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Full text of "Virgil Finlay: Master of Fantasy"





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JUNE 1978 



NUMBER 14 



THE MAGAZINE OF THE FUTURE 



Business and Editorial offices: 

STARLOG Magazine 

O'Quinn Studios, Inc. 

475 Park Ave. South, 8th Floor Suite 

New York, N.Y. 10016 

Publishers: 

Kerry O'Quinn, Norman Jacobs 

Editor: 

Howard Zimmerman 

Managing Editor: 

James C. Odeil 

Senior Writer: 

Ed Naha 

Science & SFX Editor: 

David Hutchison 

Science Advisor: 

James Oberg 

Associate Editor: 

Richard Meyers 

West Coast Editor: 

David Houston 

West Coast Staff: 

Scot Holton, Robert Skotak 

Art Director: 

Howard Cruse 

Contributing Designer: 

Scott MacNeili 



Art Staff: 

Laura O'Brien, Ted Enik 

Production Assistants: 

Rita Eisenstein, David Hirsch 

Contributors This Issue: 

Charles Bogle, George Carleton, Colonel William T. 
Coleman, Jim Danforth, Gerry de ia Ree, Jonathan 
Eberhart, P.S. Ellenshaw, Ted Enik, David Gerrold, Scot 
Holton, Bill Malone, Bob Mandel, Ron Miller, Gerald 
Morris, James Oberg, Michael O'Donoghue, Jack 
Rickard, Susan Sackett, Jeff Sillifant, Bob Skotak, 
Robin Snelson, Jescovon Puttkamer, Wade Williams. 

About the Cover: P.S. Ellenshaw, the remarkable 
young director of Walt Disney Studios' Matte De- 
partment, is featured in this issue's installment of 
our Special Effects Series. The matte painting pic- 
tured on the cover is the "power-shaft sequence" 
— shown on its easel with the live-action insert of 
Ben Kenobi balanced precariously on the ledge. Mr. 

Ellenshaw created all of the highly specialized 
paintings used in Star Wars. 



STARLOG is published eight times a year or every six and a 
half weeks by O'Quinn Studios, Inc. 475 Park Avenue 
South, 8th floor Suite. New York, NY 10016. This is issue 
Number 14, June 1978 (Volume Three). All content is 
copyright 1978 by O'Quinn Studios, Inc. Suscription 

rates: $10.98 for eight issues delivered in U.S. and Canada; 
foreign subscriptions $17.00 in U.S. funds. Second class 
postage paid at New York, N.Y. and at additional mailing 
offices. Notification of change of address and renewals 
should be sent to STARLOG, Subscription Dept.. P.O. Box 
1999. Farmingdale. N.Y. 11737. STARLOG accepts no 
responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, photos, art or 
other materials, but if free-lance submittals are accompanied 
by a stamped self-addressed envelope, they will be seriously 
considered and, if necessary, returned. Reprint or reproduc- 
tion in part or in whole without written permission from the 
publishers is strictly forbidden. 



FROM THE BRIDGE 

COMMUNICATIONS 

Letters From Our Readers 

LOG ENTRIES 

Latest News From The Worlds Of Science Fiction 

JIM DANFORTH 

An Interview With Hollywood's Most Controversial 
Stop-Motion Animator 



20 



THE FACE YOU'LL NEVER FORGET: 

A Review Of The SF-Chiller 
Incredible Melting Man 



26 



THE ART OF VIRGIL FINLAY 

A Look At The Work Of The Master Of Pen & Ink 
Fantasy 28 



STATE OF THE ART 

A Column By David Gerrold 

TV UPDATE 

Martians & Magicians To Appear On Television 

INTERPLANETARY EXCURSIONS, INC. 

