Exhibit / April 26, 2017
Object Name: Cover illustrations for Isaac Asimov’s Lucky Starr
Maker and Year: Bob Pepper, 1971-1972
Object Type: Book jacket illustration
Description: (K.E. Roberts):
Originally published between 1952 and 1958 under the pseudonym Paul French, Isaac Asimov’s Lucky Star series details the exploits of David “Lucky” Starr, a prototypical pulp hero waging prototypical Cold War-era, “Us vs. Them” adventures. The books were originally intended as the basis for a children’s television series, a sort of science-fictional Lone Ranger, but the project was abandoned when a competing network started developing Rocky Jones, Space Ranger (1954). Signet released the first paperback editions of the series, and the first editions under Asimov’s own name, in 1971 and 1972, clearly intending to lure the growing science fiction community—by now largely resistant to black and white morality tales—with Bob Pepper’s radiant, kinetic images.
Although Pepper had been a professional illustrator since 1962, it was his distinctive bright charcoals on the cover of Love’s Forever Changes (1967) that captured the visual zeitgeist and caught the eye of science fiction and fantasy publisher Ballantine Books. Starting with the reprint of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy (1968), Pepper would go on to illustrate several volumes of Ballantine’s influential Adult Fantasy series (1969-1974), as well as a series of Philip K. Dick editions for DAW in 1983-1984. First editions of books featuring his art became collectible as early as the mid-1970s, and Pepper continued to provide art for album covers, almost exclusively in the Classical genre, until the early 1980s. In 1981 he illustrated two fantasy tabletop games for Milton Bradley, Dragonmaster and Dark Tower, both of which are remembered almost exclusively for their compelling graphics. Dragonmaster included 39 original playing cards arranged in suits (Wizards, Druids, Warriors, and Dragonlords) visually similar to a Tarot deck, and Dark Tower, which was hawked on TV by Orson Welles, featured a revolving electronic tower that illuminated Pepper’s illustrated cells when the player entered a move on the keypad.