(Serge Clerc’s cover for the 1977 edition of The Dramaturges of Yan (1972), John Brunner)
Joachim Boaz compiling a post about SF comic book art? Wait. Wait. That can’t be, I remember reading in a comment months ago that he hasn’t opened a comic book once in his entire life. Oh, that makes more sense, the French artist Serge Clerc, who worked for Métal Hurlant early in his career, also created SF covers….
…and they are quite fun in their wacky way. In 1977 for the French Presses de la Cité – Futurama, Serge Clerc created eight covers–gracing works by Brunner, Octavia Butler, E. C. Tubb, and James Gunn–of which I’ve included seven in this post. My favorite is his 1977 edition of John Brunner’s The Dramaturges of Yan (1972). I’ve read three of the four John Brunner novels. The Dramaturges of Yan (1972) might be his single worst novel and Polymath (variant title: Castaways’ World) (1963) was a fun adventure—although not as provoking as Bedlam Planet (1968). The Whole Man (variant title: Telepathist) (1964), a far better novel, definitely marks a turning point in his career.
James Gunn’s The Immortals (1962) is also worth the read. And anything by Octavia Butler…
Do you have any favorites? What do you think about comic book style art on SF covers? (personally, I’m not sold but I find all types of SF from the 70s intriguing).
As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.
For more cover art posts consult the INDEX
(Serge Clerc’s cover for the 1977 edition of Polymath (variant title: Castaways’ Planet) (1962), John Brunner)
(Serge Clerc’s cover for the 1977 edition of The Whole Man (variant title: Telepathist) (1964), John Brunner)(Serge Clerc’s cover for the 1977 edition of Star Ship (1955), E. C. Tubb)
(Serge Clerc’s cover for the 1977 edition of The Immortals (1962), James Gunn)
(Serge Clerc’s cover for the 1976 edition of Patternmaster (1976), Octavia E. Butler)
(Serge Clerc’s cover for the 1977 edition of The Space-Time Juggler (variant title: More Things in Heaven) (1963), John Brunner)
28 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: French comic book style 70s SF art by Serge Clerc”
A lot of comic book art approaches the best in SF cover and interior illustration,so why can’t the other realm be influenced by comics? Who’s imitating who? What’s significant I think about Serge Clerc’s aping of comic book art however,is that he’s sending-up old-fashioned,serious SF illustration.They’re so comical.I think I like them all,but particularly “Polymath” and “Space-Time Juggler”.
“So why can’t the other realm be influenced by comics?” — Of course they can and were (and continue to be). Maybe we don’t discuss the connections often but no one says they can’t. Mark pointed out below, tons of SF artists were also comic book artists. They created art for whoever would pay.
That’s absoulutely right.The borders cross.
Heavens! I love Serge Clerc’s comic book art, but I had no idea he did sci fi covers. If I’m honest, I prefer his comic strips..
Do you have a favorite strip? Something that shows the best he can do?
Not to hand, but he used to do some lovely stuff for the NME in the 1980s, jazzy 50’s style stuff which I thought was wonderful.
Cool cool! Do you have a link to an image? Thanks 🙂
There are quite a few here – love the black and white line drawings!
Thanks! They definitely scream “homage to 50s STYLE.”
While i admire your wide ranging exploration of the art of 1970’s SF, I also am not sold on this style of art. Which is why I collect books but only have a few SF related comics, mostly gifts from my brother. I have never been a fan of Métal Hurlant or any comic inspired SF, still a Galaxy, IF, Astounding type guy. I liked the Immortals by Gunn and I am amazed he is still publishing, I have Transcendental (2013) on the shelf and I am reading his book on Asimov at present. Butler is someone I have yet to read, but I must give her a try.
I tend to agree with your assessment of the art on this one.
As for Gunn, yeah, he’s still going! And he’s been quite the proponent of SF as a valuable area of study in the university setting…. A remarkable guy.
I’d like to know what you think of his newer SF if you get around to reading it. I know some authors like Aldiss have misfired utterly with their latest works.
I like these covers. I’m not sure that I really think they’re good, exactly, but they are so interesting that they inspire curiosity about the stories. Or, if the book doesn’t pan out, to what story might better fit the covers.
They are definitely interesting — and yes, “good” might not be an applicable word. I sort of like the composition of the first one — The Dramaturges of Yan cover. But good god, that novel is downright awful.
The Polymath cover has the best use of space and colour, in my opinion. Clean and tidy without too much going on. But both Patternmaster and The Immortals have a similar appeal for me.
Love the look of the refurbished site! First time I’ve viewed through a computer since the update, and I think you’re right, it really does look more professional. 🙂
None of the templates (even ones you have to pay for like this one) really do what I want the site to do. At some point in the (far?) future I’ll have my friend help me do the coding to modify a template (unfortunately it’s another perk you have to purchase).
As for the Polymath cover — it does evoke a grungy sort of space wreck. Having read the book, it’s a straight adventure and the cover fits it well. I guess. None of them really blow me away but I’ve been exploring so much French SF art on twitter lately I thought I’d put together a post.
