Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Beast Within: The Art of Ken Barr

The Beast Within: The Art of Ken Barr
SQP Inc., 2007

‘The Beast Within: The Art of Ken Barr’ (48 pp) was published in 2007 by SPQ Inc.

SQP is a publisher of oversize trade paperbacks devoted to cheesecake, pinup, and porn artwork (‘Vincent Stephens’ Big Ass Book’, ‘Chicks and Monsters’, ‘Alazar’s Fetish Fantasies’, ‘Treasured Chests 4’). A few of their titles are showcases of fantasy and sf art; one of these is ‘The Beast Within’.

If you were a Baby Boomer, and during the 70s and 80s you were into sf, fantasy, and horror pop culture, then it’s highly likely that at least one of the magazines, comic books, or paperbacks you purchased had a cover by Ken Barr....... Barr was very prolific, but at the same time, able to deliver quality artwork.

In the Introduction to the book, Sal Quartuccio, the owner of SQP Inc., reminisces about meeting Ken Barr at the 1970 Comic Book Convention in New York City. Quartuccio, then “……..a very young and energetic kid from Brooklyn” commissioned Barr to provide the cover art for Quartuccio’s 1971 self-published sf comic book, titled Phase I. Barr also provided cover artwork for the inaugural 1974 issue of Quartuccio’s other venture into indie comics publishing, Hot Stuff.

‘The Beast Within’ provides an overview of Barr’s artwork for various sf, fantasy, and horror publishers, including the Warren magazines and Marvel Comics / Curtis magazines. The reproductions are of good quality and well-served by the book’s 9” x 12” dimensions.

Seeing some of the these covers is certainly going to trigger nostalgia….and that, unfortunately, is where ‘The Beast Within’ reveals a major fault: none of the paintings are identified ! I recognize some of them – for example, the covers for the Richard Meredith ‘Timeliner’ trilogy paperbacks released by Playboy Press in 1979 – but others are a mystery.

In an ideal world, Barr’s career would be represented by a 250- page hardcover art book that provides a truly comprehensive overview of all his work…something along the lines of the high-quality pop culture art books that UK publisher Titan releases. But, despite the absence of any sort of annotation, and its limited length, ‘The Beast Within: The Art of Ken Barr’ still is a worthwhile volume to have in your collection if you are a fan of 70s sf art.

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