Greg Hildebrandt and his twin brother Tim were born on January 23, 1939, in Detroit, Michigan. They worked collaboratively as fantasy and science fiction artists; in the illustration world, they became better known as “The Brothers Hildebrandt.”

Some of their most notable works, and what won them international recognition, are the original Star Wars movie posters and the 1976, 1977, and 1978 J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings calendars.

The work of Greg and Tim Hildebrandt has received widespread fan recognition over the last 42 years in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, comic art, pinup art, western art, religious art, comic strip art, and sequential art.

Unfortunately, the brotherly duo was split up in June of 2006 when Tim Hildebrandt passed away at the age of 67.

In 2010, Greg Hildebrandt received the Chelsey Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Today, Greg remains active in the art world, continuing work on his American Beauties Pinup series.

We had the great privilege to speak with Greg and his wife and manager, Jean Scrocco, for an in-depth conversation about his career and the works being sold in our first drop with Heavy Metal magazine. Though this is the longest interview we’ve done, it could’ve been at least twice as long.

MP: Can you introduce yourself and give our readers a sense of your artwork and career? I’m sure they’ve come across your work, even if they are not familiar with the name. 

GH: I started professionally in 1958 in Detroit, Michigan. I’m from Detroit, born and raised in Detroit. I was born in ‘39. So I grew up there in the 40s. And my first professional job was at the Jam Handy Organization, which was the biggest industrial film producer in the country. They had an animation department, they had a live-action department, and they had a film strip division. 

I went there, and my brother and I presented a portfolio, and they hired us for a dollar an hour. But I should have paid them. 

There were animators from Disney. There was one animator who worked there in the golden days. He worked on Fantasia, Snow White, and Pinocchio. There were two animators from Max Fleischer Studio who did Betty Boop and Papa. They worked on these great Superman cartoons of the 40s. So I apprenticed with these kinds of guys and learned a lot about animation, production, and production design. 

Betty Boop

Then I came to New York to make films on World Hunger. I made documentary films with my twin brother from beginning to end. Plan them all out. And they got distributed around at schools, mainly on NET. There was a couple of them that showed up on NET. 

And then I moved into children’s book illustration and did all kinds of stuff: textbooks, readers, books for Golden Books on animals, one on pandas and one on hippos. Advertising art. This went on for about seven years down to a toilet training book, which was not the most thrilling subject in the world, but when a job comes up, you take it. 

JS: Yeah, but wait a minute. I just relicensed that toilet training book two years ago to a Russian publisher. So from the 70s to today, it’s still in use. I mean, it’s a problem that won’t go away. 

GH: Toilet Training in Less Than a Day. That’s what it was called. 

Greg Hildebrandt with “Toilet Training in Less Than a Day”

So that went on for quite a while. Tim and I then said, well, let’s not do any more of this kind of stuff. Let’s go look for something a little more dramatic. So we thought movie posters. 

Back in the day, all we did was open the Yellow Pages up, close our eyes, and point at a listing. And the first one we pointed at, we called. I had no idea who they were. It was a small studio in New York that was a division of a larger studio in Hollywood. In those days, you could just call, and you’d get somebody. I said, we’re a couple of illustrators, and we’ve done this and this and this. We’d like to show you a portfolio.

Yeah, come on in tomorrow. 

So we got on the train. We lived in Jersey. I still do. We went into the city and walked into this studio that had all these paintings sitting around. And it’s Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein. So that was what, 1973 or 74. I went nuts. I said, what is this? 

I said, I gotta do a poster. We have to do a poster. We gotta do it.

And they said, well, here’s everything. There’s no money left. And these are being shipped out tomorrow morning to Brooks in California.

I said, I don’t care. We’ll do one overnight.

They said, what are you crazy? 

They gave us a bunch of scenes from the film. So on the train back to Jersey, Tim and I figured out the setup. We got home and stayed up all night and painted a picture. It was very broad, sort of like painterly, like pulp, given the timeframe. 

Long story short, they loved it. They didn’t use it because it gave too much of the plot away. But three years later, we get a call from the studio. Since that Frankenstein poster, we’d gone on to illustrate Lord of the Rings, which gave Tim and me a global fandom for the first time. Getting fan mail and everything like that. Then we get a call from the studio. 

They said, you guys gotta help us out. We got a film here coming out in a week. And the director’s not satisfied with his poster.

I said, what is it?

And he said, it’s some kind of a science fiction movie. These guys hadn’t seen it. So Tim and I jumped on a train, went in, and it was Star Wars

He showed us the first picture by Tommy Young, who had done the original painting of the pose. And he had done like a big shine going across.

I said, It’s beautiful. What do you want us to do? 

Well, the director wants it more comic-booky. And that was their only directive to Tim and me. And they gave us a bunch of shots out of the film, and they say, keep the same setup, but comic-booky. 

We’re on the train. What the hell does that mean, more comic-booky? That doesn’t mean black ink outlines with flat colors. Cause that’s what comic book coloring was back in the 70s. We figure it just needs more color, more contrast. 

So we got home, we painted a picture in 36 hours, and just hyped up the color and contrast. And they used it for advertising and then as a product.