Port Of Call: The Golden Veil & Other Skies _ 

THE MAGIC OF SPACE 

A Peek At The FX World Of 1999 



THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE STARSHIP 
ENTERPRISE 

A Rib-Tickling Star Trek Satire 



STAR TREK REPORT 

A Fan News Column By Susan Sackett 

CONVENTION CALENDAR 

SCIENCE-FICTION SOUNDTRACKS 

PROJECT: UFO 

An Interview With UFO's Producer 
& Former Head Of Project Blue Book, 
Colonel William T. Coleman 

CAPRICORN ONE 

The Saga Of A Watergate In Space 



SPECIAL EFFECTS- PART IX 

An Exclusive Interview With Star Wars 
Matte Painter P.S. Ellenshaw 



CLASSIFIED INFORMATION _ 

VISIONS 

SF's Conceptual Family Tree 
Part III: Extrapolation 

LASTWORD 



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Above: A detail from a Finlay montage of 
horror and fantasy characters. Below: lllo 
for Murray Leinster's 1953 'The Transhuman." 




By GERRY DE LA REE 

When Virgil Finlay 
died at age 56 on January 18, 1971, he 
left behind him thirty-five years of fan- 
tasy and science-fiction artwork — and a 
reputation as the most meticulous pulp 
magazine illustrator of his generation. 

Most of the readers of Starlog were 
not around in 1935 when Finlay sold his 
first professional drawings to Weird 
Tales magazine. Within only a year he 
had established himself as being the 
finest black-and-white illustrator in his 
chosen field. 

His use of the stipple and cross-hatch 
techniques, and an ability to enhance 
stories with his unique drawings quickly 



rocketed him to the top. Over the years 
many artists would attempt to duplicate 
Finlay's techniques, but none ever at- 
tained the quality that was the trade- 
mark of Finlay's finest efforts. 

Even Frank Kelly Freas, ten-time win- 
ner of the "Hugo" as science-fiction's 
top illustrator, admitted in a recently 
published book of his artwork that his 
one experiment with Finlay's stipple 
technique — that of using small, individ- 
ually placed dots of ink to create deli- 
cate shading — earned him a new respect 
for Virgil's drawings. "It became very 
clear to me that 1 would never give Fin- 
lay any competition. Foosh!— what a 
lot of work all those blasted little dots 
were!" 




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Left: A portrait of Virgil Finlay done in memorium in 
1971 by artist Charlie McGill. Right: A detail from a 
1953 illo for Ayn Rand's Anthem. Below: A 1953 Finlay 
illustration for Donald Vieweg's "The Talkie Dolls." 




As Finlay himself explained his work, 
black-and-white drawings were done in 
a variety of techniques, employing pen, 
brush, spatter, lithographic pencils, 
sponges, and knives on a variety of 
paper; the majority were done on 
scratchboard. His color work was gen- 
erally done in oil color thinned with 
quick drying siccative, and sometimes 
combinations of ink, watercolor, 
gouache, and oil. 

The stipple technique, which he re- 
fined throughout his career, he ex- 
plained this way: "Using a 290 litho- 
graphic pen (which has an extremely 
fine point), I dip the pen in India ink 
and allow only the liquid to touch the 
drawing surface, which is normally 




Left: Finlay illustration for Dane 
Rudhyar's 1957 "How to Shape Your 
Future." Right: Montage detail. 



v. * 



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Top left: Finlay illustrated Elmer Brown Mason's 1949 story "Black Butterflies." 

Top right: 1964 illo for Tolkien's Hobbit. Below: Edmund Hamilton's 1938 

"House of Living Music." 







30 



scratchboard. The point is then wiped 
clean and re-dipped for the next dot." 
Obviously, this was a time-consuming 
operation. Today many artists obtain a 
similar effect with the use of stipple- 
surface paper. But study under a magni- 
fying glass will quickly determine one 
method from the other. 

Even in the final year of his life, when 
pain often limited his time at the draw- 
ing board, Finlay claimed he was able to 
make use of the stipple without the aid 
of a magnifying glass. During most of 
his career, his magazine drawings were 
done to the exact size they were to be 
published at. Attempts by some publish- 
ers to enlarge these small drawings have 
resulted in ghastly distortions of his 
work. 