Of course, since the cartoon series, the term “Futurama” has a completely different meaning here in the states than it does in France. The covers are all interesting, although all aren’t that good. The style fits perfectly the E. C. Tubb book, but is garishly out-of-place for the Butler novel. Still, he wasn’t the first comic artist to do book covers. Frank Frazetta, Mike William Kaluta, Jeff Jones, Vaughn Bodé, Richard Corben (who’s first professional work was for F&SF), Jack Davis, Gray Morrow, and others have had extensive resumes in the comic field while still doing paperback and magazine covers. Artists will always go where the work is. Dan Adkins did b&w illos for the magazines, and stories for the comics, Frank Kelly Freas did Mad Magazine covers, and Virgil Finlay did some comic stories in the fifties.
I agree with your assessment of the art — interesting but not all good.
And you’re definitely right that artists created art for whoever paid. Although, those that you listed are definitely not in my top tier of SF art — maybe the comic book influence is the reason. Haha (mostly in jest).
That said, I do not know the work of Richard Corben, I’ll look him up.
Thanks for the comment!
Possibly the American artist most comparable to Clerc’s style is Vaughn Bode, a countercultural/underground comic artist rather than the traditional Marvel/DC style. Fred Pohl seems to have taken a shine to him in the late 60s and got him to do various cover and interior illustrations for Galaxy and If. Bode won a fan award and Galaxy even let him run a comic strip until a subsequent editor Judy-Lynn del Rey at Galaxy objected to his work. He was a decent match for the original paperback of Laffertys’ Space Chantey. In fact Bode’s cover for a story by Ellison and Van Vogt doesn’t look as though it would be out of place among the Clerc covers above:
In fact thinking about it, the art work that appears in fanzines of the 60s and 70s is a lot closer to this style than anything that ever appeared on the covers of books – as there was a crossover between sf fandom and comics fandom: Ted White, George RR Martin, Howard Waldrop, Scott Edelman, George Alec Effinger
I have Vaughn Bode’s cover for Space Chantey. I’m intrigued by his comic Cobalt-60. Do you have a link to the original spread he did? It appears his son extended it after his death….
I’m not convinced I like his work but I’m all for a range of styles. But yes, definitely similar to Clerc’s work!
I sort of enjoyed this Bodé cover!
Google Book can be rather unreliable, but see if the link below works for the original 1968 installment of Cobalt 60:
Thanks — it worked for me. I’ll give it a read in the next few days.
Well, it’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it? Nobody will ever convince you of the legitimacy of comics, which only a series of sequential art pieces to tell a story. I learned to read by reading comics and I still enjoy reading them fifty-one years later. The end result of this missive is to once again stress that I read your column not because I always agree with you, I don’t, but to learn more about my favorite type of fiction, especially those authors and themes that I never particularly cared for. Listening only to sycophantic opinions is not a way to make your own tastes any more enjoyable. Besides, you’ve already caused me to possibly re-evaluate several authors that I had written off years ago.
Back to the point, there was a point?, oh yes, the comic artists that I listed. I always been a fan of illustrative rather than representative or interpretive artwork. so most of the artists that I listed above, I’ve always enjoyed as their work always seems to fall into that school of artistry. At his best, almost nobody could beat Freas and his use of bright colors, and the fine linework of Mike William Kaluta has captivated me since the seventies. Check out this: https://10deb7fbfece20ff53da-95da5b03499e7e5b086c55c243f676a1.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/76c5e1cd21e062f2ff1ca3a1cbe78a75_l.jpg as an example of his illustrations.
I don’t really understand the context of your comment. Which comment is your comment referring to? I was mostly talking about comic book art and not the comics themselves other than the basic fact that I don’t read them. That said, you’ll notice I asked Matthew for a link to Bodé’s SF comic strip Cobalt-60.
I also think we need to be careful — me disliking something is not me judging the entire body of readers (or fans) of the thing in question.
Then I owe you an apology for not making myself clear. I wasn’t criticizing your tastes, or making a judgement on you. We can’t, after all, read, or like, everything, so we have to draw limits, so I’m sorry if you misinterpreted my comments. Sometimes I just help my enthusiasm for something that I generally like, even if I don’t read that much in the way of comics anymore as I like horror, fantasy, war, mystery, i.e., mostly stand-alone stuff, and I tend to stay away from superheroes and funny animals. There is a monumental graphic novel version of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” that is supposed to be a direct lift of the novel, that you might like to compare to the original novel as you are doing so much Dick material. Anyway, I said I read your blog to learn about material that I normally wouldn’t read, and to learn to appreciate art that I normally wouldn’t like. Keep on, keeping on as they used to say.
There are numerous comic adaptations of famous SF novels. For example, More Than Human: The Graphic Story Version and a few others I’ve come across while browsing catalogues…
Thanks for the kind words.
I love the quirkiness of French art. Aside from quirky French book covers, I also love French graphic novels and animation. The French have a style and a grace all of their own.