Then Tim and I decided, let’s try our own story. Let’s come up with a fantasy novel and see what the hell we can come up with. 

So we busted our brains for a couple of months, coming up with a concept. It was going to be Lord of the Rings, medieval-esque, with elves and dwarfs and everything. And so we came up with a plot, and then it got pitched by the art director of Ballantine Books, who we worked with on the Rings

So he got into a bidding war between Avon and Random House. Cause when you’re hot, you’re hot, you know. We did the Star Wars poster, and boom! The whole world flooded to us as though we had something to do with the movie.

The cover of Urshurak by The Brothers Hildebrandt

Random House published it, and it made it to the New York Times bestseller list. And at the same time, though, Tim and I were pitching it in Hollywood.

So well, in any event, it didn’t make it because they were afraid to go ahead with a fantasy. Conan the Barbarian was underway. Hollywood wanted to see how that was going to do. 

At about that same time, I had known Jean’s brother, Joe, who was working with me on this whole project. And then he introduced me to Jean to work with, and she basically took over my whole career. This was 1979. 

She started her publishing company [Unicorn], and we illustrated, like what, 14 books of the classics. Since then, I’ve worked in Harry Potter cards, I’ve done Magic: the Gathering, a lot of stuff from Marvel and DC, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. 

Then Jean had licensed a couple of the paintings that I had done to Heavy Metal in the 70s and 80s. I did about eight covers. We just recently are back in touch with them through Matt [Medney, Heavy Metal’s Editor]. 

And God knows, the 5 million private commissions that I do, and I’m still at it every single day. I mean, I guess that’s a rough career, right? 

JS: He probably left off, I don’t know, maybe 60% of what he’s done. 

GH: Yeah. But I mean, I never wanted to specialize. Tim and I were both hung up on film and animation and illustration, all kinds of stuff. 

“Torgon” from Urshurak by The Brothers Hildebrandt

MP: I’m curious now, you having said that, after a long career of physical painting, what is your perception of the NFT space?


I think it’s great. It is just a new way for people to consume art, which is never a bad thing. Technology and the world will always move forward with innovation; that is just the way it is. 

I still paint traditionally. It’s what I do. But I’ve never been the type of person that would say, “Oh, these new ways of doing things aren’t real art or shouldn’t be done!”

I don’t pretend to understand what the blockchain is. The phrase “clear your cookies and cache” still makes me laugh. But I do understand that this is a new conversation. A conversation about agreed-upon value, plain and simple. 

The thing I really appreciate about NFTs or digital assets is that the sales can be tracked and that the original content creator can continue earning from their work. This is a game-changer. 

The way it used to be — and still is in many cases — that young artists would have to sell their originals before they had a name or reputation to try and earn a living. Years later, that work sells for a lot more money on the second-hand market, and the creator gets no benefit. 

Now that has been flipped on its head. It still may not be the majority of the value, but it is something, and I really appreciate that.

JS: I spent probably a year, a little over a year, researching them continuously with two of the people that work for me before I chose what direction I wanted to try and go with those. And I found them fascinating, but I also wasn’t really convinced yet what direction… I watched a lot of people doing a lot of stupid things with NFTs.

It was interesting because I said to Greg, I don’t wanna jump into this. And people were pushing me to jump into it because most people in the industry know that Greg owns his copyrights on most of the art. So there’s this massive amount of art available. 

And on top of him owning the copyright, when we started working together in 1979, I said, okay, well, everything from this moment on has got to be photographed professionally, and everything has to be scanned correctly.

So I had this monstrous amount of back-paintings. He has finished a Lord of the Rings painting for a museum in Singapore. It’s nine feet wide. And I have a digital scan that is 300 DPI at nine feet wide. 

GH: The people who work strictly digitally. I’m constantly looking at it. It’s mind-boggling, actually. I don’t understand the technicalities there, but I love it. And not to say that I’m not a technical person — I worked in film, I was in the lab, running the camera, all of that. I’m not just a painter, not that painter is a small thing. 

“Said the Spider to the Fly” by Greg Hildebrandt

MP: Can you tell me about the films you were making early in your career?

GH: I worked with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. I did these films on world hunger, and they really transformed me.

I was pretty much a straight Catholic kid from Detroit. And by the time I came here and was working with the World Health Organization and UNICEF and CARE, and all kinds of people, it was mind-boggling to me to see the hypocrisy of the world. Literally, I became a grownup within three months. Boom, like that. Just like an explosion. Especially when I went to South America.

The Bishop says to Tim and me, Boys go to South America, film poverty. I wanna show people what it’s like there. 

So we researched it and ended up in Columbia. And oh my God. I mean, if you ever walked into a barrio or a favela, ever seen one up close… I had all this equipment in the car. We were coming from Bogota to these foothills that start the Andes. I’m loading the camera, so I’m not even looking out the window. 

We pull up to where we’re ending up, and I opened the door and step out into this overwhelming mass of poverty. I mean, it was just unbelievable. I almost passed out. And that pretty much flipped me from an older way of being to a different way of being and thinking and seeing and the whole experience.

