Paul Bacon Cover Gallery, 1952 – 1983

After serving in the Marines during World War II, self-taught artist and typographer Paul Bacon (1923-2015) landed in New York City, where he designed several now-famous album covers for jazz labels Blue Note and Riverside Records. Bacon had discovered jazz in the ’30s, and he remained a great fan—he was befriended by Thelonious Monk, among others—throughout his life…

Portraits of the Mushroom Cloud, 1946 – 1990

From the moment atomic weapons were first inflicted on the planet in 1945, the mushroom cloud became one of the defining motifs of the second half of the 20th century, assuming an almost supernatural significance that would only increase over time. It might seem paradoxical to speak about serendipity in the case of something that has been the cause of so much misery, but it’s hard to imagine nuclear weapons occupying quite the same space in the human race’s imagination had their effects not taken such a recognizable shape…

How Basil Wolverton Captured the Terrifying Imagery of the Biblical Apocalypse

By Greg Rozeboom

Born in 1909, Basil Wolverton was a successful American illustrator and cartoonist, admired within his industry and by its fans, yet little known to the general public. His drawings—the twisted shapes of spaghetti, meatballs, and mutation—may repel some, but they never fail to leave an impression, especially on the young. Wolverton was active between 1938 and 1974, and made a dent so deep that his style and influence were stamped into the underground comix scene of the ‘60s…

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Monster Car Illustrations

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was a central figure in the hod rod and custom car scene that flourished in 1950s and early 1960s Southern California. Born in Beverly Hills to German immigrants, Roth grew up in Bell, California, home of “speed shop” Bell Auto Parts and nearby Slauson Avenue, a popular drag strip. After a stretch in the Air Force, Roth became a sign painter at Sears and, in 1958, starting designing cars out of his garage…

Christmas Greeting Cards, 1950 – 1980

Christmas cards became ubiquitous in the post-war era, when millions of Americans retreated to a more secluded existence in the rapidly developing suburbs. As small towns—idealized by Frank Capra and Norman Rockwell, among others—started to be displaced by tract housing complexes and chain stores, embellished scenes of the vanishing idyllic communities became a standard trope on greeting cards…

Judas Priest Album Covers by Doug Johnson, 1982 – 1986

Disappointed with his cover art for their 1980 LP Point of Entry, British heavy metal band Judas Priest decided to part ways with the Polish designer and artist Rosław Szaybo. Szaybo, who had previously created artwork for bands as diverse as Soft Machine and The Clash, had supplied the group with a triptych of memorable album covers whose imagery, particularly that of British Steel, had helped consolidate Priest’s image…

‘Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials’, 1979

The work of what its creator called “a hungry youth with something to prove,” Wayne Barlowe’s 1979 Barlowe’s Guide To Extraterrestrials was published amidst a glut of grimoires of imaginary realities—Wil Huygen’s Gnomes had been released in 1976 and Stewart Cowley’s Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD in 1978, while 1979 saw the release of Cowley’s Aliens in Space: An Illustrated Guide to the Inhabited Galaxy (written under the pseudonym of Steven Caldwell), as well as David Day’s Tolkien Bestiary and Alan Frank’s Galactic Aliens