Finlay's excellent knowledge of anat- 
omy resulted in human and animal 
figures that seemed to literally leap off 
the page. He combined alien creatures, 
weird settings, and a vivid imagination 
with an ability to accurately illustrate 
scenes from almost any story. His color 
work was not always as successful as his 
black and white drawings, but he still 
created many outstanding magazine 
covers. If you own a Finlay cover orig- 
inal you have a collector's item— there 
just are not that many in existence. 

But many of the artist's most detailed 
drawings were all but ruined by the 
cheap pulp paper used by the fiction 






« 






magazines of the 1930s and 1940s. And 
the rates paid by the magazines were 
distressingly low. 

During the last decade of his life, 
Finlay moved to higher paying markets 
such as Doubleday and various astrol- 
ogy magazines, contributing some sixty 
drawings to the former and almost 200 
interiors and covers to the latter. During 
this period he continued to work for 
most of the few science-fiction maga- 
zines still appearing, but made use of a 
simple line style of drawing that was far 
less time-consuming than the techniques 
employed during the peak years of his 
fantasy career. He saved the fine pen 
and ink work for the better paying 
publishers. 

Over the years, Finlay illustrated 
stories by most of the top writers in the 
field, including H. P. Lovecraft, Clark 
Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, Edmond 
Hamilton, Henry Kuttner, C. L. 
Moore, Seabury Quinn, Jack William- 
son, Carl Jacobi, Robert E. Howard, 
August Derleth, A. Merritt, George 
Allan England, John Taine, H. Rider 
Haggard, H. G. Wells, Talbot Mundy, 
Arthur Conan Doyle, Murray Leinster, 
Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Collier, E. 
F.Benson, Manly Wade Wellman, Stan- 
ley G. Weinbaum, James Blish, Frank 
Belknap Long, L. Ron Hubbard, Jack 
Vance, Leigh Brackett, Hay Cummings, 
Ray Bradbury, John D. MacDonald, E. 
E. Smith, Ben Bova, Arthur C. Clarke, 
Otis Adelbert Kline, Theodore Stur- 
geon, L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher 
Pratt, Edgar Allan Poe, and even a chap 
named William Shakespeare. The list is 




Symbols of life and death surround character 
in Robert Abernathy's 1953 "The Rotifers." 



almost endless. 

During his career Finlay appeared in 
virtually every major science-fiction or 
fantasy magazine published. For Weird 
Tales he did some 220 interiors and 20 
covers. For Famous Fantastic Mysteries 
he turned out more than 200 black and 
white drawings and 27 covers. Other 
major markets in the 1940-60 period 
were Thrilling Wonder Stories, Amaz- 
ing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, 
Startling Stories, Fantastic Novels, Fan- 
tastic Story Quarterly, Galaxy, If, Fan- 
tastic, and Fantastic Universe. 



Despite the more than 2,800 drawings 
and paintings Finlay sold during his 
career, he often fell upon difficult if not 
hard times financially. If payment was 
low in the early days, it didn't seem to 
improve that much in the two decades 
that followed. 

Virgil Warden Finlay was born on 
July 23, 1914, in Rochester N.Y. His 
father, Warden Hugh Finlay, was at one 
time a successful woodworker, but like 
so many in the Depression period of the 
1930s he found himself hard-pressed to 
support a family. He died at forty years 
of age, leaving his widow, Ruby, 
daughter Jean, and son Virgil.. 

Some of Finlay's earliest sketches and 
drawings, dating back to 1930 and 1931, 
are signed Finlay Jr. or Warden Virgil 
Finlay. 

Although he did some artwork for 
high school yearbooks, probably his 
first professionally published illustra- 
tion was on the dust wrapper for a 1933 
book of prize-winning high school 
poetry. The book, Saplings, featured on 
its front cover a drawing called, "My 
Mirror's Melody," which shows a 
young man playing a violin to a girl in a 
wooded setting. While the signature 
plainly reads "Virgil Warden Finlay" 
the caption under it reads "By Warden 
Virgil Findlay ," with the "D" added to 
his last name. This picture was awarded 
second prize in the Charles M. Higgins 
Award for drawing with black ink in the 
Art Division of the Scholastic Competi- 
tion of 1933. At that time Finlay was a 
senior at John Marshall High in Roches- 
ter. 



