Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Artist Spotlight: Michael Whelan

Michael Whelan was one my favorite fantasy artists growing up. I remember loving his "Elric: Demonslayer" (right) before knowing who or what the picture was about.

Whelan is probably most famous for his Elric and John Carter of Mars covers. His cover for Burrough's A Princess of Mars is iconic, and a favorite Elric cover is for Sailor on the Sea of Fate. Whelan is also well known for a series of H.P. Lovecraft collections, which do a fantastic job of bringing the series together, as well as tying all the mythos items together.

Though I do love his work, I am a bit torn over his John Carter of Mars covers. On one hand, I love the landscapes and the drama of his work (the new logo is from Thuvia, Maid of Mars), but I think some of the creatures, particularly the green men, are off. The green men, while not imagined as they are described in the book, still carry off the spirit. Had not Burroughs described them so well (in most regards), Whelan's version would likely be the "official" version. Marvel did a better job of going by Burrough's blueprint, but they are less interesting than Whelan's, so doubts aside, I prefer Whelan's green men.

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Cover of an H.P. Lovecraft collection.


Sailor on the Sea of Fate


A Princess of Mars


Thuvia, Maid of Mars


Big ups to Dark World for the hi-res John Carter images. See more here.

12 comments:

Shon Richards said...

When I was in High School, I had read some King and Poe, and a few Hitchcock anthologies, but I had avoided horror because I figured it would be like the horror movies of the time, slasher flicks.

I picked up a Lovecraft book one day purely because of the Whelan cover. It just seemed so bizarre and alien compared to everything else on the shelves. Although Lovecraft hooked me with his writing, it was certainly the covers that gave me the first taste.

Atom Kid said...

The "Sailor On The Sea Of Fate" illustration is one that conjures up a lot of memories for me, as a kid just getting into fantasy literature.

I've got an anthology of John Carter stories that has that Princess Of Mars painting on it. It's wonderful!

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Shon - I was inteding to get into Lovecraft, and the covers sealed the deal. I did not know they were by Whelan at the time. "Dreams in the Witch-house" still gives me the creeps.

@Atom Kid - That cover looks exactly how that point in the story feels.

Venusian said...

I was working in a bookstore during Whelan's heyday. I'd say his Pern covers are the best known.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Venusian - Good call. I always forget about Pern. Never read any of them. More branching out necessary. Trying to pick a Zelazny, now a McCaffrey :-) Maybe she's on Kindle? Hmm... Zelazny is not :-(

wiec? said...

i love the Sailor on the Sea of Fate art. the ghostly quality of the background really make the figures pop. also his use of composition is tops. The Princess of Mars pic on your post is just amazing. it really carries your eye all over it.

i've seen this guy's stuff before somewhere but don't own the books. never knew who he was. thanks for sharing. and you picked the perfect pic for your header.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@wiec - That art from "Sailor" was a part when Elric was summoning something (perhaps air elementals to push the ship along faster, IIRC), and the crew, being unused to such things, were scared shitless. This is one of the few Elric pictures that really carries off how imposing Elric was to the people of his world.

joe bloke said...

I remember reading in an old collection of his work that: when Whelan first painted the Sailor on the Seas of Fate cover, Elric was black! apparently, he didn't know what an albino was, and it wasn't until after he'd done the picture that someone filled him in. and THAT is Joe's incredibly useless fact of the day today. I thank-ee.

Keith said...

These are really amazing. I love them all. The last one is my favorite. Thanks for sharing these with us.

Dr. Zaius said...

These are great! I've never heard of this artist.


You have been awarded the One Lovely Blog Award! :o)

Venusian said...

"I remember reading in an old collection of his work that: when Whelan first painted the Sailor on the Seas of Fate cover, Elric was black! apparently, he didn't know what an albino was, and it wasn't until after he'd done the picture that someone filled him in. and THAT is Joe's incredibly useless fact of the day today. I thank-ee."

That wasn't Whelan, he isn't that stupid, it was a previous Elric artist. MIchael Moorcock relates the story in Whelan's first art book Wonder Works.

Hannah said...

I have that HP Lovecraft book and love the cover! It captures the mood of the stories very well.:)

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