Monday, April 14, 2014

John Giunta Update

A reader (also a writer), Christopher M. O'Brien, has kindly provided me with Sam Moskowitz's two-page personalized obituary of John Giunta from Luna Monthly No. 20 (January 1971). Sam Moskowitz may have his detractors, but to his credit, he wrote about people and events about which no one else has written. His obituary of John Giunta has as much personal information on the artist as anyone will ever know.

John Giunta did indeed pass away on November 6, 1970, at age fifty. Unless he was about to turn fifty-one at his death, that would make his birth year 1920. Maybe only the city or state of New York knows his birthdate. Giunta did not die alone, but he lived alone. As Sam Moskowitz wrote:
His death was in the all-too sad tradition of artists which has become almost stereotyped in fiction and moving pictures. He died nearly penniless, receiving public assistance and with art assignments rare and poorly paid. Though only 50, he looked nearly 65, and probably did not weigh much over 100 pounds at the time of his death.
Giunta suffered a stroke in his room at the Village Plaza Hotel in New York. He died eight hours later in the hospital.

"He was a gentle, soft-spoken, kindly, generous individual," Moskowitz wrote, "optimistically striving to better his fortunes throughout his entire life. He was always his own man, losing many important assignments rather than compromise his ideas."

 * * *

I listed Giunta's credits in my previous postings on him. There's one I missed however. In 1949, John Giunta edited a comic book called True Crime Comics. Among the contributors were Giunta's science fiction friends, Sam Moskowitz, Raymond Van Houten, and James V. Taurasi. Also among the contributors was Giunta's nephew, Aldo Giunta. Like his uncle, Aldo Giunta contributed to fan publications. He also had a story, "Jingle in the Jungle," published in If in June 1957.

* * *

In the same issue announcing the death of John Giunta, Luna Monthly also announced the death of the artist Steele Savage. Born in Michigan in 1900 (Correction: Dec. 21, 1898), Savage illustrated a number of books, including science fiction books by John Brunner and Robert A. Heinlein. He also contributed to Famous Fantastic Mysteries in the 1940s. Savage died on December 5, 1970. I was researching Savage's life well before I read of his death in Luna Monthly. My sense is that Steele Savage may have been another in a line of artists (or human beings in general) that is entirely too long: men and women who have lived lonely and very often desperate lives. The question is: Must the artist suffer so that he might create? There have been happy artists, artists with families. N.C. Wyeth is one who comes to mind (although he died suddenly and tragically). Even so, does the artist suffer so that the rest of humanity might gain some joy or pleasure from his work? Did H.P. Lovecraft practically starve himself so that we might have his stories to read? I'm not sure that such things are needful. It may be that the artist is a person who finds himself in a box of a certain kind (as we all do), and though he can escape one kind of box, he can't escape another. And so--despite his suffering and desperation, and very often by heroic effort--he creates.

The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein, with cover art by Steele Savage (1900-1970). Savage painted in a style that is at once dreamlike and hyperrealistic. That peculiar combination is sometimes referred to as magical realism and was popular in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, especially in illustration and advertising. Simon Greco (1917-2005) was another practitioner of magical realism. If I remember right, The Rolling Stones has Tribble-like creatures, just in case you're putting together a list of influences on the TV show Star Trek

Thanks to Christopher M. O'Brien for providing the article from Luna Monthly.
Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

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