Archive for the 'Skeleton Astronauts' Category

Cover Art for No Way Back by Karl Zeigfreid (Badger, 1964)

No Way Back Zeigfreid 1964-3

No Way Back Zeigfreid 1964-2

Karl Zeigfreid was a house name for Badger Books; in this case, R.L. Fanthorpe is the author. The cover artist is unknown, and the synopsis of the book makes it highly unlikely that a skeleton in a spacesuit holding what appears to be a South Seas dancing girl made an appearance. Skeleton astronauts are often seen on sci-fi covers, but rarely have anything to do with the stories inside.

Ed Valigursky Cover Art for The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein (Ace, 1972)

Heinlein 1972

The book is a collection of short stories, none of which feature a dead astronaut. See more of Valigursky’s work here.

(Image via MPorcius Fiction Log)

Cover Art for Stanislaw Lem’s The Invincible (Ace, 1975)

Invincible 1973-1975

Very similar to the Angus McKie piece that was published the following year. The artist of the Lem cover is unknown, and you can see details on the book here. More skeleton astronauts, a recurring theme in sci-fi since the genre’s beginning, here.

Jack Jackson and Dave Sheridan Cover Art for Slow Death #2 (Last Gasp, 1970)

Slow Death #2

More Slow Death here. Filed under Skeleton Astronauts.

Michael Gross Back Cover Art for Heavy Metal (January, 1982)

Heavy Metal 1982 Michael Gross

Compare to the Angus McKie art seen here. The skeleton in a spacesuit, representing the long dead astronaut, is a very powerful sci-fi trope that’s been around since the dawn of the genre. The decomposing explorer is often buried in sand and surrounded by a dead world. The attempt to colonize space, especially as a a result of escalating social upheaval or widespread devastation (i.e. a nuclear war) on Earth, is a deeply troubling idea to many and dates all the way back to the myth of Icarus.

The image is a warning against the hubris of flying too high, of crossing thresholds we were not meant to cross, of challenging God. Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950) is a famous example of the theme, as are the early sci-fi films Rocketship X-M (1950) and Flight to Mars (1951), to name just a few examples.

I can’t find much information on Michael Gross. He has entries at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database under both Mike Gross and Michael Gross, for a combined ten cover works. Heavy Metal is not mentioned, but I know he did more than one cover for the magazine.

(Image via The Por Por Books Blog)

Richard Corben Cover Art: Anomaly #4 (November, 1972)

Anomaly #4 Corben 1972-2

Anomaly #4 Corben 1972-1

Front and back covers. Images are via The Golden Age. Corben is one of the greats, and what about that title design?

Movie Posters: Def-Con 4 (1984)

Defcon 4 Poster 1984

On the shortlist for my best movie posters of the ’80s, I slobbered over the VHS cover for years, even after watching the dull-as-post-apocalyptic-sand indie it was meant to (mis)represent. The artist is Rudy Obrero, who, aside from poster art (the pumped-up Mad Max 2 international one-sheet, for starters) and a massive amount of advertising art, was one of the defining illustrators on Mattel’s early Masters of the Universe packaging. He painted the box covers for the Wind Raider, Battle Cat, and Castle Grayskull, among others. (See an interview with Obrero at Poe Ghostal.)

The Def-Con 4 poster is not as original as I thought, however. The painting below is by Angus McKie and comes from the cover of The Year’s Best Science Fiction #8 (Sphere, 1976), as well as a British sci-fi/fantasy art tome called The Flights of Icarus (Paper Tiger, 1977). While Obrero’s changes to the original are pretty ingenious—the movie is about astronauts who return to a mutant-infested Earth after watching World War III unfold from space—there’s no doubt that the enduring motif is McKie’s.

Icarus McKie 1977

(Angus McKie art via Ski-Ffy, where you can see more work from Flights of Icarus)




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