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The Author: Finlay's Biggest Fan 

Writer/editor Gerry de la Ree is well known as one of the 
most ardent collector/fans of fantasy and science-fiction art 
in the world. Beginning his collection of SF and fantasy 
visuals in the 1930s, Gerry quickly assembled stunning exam- 
ples of some of the finest styles of pulp phantasmagoria in 
existence. Today, his collection includes more than 1,000 
pieces of wonderment by such artists as Virgil Finlay, Hannes 
Bok, Lawrence Sterne Stevens, Mel Hunter, Frank Kelly 
Freas, Mahlon Blaine, Stephen E. Fabian, Jeff Jones, Willy 
Pogany, Harry Clarke, J. Allen St. John, Edd Cartier, Lynd 
Ward, Frank Upatel, George Ban, Earl Bergey, Roy Krenkel 
and J. Watson. 

Gerry first "discovered" the intricate imagery of Virgil 
Finlay during the early thirties. As Finlay's reputation grew 
during both that decade and the forties (during which time, 




i ^A>v^r-^ 



1951 illustration for Richard Glaenzer's "Golden Atlantis." 

Finlay invariably ranked No. 1 in fan polls conducted to 
determine the most popular artist in the fantasy field), so did 
Gerry's admiration. In 1947, he bought his first Finlay 
original at a convention in Philadelphia. It was love at first 
sight. In 1951, he began writing the artist, purchasing original 
drawings for $2 to $10. 

The two became "pen-pals, " with their regular letters con- 
tinuing for the next fourteen years. In 1965, de la Ree finally 
visited the veteran artist in Finlay's West bury. New York 
home. The ailing artist and the long-time fan became fast 
friends and, during the final years of Finlay's life, relished 
their mutual interest and love for fantasy artwork. 

Following Finlay's death, his loyal fan and friend assem- 
bled over 120 original pieces of artwork and published a 
tribute to the late artist: The Book Of Virgil Finlay. // is 
published in paperback by Flare Books. 



31 



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While in high school, the small but 
well-built Finlay excelled in athletics; he 
dabbled in art, poetry, and reading of 
such magazines as Amazing Stories and 
Weird Tales. He continued to refine his 
artistic skills after his school days, but it 
was not until mid-1935 that he made the 
decision to submit some samples of his 
work to Farnsworth Wright, then editor 
of Weird Tales. 

Until this time, most pulp magazines, 
including Weird Tales, had concen- 
trated on publishing garish covers to 
lure customers, while most of the in- 
terior drawings were on the drab side. 
Finlay's new approach to fantasy art 
won favor with Wright, and his first 
work appeared in the December, 1935 
issue. 

Between the time Wright purchased 
Finlay's initial drawings and the time 
they appeared in print, the editor com- 
missioned Finlay to do twenty-five 
drawings for Shakespeare's A Midsum- 
mer Night's Dream. Wright produced 
this as a 35-cent paperback. It was a 
financial flop, although the edition has 
become a collector's item . 

As the 1936 issues of Weird Tales 
rolled off the presses, Finlay's artwork 
began to draw praises from readers and 
authors alike. It prompted three of the 
magazine's top writers, Lovecraft, C.A. 
Smith, and Seabury Quinn to strike up 
correspondences with Finlay. 

Finlay was now a regular in the pages 
of Weird Tales. In November, 1937, he 
received a letter from A. Merritt sug- 
gesting that he might care to join the 
staff of The American Weekly, a large- 
sized newspaper supplement edited by 
Merritt and published by William Ran- 
dolph Hearst. Naturally, Finlay was 
already familiar with Merritt's popular 
fantasies such as The Ship of Ishtar, 
The Moon Pool, Dwellers in the 
Mirage, and others. 

