A Final Outrage: The Album Art of Blue Öyster Cult

By Richard McKenna

Despite the dispiriting fug of “classic rock” that hangs about their name—largely thanks to the persistence in popular culture of the song for which they are best known, the wonderful but largely unrepresentative “Don’t Fear the Reaper—Blue Öyster Cult began life as a high-concept countercultural proposition whose aim was to bring an underground literary and musical sensibility, as well as wit, to the dull, self-indulgent ceremonies of rock…

‘Masquerade’ by Kit Williams, 1979

In 1979, British artist Kit Williams published Masquerade, a picture book telling the story of a hare who loses the precious jewel entrusted to him by the sun. Masquerade contained clues to the location of a golden pendant in the form of a hare that had been buried at a secret location and was worth, at the time of the book’s release, £5,000…

Comic Book Sound Effects, 1939 – 1985

Sequential art goes all the way back to cave paintings, and word balloons start to appear in political cartoons in the late 1700s, but the combination of the two in newspaper comic strips was a late 19th century development, spurred by the “circulation war” between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal

‘Long Distance Kiss’ by Syd Brak, 1982

As the grimmer social realities of the 1980s began to take hold, more abstract aspirations began to fuel the collective imagination, and the airbrush—a device originally invented in the second half of the 19th century—proved to be an effective tool for creating dreamlike imagery that combined the smooth realism of the photograph with the artifice of the painting while eliminating the potential dissonances of both…

Selections from ‘Suburbia’ by Bill Owens, 1973

Look at that living room, so similar to many of the ones I grew up around and yet so much less pokey, so much more relaxed. Those cars, those bizarre technologies we were constantly struggling to understand in cartoons and comics—pull carts, barbecues, six packs—all in the middle of this massive, consequenceless nowhere where it was always warm and never rained. We lived in estates too, but nothing like these huge, smoothly landscaped labyrinths, low to the ground like military installations. Wow, what a place…

Bob Pepper Cover Art for Isaac Asimov’s ‘Lucky Starr’ Series, 1971 – 1972

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 “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)…

Chess King Ads by Boris Vallejo, 1986

Boris Vallejo was at the height of his fame when he took on this commission for Chess King, an American retailer specializing in hip young men’s fashion, in 1986. Vallejo moved to the United States in 1964 from his native Peru to work in commercial art and pulp paperback covers in their ’60s and ’70s heyday, honing his skills painting the rippling thews of barbarian kings and the oiled curves of their female companions…

‘Wasteland’ by Alex Grey, 1982

In 1972, artist Alex Grey began to realize a series of art installations/performances dealing with themes including death, transcendence, and transformation. As recession began to take hold and the Cold War intensified during the first years of the 1980s, Britain and the U.S. elected reactionary, hawkish leaders, fears of imminent nuclear war spread…