(1929-2008) UK illustrator, critic and author; he often used the working name Jim Cawthorn, though he also went by J Cawthorn or simply Cawthorn, and his name was sometimes rendered as Cawthorne. After he entered sf around 1954, his career was largely defined by his relationship with Michael Moorcock – the men quickly bonded due to their shared interest in Edgar Rice Burroughs – and they first worked together on Tarzan Adventures, a Comic book edited by Moorcock.
His writing career was sporadic: as Cawthorn he published book reviews in New Worlds, and as Philip James he wrote The Distant Suns (29 June-2 November 1969 The Illustrated Weekly of India; exp 1975), a Jerry Cornelius space adventure, also with Moorcock. Two other collaborations with Moorcock were the script for the 1975 film The Land that Time Forgot, based on Burroughs's novel, and the critical book Fantasy: The 100 Best Books (1988). According to Moorcock's introduction, the book was mainly written by Cawthorn, and it is notable for its heavy emphasis on early Fantasy, since only 24 of the 100 works discussed appeared after 1955. He also published a few stories and poems, including "Ballard of a Whaler" (January 1967 New Worlds), a brief parody of J G Ballard.
However, Cawthorn was best known as an illustrator; his work appeared often in New Worlds but also in comics and on occasional book covers for Moorcock and other authors, including the cover for his own The Distant Suns. His version of Moorcock's Sword-and-Sorcery hero Elric of Melniboné is still considered definitive. At his best, his naive, rough lines work vividly, and his brightly coloured images can seem fresh and inspired, like his covers for Moorcock's homages to Burroughs, Warriors of Mars (1965), Blades of Mars (1965), and Barbarians of Mars (1965). At other times, though, his work seems crude and ill-suited for the accompanying material. In a 1979 interview, he illuminatingly said of his own artwork that he did "not plan it sufficiently." His books in Graphic-Novel form are Stormbringer (graph 1975), The Jewel in the Skull (graph 1978), and The Crystal and the Amulet (graph 1986), all existing works by Moorcock adapted by Cawthorn; the latter is based on Sorcerer's Amulet (1968; vt The Mad God's Amulet 1969; rev 1977), the second of the Runestaff books. After publication of Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, he effectively retired from the field. The posthumous volume James Cawthorn: The Man and His Art (graph coll 2018), edited by his sister Maureen Cawthorn Bell, collects and categorizes more than 800 examples of his artwork, some 50% of them previously unpublished. [PN/GW]
James Philip Cawthorn
born Gateshead, County Durham: 21 December 1929
died Gateshead, Tyne and Wear: 2 December 2008
Hawkmoon/The History of the Runestaff
- Caribbean Crisis (London: Fleetway Publications/Sexton Blake Library, 1962) with Michael Moorcock, writing together as Desmond Reid [chap: tie to the Shared World franchise: Sexton Blake Library: pb/uncredited]
- The Distant Suns (Llanfynydd, Dyfed, Wales: Unicorn Bookshop, 1975) with Michael Moorcock [chap: pb/James Cawthorn]
- Stormbringer (Manchester: Savoy, 1975) [graph: Elric of Melniboné: pb/James Cawthorn]
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