So Virgil pulled up stakes in 
Rochester and moved to New York 
City. 

Some of Finlay's most spectacular 
drawings would appear in The Amer- 
ican Weekly, but his tenure there was a 
rocky one. Unaccustomed to meeting 
the deadlines of a weekly publication, 
still trying to do work for Weird Tales, 
and getting used to life in the big city 
almost unhinged him. He went through 
a series of firings and hirings at the 
Weekly, but he was Merritt's boy and in 
the long run he did, by his own count, 
some 845 pieces of art for this publica- 
tion. During his period as a staffer, 
prior to World War II, and as a free- 
lancer from 1946 to 1951, he drew 
everything from the front cover to small 
spots on inside pages. 

When Famous Fantastic Mysteries, 
based in New York, made its debut in 
1939, Finlay quickly found another out- 
let. During the 1939-42 period, science- 
fiction magazines sprung up like weeds 
32 




"Sharane and Klaneth" from A. Merritt's 
The Ship of Ishtar— for the 1949 edition. 

and Finlay did work for most of them. 
The war killed off all but the heartiest of 
the newcomers. 

By the late 1940s, pulp magazines in 
general were fast disappearing. Some 
survived as digest-sized publications. As 
the decade of the 1950s started, new 
magazines such as Galaxy, If, Fantastic, 
Other Worlds, and Fantastic Universe 
appeared, and Finlay had some new 
markets. 

Finlay married his childhood friend, 
Beverly Stiles, on November 16, 1938, 
and they settled into a small apartment 
in Brooklyn. Virgil entered the Army in 
June, 1943, and served in the Pacific 
area before the conflict ended. He spent 
the first two years in the States. After a 
brief stay in Hawaii, by which time he 
was a corporal, he was shipped to 
Okinawa in April, 1945. He attained the 
rank of Sgt. (T-4)andsaw some action. 

While in service he did only two draw- 
ings for science-fiction magazines. Both 
were done while he was in Hawaii. One 
was used in the October, 1946, issue of 
Famous Fantastic Mysteries with C. L. 
Moore's story "Daemon", and the 
other in the Fall, 1946 Thrilling Wonder 
for "Call Him Demon", aKuttnerstory 
printed under his Keith Hammond 
pseudonym. 

In 1948 the Finlays moved from 
Brooklyn to Levittown on Long Island. 
Their daughter, Lail, was born the 
following year. In 1950 they purchased 
a new home in Westbury. Some 20 years 
later, Finlay would tell me that this was 
the wisest investment he ever made. 

While not exactly a recluse, Finlay 
stayed quite close to his Westbury 
home. He did not attend conventions 
and mix with his fellow S.F. artists and 



authors. He was proud of much of his 
work, but no doubt discouraged at his 
seeming inability to gain recognition 
outside the fantasy field. A dedicated 
family man, he was often forced to 
overcome frustrating periods of finan- 
cial difficulties to make ends meet. He 
had grown up with the pulp magazines 
and would no doubt have been fairly 
content to stay there had not the pulps 
themselves disappeared, his main source 
of income going with them. 

To family and close friends, Finlay 
answered to the name of "Chub", with 
which he had been tagged as a youth. As 
early as 1933, Finlay sported a mous- 
tache; it is present in two of three self- 
portraits I have in my collection. In later 
years he wore a full beard. 

Finlay's closest friend in the science- 
fiction field was author Henry Kuttner. 
But this was in the pre-war days. When 
Kuttner married C. L. Moore in 1940, 
Virgil and Beverly were present. After 
the Kuttners moved to California, 
Finlay carried on a bulky correspon- 
dence with Henry, whose death in 1958 
was a blow to the artist and the science- 
fiction field in general. 

Finlay was one of the few magazine il- 
lustrators who made a genuine effort to 
have editors return his originals. Even 
so, many of the drawings were never 
returned. Some were retained by the 
editors, some were given to authors, and 
still more were donated to the various 
S.F. conventions as auction material. 

