Artist, Illustrator, Sculptor, Movie Poster Artist
Born August 5 or 15, 1919, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada
The last issue of Sam Moskowitz's four-issue revival of Weird Tales bears an unsigned cover illustration from an uncredited artist. Jaffery and Cook, in their index of Weird Tales, list the cover artist as "unknown." Earlier today, I posted the image with the same credit: "unknown." Now the mystery is solved and the artist is known. We can thank John at Monster Magazine World for that. Thanks, John!
As John points out in his comment, the cover illustration for Weird Tales, Volume 47, Number 4 (Summer 1974), is a reworked and flipped version of the cover of Satan's Disciples by Robert Goldston from 1962. As an artist, I can see that there's something wrong in the reproduction of the Weird Tales cover. Now I know why. Here's the cover:
Now here's the original:
As you can see, the whole image has been darkened and recolored, and the background and the other figures have been removed. In addition, the rocks have been replaced with a table, a cup, a skull, and a couple of standing braziers, suggesting a scene of human sacrifice or a black mass. I wonder if another artist or even the engraver reworked the original image somehow. The illustration seems too poor in quality to have been a reworked version of the original art, suggesting that Mr. Thurston was not responsible. It looks to me like a swipe. In any case, the artist's signature is clearly legible in the lower right corner of the cover of Satan's Disciples. It reads "Thurston" and thereby reveals the rest of the mystery.
Jack LeRoy Thurston was born on August 5 or 15, 1919, in St. Catherines, Ontario. (I think August 15 is the correct date.) He's a hard man to track in public records. Although there is record of his crossing over into the United States as early as 1923, I haven't found Thurston in the 1920, 1930, or 1940 census. The earliest mention of him I have found is in an article on men in the service from The Niagara Falls Gazette, December 26, 1944, page nine. That article mentions his mother (Mrs. Harry L. Thurston of that city), his wife (Mrs. Barbara Fisher Thurston, also of Niagara Falls), his rank in the U.S. Navy (petty officer, third class), and the places where he was stationed (Naval Training Center, Sampson, New York; and Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia). The article also includes a photograph of the artist. Jack Thurston enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and earned his citizenship in January 1946.
In the article, Mr. Thurston was described as a former employee in the art department of Gilman Fanfold Corporation. From what I can gather, Gilman Fanfold manufactured office supplies or forms and had a facility in Niagara Falls. According to AskArt, Mr. Thurston "served during World War II as a sculptor to scale of enemy terrain." His schooling came at the Buffalo Art Institute, Jepson's Fine Arts School, and the Art Center of Design in Hollywood. He was the author and illustrator of The Adventures of Skoot Skeeter from 1948. I don't know when he began illustrating book covers and movie posters, but I suspect it was in the 1950s and no later than the early 1960s. Unfortunately, Mr. Thurston is not included in Walt Reed's otherwise very fine editions of The Illustrator in America or in Vincent Di Fate's Infinite Worlds.
I don't know whether Mr. Thurston is still living. If so, he would be ninety-three years old. I would like to think he's still out there somewhere, drawing and painting, for he created some truly beautiful works of art.
Above: A gallery of book covers by Jack L. Thurston. An accomplished draftsman, a fine colorist, and a painterly artist who was good with the human figure, Mr. Thurston was comfortable in every genre. By the way, the last two authors--Edison Marshall and Day Keene--were also tellers of weird tales.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley