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Barr, Ken

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1933-2016) Working name of American artist Kenneth Barr, born in Scotland, who used the name Kenneth Barr for his early work in Britain. After military service he relocated to London to launch a career as a commercial artist and briefly worked for the British magazine Nebula Science Fiction, contributing three undistinguished covers and numerous interior illustrations; he also drew for a British Comic book, D C Thomson's Commando: War Stories in Pictures. After arriving in America in 1967, he continued working for comics, illustrating DC Comics' war comics like G.I. Combat, Our Army at War, and Our Fighting Forces; he also worked for such magazines as Eerie and Vampirella, and for several black-and-white comics from Marvel Comics like Doc Savage (see Doc Savage), The Rampaging Hulk, and Planet of the Apes. His first book cover was for Roger Zelazny's The Guns of Avalon (1974), foregrounding a monarch brandishing a sword as he confronts dark, monstrous humanoids; another early cover, for Lloyd R Biggle's Watchers of the Dark (1975), reflected the influence of his extensive work for war comics, showing a bearded, gun-wielding mercenary accompanied by an eagle against a background of stars in a greenish-blue sky. Other assignments during the 1970s included several covers for paperback republications of Tom Swift, Jr (see Tom Swift) juveniles.

In the 1980s, he receive a more upscale assignment to paint several covers for books by Andre Norton, and his works started to display a characteristic style, emphasizing one central character whose posture and appearance convey quiet menace or imminent action. Among other works from this period, he provided a nicely atmospheric cover for a 1981 republication of Philip José Farmer's Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973). He did his reputation no favours by then agreeing to provide garish covers for the notoriously undistinguished Spaceway series, but better material inspired better work, like his nuanced depiction of a large man lifting a weight for Michael Blumlein's The Movement of Mountains (1987), and an arresting image of an upside-down soldier drifting in space for James Kahn's Timefall (1987). After becoming inactive in the 1990s, there was a final burst of work around 2002, including a delightfully colourful bestiary for the cover of Jack Williamson's Dragon's Island and Other Stories (coll 2002). [GW]

Kenneth Barr

born Glasgow, Scotland: 17 March 1933

died Scotland: 25 March 2016



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