The Abominably-Awesome Imagination of Virgil Finlay

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Seeing as it’s Halloween and all, I thought I’d take this week’s post to write about renown sci-fi, fantasy, and horror artist, Virgil Finlay. While the medium he worked within, Pulp Magazines, might have been considered kitsch—Finlay’s work stands out as one of the extremely talented examples to have adorned the covers. What better a time of year to appreciate the work of Virgil Finlay than that of Hallow’s Eve?

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The ‘pulp’ in pulp magazines derive from the cheap wood pulp paper that the publications were printed upon. Reaching their peak of popularity in the first-half of the 20th century, these mags were famous for their lurid and exploitative narratives, one might liken graphic novels as the successors to pulp publications. While the narratives set them into a genre of their own, so did the sensational cover art. Covers were so important to sales that they were often drafted and designed first, then handed off to the authors so they could write stories around them. I can imagine it wouldn’t have been difficult to write within the fantastical works of Finlay, his pieces stand out as stellar pieces of art amidst an industry of mostly tawdriness.

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Finlay was a master of pen and ink. Perhaps as a result of the production of these publications, Finlay’s work was confined to mostly black and white. But like any talented creative, he worked within those boundaries and used them to his advantage, producing works of incredibly obsessive detail. He’s famous for his pointillism and hatching.

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Even the likes of horror master, H.P. Lovecraft, toted praise over Finlay’s work. While aliens, monsters, and buxom pinups were often his subjects, Finlay’s work materialized as an alternative to the medium’s status quo, it was that badass. Magazines like Weird Tales and Famous Fantastic Mysteries rose to the top thanks to Finaly’s work. His career spanned over 35-years and gave way to some 2,500 pieces. Often working within the margins of tight deadlines and low pay (characteristic of the pulp scene), Finlay still managed an astounding level of detail and devotion to his craft. Surely a great inspiration to all creatives.

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Finlay’s legacy lives on in the work of many modern illustrators. Coming back to Halloween, I’m reminded of the work that Mondo employs. Their artists remind me of a lot of Finlay’s compositions and style (for example, Olly Moss’s Moon poster beside a Finlay original).

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Nick Partyka

October 29, 2013 / By

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