Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Skull, Part II


(Patrick Woodroffe’s cover for the 1974 edition of Four for the Future (1969), ed. Harry Harrison)

Here is Part II of my sequence on SF and Skulls (morbid I know): Part I.  We have a range of skeletal curios—from Charles Moll’s deconstructed representation of an astronaut in mental and physical decay to Patrick Woodroffe’s heart + skull renegade taxidermy-esque construction arrayed against a joyous psychedelic (blotter paper swirls?) background.

What are your favorites? Why?

I plan on a Part III so if you know of any other skull art on pre-1980s covers let me know.  I know there are more Astounding magazine covers but I don’t own copies and have trouble finding high resolution images online.


For more art posts consult the INDEX


(Uncredited cover for the 1973 edition of No Mind of Man (1973), ed. Robert Silverberg)


(Davis Meltzer’s cover for the 1975 edition of A Plague of Demons (1964), Keith Laumer)


(Charles Moll’s cover for the 1975 edition of Possess & Conquer (1975), Wenzell Brown)


(Uncredited cover for the 1970 edition of Science Against Man (1970), ed. Anthony Cheetham)


(Uncredited cover for the 1975 edition of Star-Begotten (variant title: Star Begotten)(1937), H. G. Wells)


(Uncredited cover for the 1975 edition of The Invincible (1964), Stanislaw Lem)


(Uncredited cover for the 1970 edition of The White Windows (variant title: The Sex War) (1953), Sam Merwin, Jr.)


(Bruce Pennington’s cover for the 1975 edition of The Wizard of Linn (1950), A. E. van Vogt)


(Angus McKie’s cover for the 1976 edition of Best SF: 1974 (variant title: The Year’s Best Science Fiction No. 8)(1975), ed. Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss)


(Davis Meltzer’s cover for the 1971 edition of The Falling Astronauts (1971), Barry N. Malzberg)


(Ed Acuna’s cover for the December 1974 issue of Vertex: The Magazine of Science Fiction, ed. Donald J. Pfeil)


(Van Dongen’s cover for the May 1964 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr.)

47 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Skull, Part II”

        1. The Falling Astronauts cover perfectly embodies the feel of the novel. The deconstruction of the “heroic” astronaut who returns home most likely insane. But yeah, I wouldn’t mind the first one as well.

    1. Thanks. Unfortunately, the artist of the Vertex cover, Acuna, only has a handful of other covers listed on ISFDB… I agree, I really enjoy that one. Especially the texture of the bone.

            1. Me too.

              “The exact number of books Fanthorpe wrote for Badger Books is not known, but is estimated to be in excess of 180, 89 of which were written in a 3-year period – an average of a 158 page book every 12 days” — it boggles the mind…. There’s even a site online devoted to reviewing all his Badger books.


  1. Bruce Pennington I think,nearly always stands out from the rest.I think your favorite,Paul Lehr,might make him pale in comparison,I don’t know.One or two of the uncredited ones,aren’t bad though.

    I hope you read the “Book of Skulls” by Bob Silverberg.With your mild skull fetish,I thought it would be a natural choice.It was published the same year as his “Dying Inside”,but is less intensely mainstream,with instead an esoteric prose flavor and purpose,which is both chilling and charming.

    1. Lehr, my favorite? You are mistaken my friend. I much prefer Richard Powers work. Which outshines anything Pennington produced.

      I don’t think I have a skull fetish… ’tis just a thematic group that popped out at my while going through my image collection.

      I do not own a copy of Book of Skulls yet—I’ve read almost everything he wrote in the late 60s/70s other than that one, A Time of Changes, and The Tower of Glass. I did enjoy Dying Inside.

      1. I remember you put Powers stuff on….I’ll have to see it again.I checked,and nothing by him on this post.

        I know you don’t really have a skull fetish,but it is a motif you seem to enjoy.

        Haven’t read “The Tower of Glass”,but ATOC is long and languid I think,although finely written.DI as I remember,was an immensely readable and mesmerising piece of speculative fiction.Did you find it too mainstream and unpleasant?

        1. Because Powers is so surreal he doesn’t always fit in these more straight forward thematic posts. But, I’ve gone through every cover image I can find online of his and adore most of them. And of course generally buy books in used book stores with his covers on sight.

          No, I did not find Dying Inside “unpleasant.” As for “mainstream”, that certainly doesn’t put me off if it’s well written etc.

    1. I enjoy how your post emphasizes his work as a unified group—the thematic triptychs etc. I most appreciate his work as a unified corpus. Taken individually I tend to be ambivalent towards them.

      1. I think the Clockwork Orange and Ballard covers are great works of pop-art in themselves but the detail in Tiger! Tiger! is astonishing.

        I have all those books. The Ballard box set cost me £2 in a secondhand bookshop in Liverpool, circa 1988.

      1. I’ve seen this cover before online.I think you’re right,unless in the unlikely occurrence,there was two different ones the same year.The first in that case,would have been in 1978,but sure it was around before that.

  2. When I was a teen art student, almost 40 years ago, I drew a version of that Van Dongen cover. My college attending hippie cousin had it on his dorm wall for years.

  3. I’m glad to see Davis Meltzer represented twice. Some of his covers were exceptional. I’d include his cover for CITY in this collection, though it’s only a partial skull:

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