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Kelly, Ken

Entry updated 25 October 2021. Tagged: Artist.

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(1946-    ) Working name of American artist Kenneth William Kelly, who has also signed works as Ken W Kelly and K W Kelly (though the unusual style of the latter signature has misled some into incorrectly rendering his name as C W Kelly). A self-trained artist, Kelly served in the US Marines and, after returning to New York in 1968, garnered his first assignments with the help of his friend Frank Frazetta, to whom he is related in a convoluted manner; from the start, Frazetta has been a strong influence on Kelly's work.

After doing covers and interior art for the magazines Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, Kelly increasingly focused on book covers, usually for works of Sword and Sorcery, including covers for several books by Robert E Howard which sometimes featured a very Frazetta-like Conan. However, he soon developed a distinctive style that seemed darker and less decorous than Frazetta's – as exemplified by the bloody knife and decapitated head observed in his 1977 cover for Howard's Red Nails (July 1936 Weird Tales; 1975) or the sombre confrontation between man and Monster in his cover for Howard's Trails in Darkness (coll 1996). By the 1990s, he was seemingly being employed exclusively to portray bare-chested barbarians for books that included many Horseclans novels by Robert Adams, Gor novels by John Norman, and Conan novels by various hands, with occasional departures like his cover for a 1990 edition of Martin Caidin's Star Bright (1980), showing two helmeted soldiers confronting the yellow-glowing "microstar" that threatens humanity in the novel. In recent years, he has produced little new work. [GW]

Kenneth William Kelly

born New London, Connecticut: 19 May 1946



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