Monday, March 28, 2011

STAR WARS (1977) Paperback Cover Art

This familiar painting by John Berkey graced the cover of the Ballantine Books Star Wars novelization (penned by Alan Dean Foster writing as "George Lucas") through numerous paperback printings. But this is the first time I've come across it uncropped and uncluttered by text.

He also was the artist responsible for the beautiful X-Wing/TIE Fighter "dogfight" art print that was originally an insert in the Star Wars soundtrack LPs.

Reportedly, Berkey, who composed a couple of the most recognizable Star Wars illustrations of the era, never actually saw the movie! Over the next few years, he did create a few more pieces of art for the franchise, including art for Parker Bros.' Return of the Jedi "Death Star Battle" game cartridge in '83.

The artist passed away in April of 2008.


  1. At the bookstore in the sci-fi section, I would always pick up paperbacks with a Berkey cover. It was a magnetic attraction. The thing of it is that his covers almost never had anything to do with the books they were wrapped around. I often wondered if he simply painted ten or fifteen iconic covers (cool ship hovering over a cool planet in front of a cool space background) and publishers would buy them up and find a book that they were kinda/sorta appropriate for. I've never seen a clean version of this art before. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I love this old school artwork from the years around Star Wars. The Hildebrant (sp) brothers did the quintessential poster that for me became the standard for others to live up to. This picture is right up there. I still get a special tingle when I see prints like these.

  3. I really love this piece and prefer it to the Hildebrandt movie poster (yes, I know... blasphemy!). I like the rough around the edges style of painting and the way the light sabers look more like real swords than glowsticks.

  4. The Berkey cover painting for the novelisation, as well as his poster included with the OST, where some of the first images to emerge and are still capable of reminding me how breathtaking Star Wars was that first time - I ended up seeing it 22 times during its initial run.

    I'm a bit annoyed I don't know the name of the artist who painted the original movie poster. The Hildebrandt's borrowed the composition, but their painting was never used as an actual movie poster, rather part of the merchandising juggernaut.

    There's a sense of movement and light in Berkey's rough paint strokes that's lacking in the Hildebrandt's highly finished effort and it goes without saying is a galaxy far far away from the banality of modern Photoshops.
    Chris B