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Select the icons to view the Legends gallery.

At last – the miserable year of 2020 has finally concluded. Like an old hound with rabies, the year that would not die has finally come to pass. In its place, a new year filled with a renewed sense of optimism and hope. Although our media and world governments lie through their teeth about biological global homicide, we can at least set aside our personal differences to restore order in our own private little worlds. Each of us has experienced some level of turmoil or adversity, but now it is time to turn the page – to set aside the painful memories of a year wasted on anxiety and fear. To kick off 2021, I will shift gears away from the traditional QA Spotlight series. Instead, I will share some personal reflections on some of my favorite publishing artists and the incredible images they created in decades past. Many have passed on, and many were grossly overlooked in their time, but their works still exist in dusty old bookstores across the galaxy. All one needs to do is spend some time mining through the catacombs and gems like these will resurface for even the most casual of readers.

This is not to say that I'm done with QA interviews. I still have a few more talented individuals on schedule for February and March, but for the month of January it pleases me to share this eclectic gallery of legends. Each illustration is a direct reflection of my love for science fiction, horror and various other subjects of fantasy. I've read countless books over the years, but I am proud to say that I absolutely do judge books by their covers. These 40 are but a few of the campy, wild, and dimented images that satisfy my creative impulses. I have personally scanned, treated and restored each visual to its full vibrant glory. Dust, blemishes, creases and fading pigment have all been digitally improved for your viewing pleasure. Two galleries are featured, each split apart to keep things interesting. This Legends feature was a last-minute decision, therefore my ramblings are not specific to each and every artist – merely an overview of respect and general influence. I hope you enjoy this clever diversion. For those who remain as creative friends, may the New Year bring you great health, blessings and happiness. I hope the magic in your canvas remains alive for eternity...

For beginners, I'd love to thank all of the amazing and independent artists who have participated in the QA Spotlight series over the past two years. Through my experiences on social media, I have managed to build some exceptional friendships with fellow artists across the world. It was a difficult decision to cancel my LinkedIn account, but my reasons were varied and deep. I no longer have the wide audience of viewers, but I will say that it was never about the artists. In fact, you were the anchors who kept me engaged for as long as humanly possible. Unfortunately, when a person searches too hard for cracks in the foundation, they will almost certainly discover them. I no longer felt comfortable with the platform. Censorship issues, politics, open hostility from so-called professionals... Creative stagnation, viewer boredom, distaste for influencers... It was time to go. I was no longer happy and I no longer fit into that puzzle. I have no regrets.

I'll skip the countless additional reasons I departed, as there's simply not enough daylight for all my nonsensical reasons. Besides, I know many of you still enjoy the open participation of the platform, and I respect your decision to stay. However, my personal journey is far from over. I am not done yet – not as a writer, nor as an artist. There is a vast creative universe to explore, a world of art as yet to be discovered. I have a website. It's not perfect, but it's a small crumb in the galaxy with my name on it. It's my own little slice of paradise, and I am quite literally master of my domain. I would rather focus all of my lazy energy here. The superficial malls of LinkedIn and Facebook will survive without me. Here at RepDigest, my views can never be censored, trolled or disrespected by hipster skallywags. There are no influencers or crappy algorithms to suppress my comments or opinions. As a free speech advocate, the tech giants can suck my Bill of Rights.

Okay, enough toxic diatribe. I promised to discuss some incredible artists from the vaults of yesteryear. Featured within each gallery are several artists you have likely never heard of. I've skipped the usual suspects like Frank Frazetta, H.R. Giger and Boris Vallejo. Incredible as their bodies of work are, there are already plenty of dedicated fanboards out there online. All one needs to do is Google their names and you will discover their incredible talents. As much as I appreciate their wide commercial appeal as legends, I prefer to dig deeper under the surface, to reach into the more obscure ranks of professional artists who came and went with the stars.

By no means is this gallery an all-inclusive portal, but I will state that this presentation represents merely a small fraction of the catalog I have digitally restored on my computer. Ironically, one of my original goals for RepDigest was to be a central hub featuring the works of these lost artists, but sadly this idea was scrapped due to time constraints and the inability to satisfy my own creative goals. As a parent, this still remains a central issue for me. I need to work for health insurance, to pay bills, and to raise a young buck into a decent, productive member of society. My priorities are fixed, and so my passion for art remains secondary. That's not a complaint – just a fact of life I'm sure many of you can identify with.

