Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Fashionable Melnibonean!

Jack Gaughan

When Michael Moorcock's sorcerous albino hero Elric of Melnibone first appeared in American print, the covers to the paperbacks were illustrated by the late great Jack Gaughan. Gaughan has a style which is compelling, sleek, modern and beautiful. But it can be weird too.

These two paperback covers by Gaughan apparently were the only reference for the character that Barry (Not-Yet-Windsor) Smith could get hold of when it came time to render the Melnibonean for his guest-starring role in Conan the Barbarian. So it's understandable that Smith topped Elric with a rather tall peaked cap.

And while the cap looks okay in the Gaughan images, rendered by Smith, the hat looks somewhat silly to be honest. Moorcock apparently is not pleased with this look, neither in the Gaughan originals nor the Smith variations.

But for many years this became my image of Elric, because it was the only image I saw. Dave Sim reinforced this notion with the creation of Elrod in Cerebus, a spoof of Elric, or at least the Elric seen in the Conan comics.

It would be several years before I saw another interpretation of the hero. This time by Michael Whelan, who painted some outstanding covers for the DAW paperback series.

And it would be many years still before I got to see James Cawthorn's original interpretation of the Melnibonean, the classic look. It's certainly more flattering, but perhaps less memorable.

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