Monday, August 18, 2008

Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles

I often lament that there are so few great illustrators of the mid-20th century who have been the subject of an "Art of..." book collection. One of those artists, Noel Sickles, has finally received his due - thanks to TI list member Dean Mullaney.

Christmas came early for me last week when "Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles" arrived in the mail. I can only imagine that if Robert Fawcett, Austin Briggs and Al Parker (just to name a few) were still with us today, they'd have to be a little envious of this handsome volume.

Dean's original intention was to collect Sickles' 3-year run on the newspaper strip, Scorchy Smith...

... and include some biographical material and examples from Sickles' later career in illustration. However, writes Dean, "We found so much incredible art and bio material that I had to add 40 pages to the book. The Scorchy strips don't even start until page 142!"

I was fascinated to see so many examples of Sickles' rough sketches and meticulous attention to research for historical subjects, as shown above.

And while we might otherwise have had the opportunity to easily find the artist's work for mainstream publications, the book also collects copious amounts of rare and obscure artwork, like the 1960 recruitment booklet Sickles did for the U.S. military...

... or this unsold 1960's strip, of which Sickles produced only 6 inked and lettered dailies.

There are over 200 pieces of art in the front section of Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, from the artist's youth, through his many decades in commercial art...

... and up to his last work in the early 1980's, just before he passed away.

With Dean's permission, as we devote a week to the art of Noel Sickles, we will dip into the book for the occassional excerpt or anecdote. Many thanks, Dean!

Dean would like you to know that "the book is available from all bookstores, comics shops, and online retailers. If your local bookstore doesn't have it in stock, they can order it for you: ISBN 978-1-60010-206-6."

My Noel Sickles Flickr set.


  1. Anonymous4:08 PM

    Good God - first a week of Fawcett, now a week of Sickles. Leif, are you purposefully trying to keep me from getting any real work done?! :)

  2. Yes, Michael; you've found me out. ;-)

    David; I had to smile when I received this only an hour after reading a remark you made on your Gary Panter post wishing for just such a book!

  3. Oh Lord, I had forgotten this was coming out... amazing. Thanks for the preview pics.

    I still have a bunch of Sickles' stuff from Readers Digest Condensed Books I should post on my blog...

  4. Can't wait to pick this up myself.

    Amazon & Chapter's only have listed as available for pre-order only .

    May have to hit the Beguiling or Dragon Lady stores this week.

  5. What wonderful news! Thanks for the preview.

  6. Amazon has it In stock on September 7, 2008. I just ordered it. I am glad to learn of the book.

  7. Anonymous11:25 PM

    thanks,leif...this is a fantastic book,and i just ordered it from amazon...brian

  8. yes yes yes! definitely the most important book of the year- but can't order it anywhere (frustrating!) =/

    amazon first had june 22nd as release date, then july 31st, then september 4th, and now i see in harald's post, sep 7th...

  9. Can't wait, had it on order for ages from Amamzon. Hope mine turns up soon.

  10. Great news. I had no idea this was out. I'll have to get a copy as soon as I can. Thanks!

  11. Sickles was Alex Toth's all time favorite, Wow, cannot Wait to get my hands on that.

  12. ACK! Gotta get a copy of THIS too! Thanks for the timely heads up, Leif!

  13. I just got this a week or so ago and its fricken amazing!

  14. Leif, my copy arrived yesterday.
    Wow!!! and it's gorgeous. I see each each illustration and just paused to drink it up. Truly a master. Thanks for expanding my horizons.

    Pros: The book is very thick and encyclopaedic, nice color prints etc. Got it really cheap ($20 for new copy on Amazon, from a seller in UK)
    Cons: Binding seems OK but the 1st and last pages which contact the covers tearing apart. Easily solved with a strong tape. Should not detract anyone from buying the book.