Thursday, September 8, 2022

Lucifer Society: The Paperback Cover Art of Don Punchatz

New Jersey-born illustrator Don Ivan Punchatz was born on this date in 1936. His surreal, otherworldly, even whimsical imagery adorned paperback covers in the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres from all the top publishers: Avon, Signet, Dell, Berkley Medallion, and Warner, as well as for top authors like Asimov and Vonnegut. Especially prolific throughout the late Sixties and Seventies, he worked until the turn of the century and died in 2009. For a complete bio, read his obituary, which made the New York Times.

Here I've collected my favorite Punchatz covers. Enjoy!

The monstrous triptych above that makes up Signet's 1978 three-fer of horror icons is a perfect example of Punchatz's style. A really great idea, melding those nightmare men into one terrifying visage!

Punchatz more often than not signed his illustrations, but for some reason not this distinctive cover for Michael McDowell's first book, the amazing Amulet, from 1979. I think Grady ID'd it for sure when we put together Paperbacks from Hell.

While not exactly a horror collection, the cover for this Roald Dahl 1975 Warner collection features an unsettling image that reveals Punchatz's clever playfulness.

Punchatz like giant Easter Island-style heads; this imagery appears in several of his works.

I really feel like Tim Burton had this 1974 August Derleth anthology on his bookshelf, don't you?

Peter Haining edited countless anthologies, but not all were published in the US. This one from Signet in 1973 boasts Punchatz really going for it...

Half-man, half-alligator, right? Nice work. Look how clearly Punchatz's signature stands out!

Dangerous Visions was an era-defining 1967 science fiction anthology, famously edited by Harlan Ellison. The book was huge, and later reprints divided it up into separate volumes. Punchatz's work was for the 1969 Berkley Medallion reprints.

I absolutely love this kitty cover for the 1979 animal-attack novel The Cats. On my to-read list for sure!

A germinal text of science-fiction horror, this 1967 reprint of The Body Snatchers has Punchatz's art capturing the novel's central idea perfectly.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

RIP Peter Straub (1943 - 2022)

Sad news today: Locus magazine has reported that Peter Straub has died at age 79 after a long illness. A giant of modern horror since the late Seventies, with major bestselling works like Ghost Story, Floating Dragon, Koko, and, with Stephen King, The Talisman, to his credit, Straub was a writer of uncommon power and literary skill. In novels, short stories, and novellas alike, he was able to explore depths of emotional terror and physical violence in a way that made them immediate, visceral, sublime. Characters in Straub's works arrive full-blooded, while plot and themes reverberate with the echoes of past horror classics; his prose crackles with vitality as almost effortlessly he depicts a contemporary world suffused with our past and collective guilt, often garbed in the supernatural but just about as often unadorned with genre trappings.

While not as prolific as King, Straub was writing award-winning fiction well into the 21st century. I myself have read only a portion of his catalog, but what I have read, I have enjoyed almost more than any other horror writer. We have a lost a true master of horror, and if by any chance you have not read him, I urge you to avail yourself of his books at once!