chris Gruber, editor of Robert E. Howard’s Boxing Stories from the University of Nebraska Press; and Jeffrey Shanks, co-editor of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Unique Legacy of Weird Tales.

I’m excited to be part of the editorial staff for this journal. We are finding and publishing material that we love to read, and read about. There’s a long-standing tradition to weird fiction, and we think we can contribute something new and exciting to it.” ~ Mark Finn, Editor

They want to keep publishing stories that feature sword and sorcery, cosmic horror, dark fantasy, sword and planet, and an array of similar subgenres, and they plan for this journal to become the framework for a community of like-minded fans, writers, artists, and scholars that love all these weird and wonderful tales of awesome adventure and horror.

Now I had planned to finish The Hammer and the Blade by Paul Kemp this weekend, but I guess that’s not going to happen now. I wonder why…

See you on the other side.



#Art of Fantasy 87: Team Couscous

erebos_cover__korea_ver___by_couscousteam-d6gujzoTeam Couscous, as far as I am aware, is a team of South Korean illustrators active in the gaming industry. A lot of their work focusses on mobile games. I could be wrong. I emailed them for some more background information and will update this post later if necessary.

Below is a small collection of their work. Each image links back to the site of origin. Enjoy!







team-couscous--2team-couscous--3team-couscous-3team-couscous--4team-couscous--5team-couscous-201506We have three different styles here. All of them pulsing with energy and atmosphere. I generally like the color choices, using dark and earthy tones with dynamic lighting subtly scattered across each image. Imbued with much vigor, these illustrations are exciting and presses all the right buttons for me.

It’s always exciting to see how artists’ styles can vary so much and yet each on their own possess the genius to invoke reaction, sometimes by a simple and subtle brush stroke.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Let me know what you thought and remember to check out this week’s Art of Science Fiction over on Kosa Press’ blog.




A New Tower of Books

IMG_0684This is my new Tower of Books for the next month or so. I’m getting slow and soft. I had a similar heap previously for two months and only read two books. This time I’m doing much better. I have already finished Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell and loved it. Think The Three Musketeers during the 1600s but within a fantasy setting. Sebastien’s voice is very distinct and I had trouble putting the book down. I enjoyed it enough to want to read the second book in the series.

Also, I’m five pages away from finishing David Gemmell’s Winter Warriorsand as with most of David’s books, I read this one over the course of a weekend. I’m a big David Gemmell fan, mostly because I can always rely on his voice to pull me from this world in a quick and easy fashion. He has an old-soul voice that allows me to immerse myself in his fantasy worlds without strain or effort, and he manages this by spinning a magic that is addictive and fun. I’m not surprised they named an award after him.

I’ve been using the library more lately as it forces a deadline on me. Originally it was a way to get my kids to discover the joy of reading, but it seems to have rejuvenated my old book stalking ways. A writer learns by reading and writing and although I’ve been writing steadily, my reading time decreased to a trickle in recent months. It’s important to read. It’s even more important to read when you’re a writer.

So, yes, I felt guilty. My routine now includes at least half an hour of reading time at night. But, it’s never just thirty minutes, of course. I always end up reading more than an hour or until my eyelids become too heavy to keep open or the book drops on my face.

Talking about things dropping, check out what fell on my doorstep on Friday.


They feel and smell as good as they look. I have to send two copies to the National Library here in New Zealand, and, of course, keep one copy for my library. Okay, maybe two copies. Not sure what I will do with the rest, yet.

I know I should write more blog posts about my writing projects and I should bring out fiction faster. I’m working on that, trust me. I’ve decided to change tactics a bit. Starting this month, I’m also sending out short stories to speculative fiction magazines. I have never done that before. It will be an interesting experiment and I promise to keep you updated.

And that is all from me for now. #Art of Fantasy comes out tomorrow and I still have to find an artist, so that is also on the agenda today. It’ll be difficult to beat last week’s post, but we’ll see.

Take care, folks.