In each gallery, the names of each artist are revealed once the button is clicked or hovered over (mobile vs. desktop). There wasn't enough time to build up their credentials or profiles, but I assure you that many of these legends each faced their own uphill battles in life. The first artist featured, George Ziel, was born Jerzy Zielezinski in 1914 Poland. Specializing in Gothic romance themes, Ziel made an impressive name for himself in the publishing industry during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. His father was thought to have been murdered by Nazis when they invaded Poland in 1939. Condemned to the Warsaw Ghetto, Zielezinski was later transferred to Dachau. While art supplies were forbidden in this concentration camp, this did not stop Zielezinski from creative expression. During internment he generated dozens of powerful charcoal sketches that captured the futility and oppression of Nazi occupation. These sketches are still routinely exhibited in history museums across Europe. Sometime after the war, Zielezinski moved to New York and changed his name to George Ziel. He remained a relevant force in the publishing industry until his death in 1982.

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Another tragic legend was that of artist Gene Szafran. Unfortunately his story never achieved the redemptive heights as that of Ziel. Born in Michigan in 1941, Szafran's career blossomed in the early 1970s when science fiction and fantasy paperbacks saturated the publishing market. His brilliant paintings were also featured in magazines and on record sleeves. Szafran's most notable works were published on science fiction classics by legendary authors like Robert Heinlein, Richard Matheson and Robert Silverberg. His cosmic and mystical style often fused the rigid qualities of science with the taboo nature of sexuality. During the age of free love and psychedelia, Szafran's unique vision reflected his generation with a clever wink and nod. Sadly his career was cut short in 1977 when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He continued to be involved with art as a teacher, but his style and absence in the publishing world was clearly felt. Szafran passed away in 2011.

Beyond the personal struggles of legends like Ziel and Szafran, there have been many other artists with tragic stories, many of whom are not featured here. However, there are also a great many others who achieved prosperous, yet humble careers in the publishing industry. A few examples: Robert McGinnis, known primarily for his sexually charged pulp and spy novel covers in the 1960s and 70s, also the genius behind the iconic Breakfast At Tiffany's film promotion in 1961... Charles Moll, whose career works were a driving force behind many science fiction and fantasy themes in the early 1970s, most notably his promotional work for the 1976 Warner Brothers film Logan's Run... Hector Garrido, known for his Gothic themes of desperation in the 1960s and 70s, later became a central character designer for the popular G.I. Joe cartoon series during the 1980s.

Each artist truly has a unique, special history. It would require a lengthy roll call to break down each and every player. Here we've only scratched the surface, yet their works and legacy remain no less impressive, imaginative or important than their infamous counterparts like Frazetta, Giger or Vallejo. Regardless, each artist seemed to be cut from a much finer cloth. They learned their craft in a far more traditional era, a guilded age where artists enriched their palettes through life experience and will – something sadly lacking with modern artists. The last of their generation, they attended better schools, studied under critical professors, forged their destinies in an industry that rewarded hard work and discipline. Most importantly, they had a deep sense of imagination. They lived and died in their canvas – working the finer nuances of color and light, form and structure. None of them used a computer. It was all from the mind in their hands, and sadly their time has passed quietly into the night.

Featured here are just a few of the amazing talents I would love to explore on a deeper level. For now, I simply share some of my personal favorites. While I do enjoy these QA interviews with living, breathing artists, it is still nice to reach back into the pages of history to see a different perspective... to see how creative and deep their imaginations could really bring us. So yes, I truly judge a book by it's cover. In fact, half of the stories I've read over the years rarely measure up to the cover art. For 2021, perhaps you should make it your goal to discover some new heroes. You need only browse through your local used book or record stores. They're out there, collecting dust, just waiting for you to give them a look. Don't be shy. Simply increase your creative depth by diving into the past. You will not regret it... Wishing you all a most pleasant, safe and blessed start to 2021 – may your wildest dreams come true!

Blacktooth Legends