How did I never encounter this before?

Freas-art-for-Queen-and-Astounding-Sci-Fi

Just came across the book cover, and put it alongside the album cover in PS.

Queen’s “News of the World” is easily one of my favorite all-time album covers. Just like realizing a favorite Zeppelin song is actually a cover of some guy-you-never-heard-of’s original material, finding this book cover came as a little reality tweaker. The original painting was from 1953, by Frank Kelly Freas. However, the new one is by the same artist, who Queen commissioned to incorporate themselves into the image. So, the artist literally did a cover of his own art.

Queen did Freas a favor though, because his robot image is as far as I can tell his best work, and it would have lapsed into obscurity, rarely to be gazed upon, if the band hadn’t requested him to revise it for what turned out to be a platinum album.

I remember the first time I saw this record, which was in the back of a music store, and I was blown away. Of course, I was only eleven or twelve at the time and liked to draw my own robots. The design of the robot seemed antiquated and primitive, but what moved me was the remorse in its eyes for the terrible deed it had done, not realizing its own power or having prior knowledge of the consequences of its actions. I stood in the back of the store transfixed, trying to read the robot’s emotions. Not only did he seem to have evolved feeling (unlike the Terminator), he seemed to be looking up to his god for forgiveness or some explanation. I also carefully studied how the band members fell from his hand, and the blood dripping off of the finger. Somewhere, buried in a garbage heap there is a pencil drawing I made of this same cover.

The robot’s face is one you never forget, having seen it once, and why it was impossible for me to not immediately take notice when I happened upon the book cover today. And yes, it does seem terribly odd that I never saw the original cover before.

This painting in any of its incarnations occupies no place in the hallowed pantheon of art, and yet it is emblazoned in the memory of all who have seen it.

The-Art-Critic-small


Extras

front-and-inside-covers

Full inside art, and cover art. Impressive, but I think the lower half of the front cover isn’t nearly as good as the upper half (the legs look like Legos), and the inside fold-out art makes the robot a simple monster. In my opinion they lack the subtlety of the artist’s original vision.

humor

A parody!

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9 thoughts on “How did I never encounter this before?

    1. Good point. But, I’m sure the millions of albums sold got the album cover version of the painting far more attention than the original ever received. Outside of those sci-fi conferences, are there very many people at all who are familiar with the covers of sci-fi pulp from the 1950’s?

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      1. Interesting question.

        ‘Astounding’ never had a ‘multi-platinum’ edition but its circulation in the 1950s was certainly in the hundreds of thousands.

        If kids of the 50s were anything like my friends and I in the 60s, each copy sold would have gone through many hands, but would not have been as durable as an album cover. On the other hand it’s been around much longer than the Queen album.

        My 1970s pulp sci-fi collection included several 1950s copies of ‘Astounding’ I’d been given by my uncle. Not that edition though.

        I’ve seen the image before today however and I’m pretty sure it was the original. Can’t remember where, but old covers are often reproduced in sci-fi anthologies.

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        1. I grew up in the late 60’s and I never saw even one of the “Astounding” series, even in my local public libraries. I think you have be be into a sub-culture to be familiar with them. When I was in my teens I absolutely loved sci-fi. When we got a new TV guide, I’d find all the sci-fi movies and make a list so I could watch them. I think by the 70’s nobody was looking back to 50’s stuff anymore. It was all “Star Wars”…

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  1. Ah, what a wonderfully dark and beautiful piece of art. Love the idea that he pretty much covered his own work haha, what a strange thought.

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  2. In a bazillion museum tours, I hear guides say “Artist X is clearly alluding to Artist Y … [yammers on] …” I never believed it (or couldn’t perceive it, actually). Now I do, I think.

    Would modern copyright law or artist culture even allow anything but a self-cover?

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