Alex Schomburg

(1905-1998)

Born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Schomburg moved with his siblings to the U.S. mainland in 1912. After graduating from high school in NYC, he studied at the studio of airbrush artist Fred Dahme, a friend of the family. In 1923, Schomburg and his brothers opened a commercial art studio in the heart of Manhattan; and, in 1925, he met Hugo Gernsback. The two men would be friends for the rest of their lives, and Schomburg would provide art for most of the Gernsback publications in an artistic career that spanned seven decades.

He was nominated for the 1962 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

Eventually Schomburg won a Special Committee Award from Noreascon Three, Doc Smith Lensman Award, 1978; the Frank R. Paul Award, 1984; an Inkpot Award, 1985; a Chesley Award (Artistic Achievement), 1987.

Schomburg’s career was one of the longest in SF art history. Early in his career he had a job with National Screen Service, doing film backgrounds and Coming Attractions (or “trailers”) for movies. His SF career began in the mid-1920s; and he illustrated for the SF market until the mid-1980s, appearing in dozens of SF magazines. His first cover art for a prozine was for the October 1951 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories.

He created two sets of front and back endpapers for the Winston SF series in the 1950s (one set serves as the endpapers for Di Fate’s recent compendium of SF art, Infinite Worlds). He also did eighteen of the dust jacket illustrations for this series of thirty-seven YA books, including Islands in the Sky (1952) by Arthur C. Clarke, Mists of Dawn (1952) by Chad Oliver, Rocket Jockey (1952) by Philip St. John [Lester Del Rey], Danger: Dinosaurs! (1953) by Richard Marsten [pseudonym of Evan Hunter, aka Ed McBain], Vandals of the Void (1953) by Jack Vance, and The Secret of Saturn’s Rings (1959) by Donald A. Wollheim. Schomburg sometimes signed his work with the pseudonym “Xela.”

He also worked on the art background for 2001 -- A Space Odyssey, the Stanley Kubrick movie based on “The Sentinel,” a short story written by Arthur C. Clarke. In addition to covers for SF pulps, books on astrology, and a variety of paperback books, Schomburg drew hundreds of comic book covers for companies such as Pines, Harvey, Holyoke/Continental, and Marvel (and interior art for Marvel and Ziff-Davis). His complex, action-packed covers for the early Marvel (then Timely) line of comic books were especially eye-catching and memorable. Jon Juan, a 1950 Toby Press one-shot, apparently was the only comic book for which he did both the interior and cover art.

He was the subject of the January 1978 “Biolog” department in ASF; the first issue (January 1988) of the fanzine Books Are Everything included a checklist of his work in paperback; and in 1991 The Comic Book Marketplace (#5) contained a “salute” to Schomburg by Steve Duin. His artwork was reproduced/copied many times in SF and comic book fanzines. His obituary and appreciations of his work appeared in the May 1998 issue (#448) of Locus Magazine. Chroma: The Art of Alex Schomburg [with text by Jon Gustafson] was published in 1986. He was elected to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1990.

GoHships:

For more on his career, see http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/schomburg_alex