Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Gino D’Achille and small greenish men stealing large reddish women

While browsing through the spectacular collection of DAW sci-fi/fantasy covers between the 60s-80s on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database  I came across Ian Wallace’s The Lucifer Comet (1980).  I know nothing about the work itself (or the author) but something about the shoddy cover immediately rung a bell.  I had seen a similar small greenish man (but without wings) hoisting an unprotesting much heavier scantily clad reddish female.

Lo and behold Gino D’Achille had been commissioned by Ballantine books in the 70s to supply covers for Edgar Rice Burroughs spectacular John Carter on Mars series (begun in 1912 and ending 1964 with the rather dubious eleventh novel installment published after Burroughs’ death).  My set all have Gino D’Achille covers.  Although I’m not that fond of the art in the slightest the books hold intense nostalgic value.  I thoroughly enjoyed Burroughs pulp adventures on Mars, the constant wars between the Reds and Greens etc…  And of course, the series was extremely influential for the genre.

Peeking through my set I discovered that D’Achille’s cover for the the third installment, The Warlord of Mars (complete novel first published in 1919) has a nearly identical small greenish man hoisting a MUCH larger scantily clad reddish woman.  John Carter brandishing his sword about to slay the measly little creature puts everything in scale.  When I was a kid I always wondered why the woman, being so much larger, didn’t just punch the green guy in the face or put her feet on the ground and lift him up…

Returning to the cover of Ian Wallace’s The Lucifer Comet — Gino D’Achille has recycled his little greenish Mars man and his reddish captive, added wings to create what appears to be Satan/Lucifer.  Why Satan would be so small I have no idea.  I find the entire thing hilarious…

I must admit, Gino D’Achille’s original canvas for The Warlord of Mars has a certain charm….

8 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Gino D’Achille and small greenish men stealing large reddish women

  1. I too have always wondered about the Damsel-in-Distress iconography that depicts women sort of sitting there, doing nothing to assist the hero in the saving process. In the Warlords of Mars image, in fact, one might think the distressed look on the woman’s face is directed at the sword wielding John Carter. Indeed, one might think the green man was helping her because she has a sprained ankle or something, and then they are sprung upon by this sword weiding maurauder of a Earthman…

    • The puny size of that green martian in comparison to the damsel makes the trope even more hilarious…. I think he’s pretty valiant trying to lift her AND fight John Carter at the same time.

      But, that green martian as Satan makes me cringe — HAHA

  2. I am wondering…
    Looking back on these covers for the first time since much earlier days…
    I am wondering aloud…
    doesn’t the damsel seem to be without weight?
    See how she seem to float in space in front of the greenie! Of course, on the Burroughs cover, the painting could have stopped the scene just as the greenie was dropping the damsel… However, it seems clear to me that she, in fact, has no weight – especially on the Wallace cover. Perhaps she is a cut-out – a 2D cardboard image of a damsel! Rather symbolic considering the time period’s perception of women and considering the target audience (men)…
    (ps. the full-size painting looks rather out of balance with the action happening on the right side only… as if he planned on adding some additional figures).

    • The painting is for a wrap-around paperback cover. It’s “out of balance” because the back cover is going to be covered with copy and there needs to be very little happening there so as not to compete with the writing. D’Achille’s Martian series is brilliant as all the covers connect to make one long panorama.

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