(1937-2020) US cartoonist, animator, illustrator, film designer, director, videogame designer and author, in Australia from 1972; active from the mid-1950s, initially as an animation inbetweener for Walt Disney Studios [for Disney see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. His first illustration of sf interest was the July 1959 cover for F&SF; he only rarely produced genre cover work since, examples being Autumn Angels (1975) by Arthur Byron Cover, Famous Monsters of Filmland and Monster World. Cobb's first fame came from the wide distribution of the political/ecological cartoons he executed for the Los Angeles Free Press, beginning in 1965 and continuing into the early 1970s. The best of these have been assembled as RCD-25 (graph coll 1967), Mah Fellow Americans (graph coll 1968; cut vt with added cartoons My Fellow Americans: Patriotic Cartoons 1970), Raw Sewage: Unprocessed Cartoons (graph coll 1970), The Cobb Books (graph coll 1975) and Cobb Again (graph coll 1978). Many of the political cartoons, though some targets are dated or dead, retain a Satirical bite, with the Post-Holocaust consequences of World War Three frequently illuminated. Some proleptically exploit specific sf imagery, an example from 1969 being a Near Future vision of "progress" on the Moon, with Apollo 58 visible in the background, and in the foreground two Black men in spacesuits (see Spacesuit Films) picking up white man's litter. Perhaps even more savagely, Cobb's renderings of Ecological disaster – cartoons now more than half a century old – comprise a set of knowing Predictions of the degradation of the planet; his visions of the oceans choked by human junk are particularly prescient.
Cobb's work as a film designer has been variously described and labelled, but the fixative architectonic clarity of his style, which illuminates even the darkest of the cartoons, conspicuously shapes the look of such films as Dark Star (1974) directed by John Carpenter, Star Wars (1977) directed by George Lucas, Alien (1979) directed by Ridley Scott, Conan the Barbarian (1982) directed by John Milius, Back to the Future (1985) directed by Robert Zemeckis, and others. Cobb anatomized much of his accomplishment in Colorvision (graph 1981). His later work in the sf Cinema – for films including Total Recall (1990) directed by Paul Verhoeven – seems to have been less engaged. Other later work included Videogame designs, an example being Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine (1994).
Nothing Cobb accomplished over more than one career blunts the insights he conveyed in the 1960s; this may be judged as being to his credit. [JC]
born Echo Park, Los Angeles, California: 21 September 1937
died Sydney, New South Wales: 21 September 2020
- RCD-25 (Tarzana, California: Sawyer Press, 1967) [coll: graph: illus/pb/Ron Cobb]
- Mah Fellow Americans: Editorial Cartoons (Los Angeles, California: Sawyer Press, 1968) [coll: graph: illus/pb/Ron Cobb]
- Raw Sewage: Unprocessed Cartoons (Los Angeles, California: Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers/Sawyer Press, 1970) [coll: graph: illus/pb/Ron Cobb]
- The Cobb Book (Sydney, New South Wales: Wild and Woolley, 1975) [coll: graph: illus/pb/Ron Cobb]
- Cobb Again (Sydney, New South Wales: Wild and Woolley, 1976) [coll: graph: illus/pb/Ron Cobb]
- The Cobb Book (London: Big O, 1979) [coll: graph: illus/pb/Ron Cobb]
- Colorvision (Sydney, New South Wales: Wild and Woolley, 1981) [graph: illus/pb/Ron Cobb]
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