I was working on another DMR post when I stumbled upon the fact that today marks the tenth anniversary of Jim Cawthorn's death. Fantasy fans in the US might not be all that familiar with Jim's legacy, but he is certainly a man who deserves remembrance.
James Philip Cawthorn was born in 1929 in the United Kingdom. As related in this interview, Jim was illustrating SFF fanzines--primarily ones devoted to ERB--and had befriended the teenaged Michael Moorcock by the mid-1950s. Influenced by artists ranging from Michelangelo to Burne Hogarth, Cawthorn soon made the jump across the pond, illustrating the legendary sword and sorcery fanzine, Amra. It was in the pages of Amra that Jim produced the first ever map of Leiber's Newhon.
Cawthorn wasn't just a graphic artist, however. Back in Merry Olde, he had been collaborating with Moorcock. One of the first fruits of that literary partnership was the classic Elric tale, "Kings in Darkness." They would continue to work closely for over two decades, with Cawthorn contributing in ways both graphic and literary. In some respects, one could say Cawthorn was the Sidney Sime to Moorcock's Lord Dunsany.
In 1962, Cawthorn created what are considered by Moorcock to be the character-defining renditions of Elric. As renowned English artist, John Coulthart, states:
"Mike Moorcock, Dave Britton and I seem to be in a minority in regarding Cawthorn as one of the finest fantasy illustrators of his generation. His carefully stipled drawings of the late Fifties and early Sixties are all miniature masterpieces and I don’t care how many artists attempt lavish paintings of Moorcock’s Elric character, for me the definitive representation remains the drawing used on the cover of the first edition of Stormbringer in 1965."
Also in 1962, Jim produced two portfolios inspired by The Lord of the Rings. Said portfolios are widely believed to be the very first depictions of LotR outside of the art of Tolkien himself.
Cawthorn and Moorcock did another Elric collaboration that affected me personally and very early on. In 1975, Marvel Comics published Giant-Size Conan #5. That issue reprinted Conan the Barbarian #14-15, which featured a Conan/Elric crossover. That team-up was plotted primarily, as it would later turn out, by Jim Cawthorn, who was a long-time fan of REH and Conan. Giant-Size Conan #5 was the second Conan comic I ever bought and it rocked my world.
This thing had it all. Conan, of course, whom I'd already encountered in Conan the Barbarian #38. Elric of Melnibone. Zukala, the fallen demi-god wizard. Zukala's daughter, Zephra. Prince Gaynor the Damned and his Chaos-Pack and Terhali, the Emerald Empress of Melnibone (or, as I like to call her, the Queen in Green).
Cawthorn and Moorcock also worked together on the screenplay of the 1974 film, The Land That Time Forgot. This was an easy fit for both men, since they were lifelong Burroughs fans and had met by way of ERB fanzines. As Cawthorn put it:
Cawthorn continued working with Moorcock, producing the first ever graphic novel published in Britain, The Jewel in the Skull. Moorcock has praised that particular rendition of Dorian Hawkmoon ever since.
Cawthorn's last big project with Moorcock was Fantasy: The 100 Best Books. Cawthorn had long been a respected critic of fantasy literature and this was his magnum opus, giving props to the likes of A. Merritt, ER Eddison, Jack Vance and others. Moorcock has admitted more than once that Cawthorn wrote the majority of the book.
So what now, with Jim Cawthorn ten years gone? As I found out today, a lot. A few months ago, Jayde Design published a massive career retrospective devoted to Cawthorn entitled James Cawthorn: The Man and His Art. It sports a foreword by Alan Moore and an afterword by Moorcock. John Coulthart is deeply involved with the project and has written an exhaustive post about the book here.
Well, that about wraps it up. Thank you, Jim, for everything.