Stephen Fabian and Robert E. Howard: Part Two

In my previous post on Fabian and REH, I looked at Stephen Fabian's early career illustrating the works of Robert E. Howard. My article ended in the 1980s with Stephen producing artwork for Cryptic Publications and TSR.

By about 1990, Cryptic Publications was winding down. That circumstance was no real hardship for Fabian, since he had been getting big checks from TSR to do illos for various D&D products, though he did regret not having a fairly steady, paying venue for illustrating REH. He ended his lucrative relationship with TSR/WotC in the mid-'90s when the company went to a "Work For Hire" arrangement. If anything, doing so allowed him to do work he enjoyed more. He continued to fulfill private commissions containing Howardian subject matter throughout the 1990s. 


In the mid-2000s, John Betancourt of Wildside Press approached Fabian to do the covers for a projected "Weird Works of REH" series of collections. Steve produced fifteen or twenty spec paintings and Betancourt chose ten. Long-time Fabian fans spotted the fact that he'd reused some work from previous paintings. Here's what he had to say: 

The reason why I "borrowed" from artwork that I had done in the past, (I did it for the entire series), was that the editor [John Betancourt] was in a hurry to get started on the project and he had a very low budget to pay for the ten paintings. After some thought I told him I would use my computer to clip and paste parts from artwork that I had done in the past, and do whatever else was needed to make them appear as new paintings. He said OK, so I went ahead and did the job. It took me an average of 10 hours to do each "new" painting.

Personally, I have no problem with it. He was in his seventies at that point and cranking out so many quality covers in the allotted time would be daunting for a man half his age. Most of the covers are beautiful and all are serviceable.


A particularly interesting cover for me is for Beyond the Black River. Fabian reworked a rarely-seen painting of Black Vulmea he did for Baronet Books  to come up with the new image.

It should also be noted that Fabian began contributing art to Damon Sasser's REH: Two-Gun Raconteur clear back in 1976, beginning with issue #3. It seems fitting that what looks like the final issue, #18 in 2015, also featured Steve's art.


Nowadays, at the age of eighty-eight, Mr. Fabian appears to be fully and truly retired. That doesn't mean he has forgotten his fans, however. I can attest that he still replies to emails. You can contact him here:

Mr. Fabian's self-portrait.

Mr. Fabian's self-portrait.