John W. Campbell art director?

         I READ SOMETHING SURPRISING in issue #32 of Illustration, a magazine about which I’ve long been curious but had never before picked up—probably due to its $15.00 an issue price tag. Anyhow for some reason, I finally broke down a sprang for a copy, and inside there was a short piece about Robert Adranga, who apparently did a lot of well-received covers for a Hitchcock YA mysteries series called The Three Investigators. I remembered Adranga’s name because he did a cover for Fantastic back in the sixties that I loved (I still have the issue, and the cover was also reproduced in the article.) It turns out that the Fantastic cover was Adranga’s first sale, made while he was yet in art school. The interviewer asked him about it, and it was Adranga’s answer which surprised me. Here’s what he said:

            “I took my portfolio to those two magazines {Amazing and Fantastic}…The art director there, he was someone that turned out to be fairly famous (John W. Campbell, Jr.) He wrote “Who Goes There”, I think (under the name Don A. Stuart). This later became the movie The Thing. So he hired me and I did those early covers…”

The words in the brackets are mine, and I suspect that the words in parentheses were added by Illustrator, but Adranga is clearly saying that John W. Campbell was the art director for Fantastic and Amazing in the early sixties. Which I’d never heard. A couple things about Adranga’s comments strike me as strange. He says that Campbell was fairly famous, because he wrote “Who goes There?”, which was later made into the movie The Thing. For starters, to most people who care about the history of American science fiction Campbell is a freaking giant, editor  of Astounding/Analog for decades, architect of the Golden Age, a force for dramatically improving the quality of the genre’s writing, and a major shaper of the science-fiction field. To trufans, The Thing is pretty much a footnote in his career.

 It felt even stranger to me, when I realized that to the world at large, perhaps being the author of the story made into The Thing actually is Campbell’s chief claim to fame. But what struck me as most incongruous was that the legendary editor of Analog was, while still at that magazine, which enjoyed the highest circulation of any SF magazine at the time, the art director for two competitors published by a different company, zines which though enjoying a renaissance at the time, had circulations about half of Analog’s. Can this be true? I never heard anything about it back then. I dug out my old issues of Amazing and Fantastic, and Campbell isn’t listed on the masthead.   


About kentmcdanielwrites

Writer and musician.

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