Bob Peak Promotional Art for ‘Rollerball’, 1975

 Exhibit / July 4, 2019

Object Name: Promotional art for Rollerball
Maker and Year: Bob Peak, circa 1975
Object Type: Promotional illustrations
Description: (K.E. Roberts)

Bob Peak, who I’ve talked about before, did not become readily associated with science fiction until his work on Norman Jewison’s Rollerball, for which he illustrated the theatrical poster and at least six additional lithographs, the latter distributed in press kits and displayed at theaters. Labeled as “Great moments from Rollerball painted on location by the world famous artist/illustrator Bob Peak,” they are collector’s items today, a remarkable display of the artist’s unrivaled ability to capture the essence of a film.

While the theatrical poster is centered around Jonathan E.’s spiked glove defiantly erupting from the corporatist high society that owns and rules the world, the watercolors above focus on the unremitting motion and violence of the game itself—a game that subsumes the revolutionary instincts of the people and compels them into submission. Here we see elongated streaks of color, impressionistic shapes of men and motorcycles, spiked gloves catching the arena spotlights and assuming the appearance of claws, the elusive and luminous game ball—not just a representation of the film, but an extension of it. (Rollerball the game was so convincing, in fact, that kids in America and Europe put on roller skates and tried to play it.) While Peak has influenced every facet of illustration, it’s clear from these pieces (and so many others) that his influence on comic art over the last 40 years has been overlooked.

Following Star Wars, Peak produced what are arguably his masterpieces, the posters for Apocalypse Now (1979) and Excalibur (1981), before being swept up in the sci-fi and fantasy boom of the next decade: he illustrated posters and/or promotional pieces for Superman: The Movie (1978), the first five Star Trek films, The Dark Crystal (1982), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), among others.

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