Some of the "missing" Finlay orig- 
inals were uncovered in 1975 by art col- 
lector Gene Nigra, who managed to pur- 
chase most of the estate of the late 
Hannes Bok, who had been one of 
Finlay's "rivals" in the 1940 period at 
Weird Tales. Bok, who had died in 
1964, had left a number of his own 
paintings with a friend. When Nigra 
went through the mass of material held 
by Clarence Peacock, he was stunned to 
find Finlay's originals from A Midsum- 
mer Night's Dream as well as other 
Finlay drawings that Bok had apparent- 
ly picked up during his visits to the of- 
fices of the magazines years before. 

Most of Bok's friends seemed to 
believe he was disdainful of Finlay's 
work, but the location of this cache of 
drawings would seem to indicate other- 
wise. 

During the 1940s, Famous Fantastic 
Mysteries published three portfolios of 
Finlay's drawings from that magazine. 
Another portfolio of some of his finest 
illustrations appeared in 1953. 

His first fantasy dust-wrapper was 
for H. P. Lovecraft's The Outsider And 
Others (1939), the first book published 
by Arkham House. Because he was so 
busy at the time, Finlay used a montage 
of his Weird Tales drawings for the 
jacket. Years later both the book and 
jacket would command high prices in 
the used book market. 



He illustrated a few books such as 
Roads by Seabury Quinn and The Ship 
of Ishtar by Merritt, but he never made 
a serious dent in the pocketbook field, 
which today is both the showcase and 
highest-paying market for many il- 
lustrators. 

Early in 1969 Finlay underwent exten- 
sive surgery for cancer, but had im- 
proved sufficiently by June to attend the 
wedding of his daughter. He resumed 
his work for Astrology, but during the 
time remaining to him he found it dif- 
ficult to meet his deadlines. Although in 
pain much of the time, he retained his 
sharp sense of humor. During this 
period he began selling off many of the 
original drawings and paintings he had 
retained over the years. 

Late in 1970 he was hospitalized with 
a liver ailment. He returned home in late 
December and 1 recall talking with him 
on the phone on Christmas day. A 
planned trip to Long Island to visit him 
in early January never materialized for 
me because of car trouble. Finlay suf- 
fered a final setback only two weeks 
later and died on January 18, 1971. 
When he died of cirrhosis of the liver, 
an autopsy revealed that the cancer had 
spread to other organs. 

In the months following his death, I 
printed a portfolio of his previously un- 
published drawings. Most of these dated 
back to his pre-professional days. But 
one, a fine drawing in Finlay's best 
style, had been done in 1964 for a pro- 
posed edition of J. R. R. Tolkien's The 
Hobbit. While a fine drawing, author 
Tolkien nixed the proposed volume 
because Finlay's interpretation of the 
story differed from his own. 

Later in 1971, Donald Grant of 
Rhode Island published the first hard- 
cover book of Finlay's art. Only a third 
of the book contained drawings, how- 
ever. There was also a biography of 
Finlay by Sam Moskowitz and a check- 
list of the artist's published work. 

In 1975 I published the hardcover 
edition of The Book of Virgil Finlay, 
which contained some 120 drawings 
from my own collection. The book sold 
out before publication, and in 1976 
Avon Books reprinted it in a paperback 
edition. Grant did a second book, Virgil 
Finlay's Astrology Sketch Book, which 
was edited by Mrs. Finlay. Other port- 
folios, some of them pirated from the 
magazine pages, have appeared in re- 
cent yea r s. 

Finlay originals, which once sold for 
$10 or $20, today command prices in the 
hundreds of dollars. As is so often the 
case, the artist's work increased in value 
after his death. 

The continued appearance of Finlay 
books and portfolios has given a new 
generation of fantasy fans the oppor- 
tunity to admire and study his work. He 
is gaining a new following, and de- 
servedly so. * 




One of Finlay's last SF illustrations, done for Brian Aldiss' 1968 Cryptozoic. 



33