Here are the 5 covers I painted for Famous Monsters of Filmland:


Please scroll down for info on individual covers.

Famous Monsters #133, the Robby the Robot cover, was one of my earliest paying art jobs.
I initially submitted a 35mm slide of the painting in 1976, which was rejected. Feeling that the slide
didn't do the original art justice, I shipped the Robby painting to Bill Mohalley at Warren.
Within a week I got a call from Jim Warren himself, telling me he wanted to buy it for publication.
To say I was thrilled was an understatement – Famous Monsters meant the WORLD to me.
As I recall, I got paid $175, but I would have paid Warren that amount (and much more)
to rent prime Basil Gogos visual real estate.

The original art for my Robby the Robot cover was supposed to be returned to me,
but vanished from Warren's offices. If anybody out there has ever seen it, or
knows where it might be, please contact me at billselby1@comcast.net

The original art was 100% airbrushed in guache and Pelikan Inks on #215 hot press Crescent Board.


I painted the Dark Crystal cover in 1981 when I lived in Columbus, Ohio.
Bill Mohalley, FM's art director, assigned the job to me, and supplied photo reference.
Jim Warren gave it the final okay, but unfortunately it wound up being the cover of the
last issue of Warren's run of Famous Monsters, #191. This was doubly bittersweet,
as Warren had also purchased two additional paintings from me to use
as covers which remained unused – the Star Wars cantina, and the Metaluna Mutant.
Of course, I didn't have a clue what was going on behind the scenes at Warren Publishing at the time.

While in Manhattan in 1982, I called Bill Mohalley, FM's Managing Editor, to see if I could pick up my
Dark Crystal painting. I was shocked when he told me Warren Publishing was closing its doors.
Mohalley returned my Dark Crystal art, Metaluna Mutant art, and the 8"x10"
Star Wars cantina color transparency which they intended to use. He also showed me the mocked-up
Cantina cover and some pages for issue #192, which sadly, never saw the light of day – until 2012.

1986 – Forry and myself in the Ackermansion!
I presented my original Dark Crystal cover art to Forry when I moved to LA in 1986.
I'd been in LA less than two weeks when I made the pilgramage
to the Ackermansion (I would have gone sooner, but Forry was at a convention).
He couldn't have been nicer, but I gotta tell you, I found the place disturbinglly
disheveled and cluttered – after a while I guess the clutter becomes invisible.
Forry regaled me and several other fans with patented Forry story gems and
punny witticisms, posed in Lugosi's Dracula cape and ring, and pretty much
gave me free reign to sight-see upstairs and down. I experienced first hand
the trust he placed in fans not to rip him off; unfortunately, this trust was
not always rewarded.

Below is what my painting looked like when I gave it to Forry, although it was
framed and matted . . . continue reading to get the rest of the story.

Below is a detailed closeup. The painting was colored oil glazes over #2 Black Warrior pencil.

The fine hairs were scratched out with an airbrush needle after the oil dried.

Imagine my surprise (and dismay), when I spotted my painting, above, in 2003 for sale on eBay!
It had been removed from its frame and ignominiously gnawed by rodents at the bottom!
I wound up losing the eBay auction, and had to pay both the seller and winner of the
auction to get my painting back. The eBay seller had bought it for a song at a Hollywood garage sale.
Tales of the sad dismantling of Forry's collection can be found elsewhere.
Still, it's an amazing stroke of luck that I happened to be checking out
eBay auctions during the EXACT time the painting was put up for sale.
It has since been restored.

 

The cover of FM#192, the 25th Anniversary issue, featuring my painting of the Star Wars cantina,
was advertised on the inside back cover of FM #191 (above).

I was commissioned to paint the Star Wars cantina poster when I was art director and principal artist of
Factor's Etc., Inc. back in January of 1978. This was the very first STAR WARS FAN CLUB POSTER and it
was commissioned and approved by George Lucas himself.  Factors was in the enviable position of having
purchased the STAR WARS T-Shirt, poster and many other merchandising distribution rights before the
film's original release in 1977 - of course, nobody had ANY idea the impact the film would have and how it
would set the trend for merchandising in the future.

At the time I created this poster I was doing advertising art, painting covers for FM, HEAVY METAL,
and other magazines and paperbacks, in addition to creating Factor's T-Shirt line.
The film had been out for eight months when I did the painting, and I was provided with 35mm
color slides for reference. The assignment was simple: put all of the aliens that were in the cantina sequence
into one grand scene. The first sketches I did actually contained more creatures but I was told to
remove some of them because George Lucas, limited by time and money, was dissatisfied with the look of
several aliens that appeared in the original film's cantina sequence. You can see my color comp in
one of the photos above, leaning against the easel below the painting.

Once Lucas approved my rough color comp, I began painting. The deadline was tight - just one week -
but I opted to do the painting in oils. Not smart. Even though I used heat lamps to speed drying time,
I wound up finishing the painting in acrylic. Live and learn. I also need to acknowledge
artist-extraordinaire Jon Townley, who helped me complete the painting – I couldn't have done it without him
(I even had Jon sign the original painting when it was returned to me).
The original was 2 1/2' x 3 1/2' and painted on gessoed Masonite.

            When the painting was completed, I crated it up - a flat plywood crate around 4 inches thick -
and flew to Los Angeles to get it approved. It was the dead of winter, and I had to change planes in Chicago.
While standing inside the airport observation deck watching bag handlers remove luggage and the
crated painting from the plane, I looked on in horror as the crate slipped off the baggage trailer onto the
icy tarmac. Nobody noticed but me!  Zooming tow tractors and trucks came within inches of
smashing the crate. I frantically notified security. The crated painting was finally rescued
by a mechanic on a cigarette break.

Below are detailed views of the Cantina painting.

In Hollywood, I delivered the painting to a white, nondescript office trailer on the Universal Studios back lot.
A kewl logo on the trailer's side said "Black Falcon Ltd." (this is what Lucas was calling his company then). 
I waited inside the 'living room' area of the trailer while a secretary took my painting to a room in the back
for Lucas's approval. The secretary emerged with the painting in less than one minute. "It's approved," she said.
And I never even got to meet George.

UPDATE!
Phil Kim, the new publisher of the resurrected Famous Monsters of Filmland, is producing a retro issue of FM #192.
Finally, after 30 years, I'll get that cantina cover (below) published!

When Famous Monsters began their current run with Phil Kim, I was asked to do the cover of #252.
Click here for info.

For the Metaluna Mutant painting I used airbrushed Pelikan inks and acrylics for the background.
The Mutant was painted in oils on canvas paper, then cut out and pasted onto the background.

In retrospect, I should have made Mutey more turquoise and less green.

Cross your fingers, 'cause I've heard that Mutie might turn up on an FM retro cover!

FINALLY! My Mutie painting was FINALLY used for the cover of Famous Monsters of Filmland #277 – it only took 40 years!

 

 

Click HERE to see photos from my visit to the Ackermansion!

 

 

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