Painting Metal -- Michael Wm. Kaluta


Artist Michael Wm. Kaluta turned seventy-one years old yesterday. He was one of the very first artists who really caught my attention when I was a preteen and I remain a fan to this day. I thought about doing a big retrospective post on MWK, but pulling together all the cool stuff that he's done in books, comics, RPGs, theater, TV and films seemed a little daunting on this Sunday afternoon. I remembered his work illustrating albums and CDs and decided it was time to fire up another installment in my "Painting Metal" series.

Kaluta started early in the record illustration biz. Little did I know that the Monster Mash LP that one of my childhood buddies liked to play had a cover by MWK. While certainly not "seriously badass," the macabre subject matter presaged truly weird work in the future. 

After an almost twenty-year drought--with one exception--Kaluta dove back into CD illustration, this time with a decidedly metallic slant. Here's Michael's own account of how that happened:

Glenn [Danzig] used to work in a Comic Book Store in New York when first writing his songs... a big Comics Fan.

He bought several of my originals, once his career had blossomed. About the time his second Danzig album came out Glenn had me do the Black Aria cover, suggesting the drawing should echo the battle of Good and Evil. We were both delighted with the final product.

Black Aria was released in 1992. Danzig then had MWK do some interior art for 1994's Danzig 4. I understand that Kaluta's "Angel/Devil Yin-Yang" illo is fairly popular with tattoo artists.


Around the same time, Concrete Marketing/Sony contacted Kaluta to do all the artwork for Nativity In Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath. I remember buying that and just being blown away by how cool it was. Beyond the awesome cover, each song had its own Tarot-style "card" illustration. The "card" format played to MIchael's unique strengths, since he had long cornered the market on stylized, Muchaesque artwork set within decorative borders.

In 1999, Concrete Marketing had MWK craft all the artwork for Nativity in Black II and it was released the following year. I felt that the "cards" for this one were a little more stylized than the previous NIB. I prefer the first set of "Tarots", but the second was still cool.

Well, there you have it. Not that many albums, but Kaluta packed a lot of artwork into them. I'd be fine with another batch of NIB "cards," personally.

Other installments in the Painting Metal series:

Derek Riggs

Jim Fitzpatrick

Frank Frazetta