When I got back from that trip, I was never the same person. You suddenly are shocked to realize what most of the people on the planet live like in terms of poverty. 

And these are the kinds of films I made to show Americans. Bishop Sheen’s objective was to show America what it’s like around the world.

JS: Do you know who Bishop Sheen was? 

MP: No, I don’t. 

Credit: Robert Walker/The New York Times

JS: Okay, so Bishop Sheen had a TV show called Life is Worth Living in the 50s.

GH: Not like one of these contemporary TV preachers. This guy was way above that. He was so charismatic, and he was so popular that there were three networks back in the 50s. There was ABC, NBC, and CBS. Milton Berle was on one, Frank Sinatra was on another, and then there was Bishop Sheen. That’s how big he was. 

His primary audience was first Jewish, second Protestant, and third Catholic. So it wasn’t like pitching a message only to one religion. Because he was talking about love. He was talking about justice, and he was an amazing person. 

JS: When I was five, I would sit with my grandparents because they adored watching his show. And one day, I turned to my grandfather, and I said, you know, grandpa, I’m going to marry him someday.

And he just says, That’s nice, Jean. I didn’t know what a Bishop was. I was five, but he was so charismatic that even a child was just smitten with the way he spoke. 

GH: I have nothing to do with religion anymore. And still, I admire him as one of the main figures of my life. I can list a handful of people that have moved me in directions that you keep moving forward and upward. And he was one of them. 

JS: Okay, next question. 

“The Healing of Eowyn” by Greg Hildebrandt

MP: I’m curious how that kind of awakening to the conditions that the rest of the world or much of the rest of the world lives through, how that affected you as an artist. 

GH: Well, I mean, I started to paint images from my subconscious. The very first one I did was this nightmare dream that I had. I was walking through this dump, and it was like the ass end of a city, and it was just wretched and overwhelming. 

And I came on this rack with this skin stretched on it all bloody with these huge, hulking faceless figures wrapped in — I knew what they were in the dream, they were composed of all the skins of all their victims. So I knew that this was a representation of all the hate in the world, bigotry and intolerance, and war. 

I was going through a lot at that time. The Bishop got booted out of the job because he was too liberal-minded, and they brought in people that were totally the opposite. I was in this huge conflict with them, now seeing that whole establishment point of view. And then the world at large was changing. The Vietnam war had started. The fight for equal rights, gay rights, and women’s rights. And I started to get involved in that politically. It was more than showing up in the art. 

I remember Daniel Berrigan, who was a priest who protested the war in Vietnam by pouring blood into draft files. I filmed an interview with him for somebody else, and we spent the whole day in the city with him. He was an amazing guy. And he said This is no time for armchair artists

In other words, I just can’t paint pretty pictures. I have to do something. Everything I do has to have significance to it. It has to be transformational, has to elevate consciousness. 

So I tried to do that with these dream paintings. If I got too political, then it became political cartoons, which is, of course, a very valid art form, but I didn’t want to do that, even though some of my stuff was subject to drift in that direction. And in any event, the very first one I did with this dump with these monsters. It ended up in an art book that Ballantine Books did on my brother and me. That picture was in there. 

And I just started working with Jean. This is what, 1980. And she calls me in my studio. She said, Black Sabbath called; they want to use this painting for a cover for their new album Mob Rules.

And I said to Jean, No, it’s too personal. They can’t do that.

So she hung up the phone on me and said yes to them. 

JS: (laughing) That’s what agents do. 

Greg Hildebrandt’s album artwork for Mob Rules by Black Sabbath

GH: So she told me, and I kind of flipped out for a moment, but it didn’t last too long.

In fact, I just repainted it. Because I told Jean only relatively recently that, in my opinion, that initial picture was my initial comp. I wanted to really paint it big. It was a study. 

JS: The beginning of last year was the first time I heard him say, you know, one of these days I’m gonna paint that the way I want it to.

I said, what? It’s one of his most iconic pieces. It’s known worldwide.

And he said, Yeah, yeah, no, that was a study, Jean.

I always wanted to paint it really big. And I have a dry-erase board. I keep track of his schedule on that. 

And so the beginning of this year, I put it on the board, and he walked by the board and went, What’s that?

I said, You said you wanted to paint it big, paint it big. 

GH: So I did. I spent on and off for half a year, basically. I’d go do other stuff. Kept working on it. And as far as I’m concerned, it ended up the way I had hoped that it would have ended up. 

JS: He finished it last week. 

GH: Yeah, I just finished it. 

JS: And so as soon as he finished it, I said, okay, can I sell the original now? Because he didn’t want me ever to sell that one.

And he said, yes.

I said, great. And I picked up the phone, and I called five collectors on the list that had been after that painting for years. There are people who collect just heavy metal album art. And I sold it. And it was great. 

Greg Hildebrandt with his repainted “Dream Painting”

MP: How did your connection to Heavy Metal magazine start?

GH: Well, I was a fan of the French Metal hurant and Moebius’s work. That was what grabbed me. And then Jean and I started working together. We did a poster. 

JS: Okay, so I’ll give you some— 

GH: She knows the history. 

JS: I got a call from the vice president of marketing for Vekurka Posters, which is based out of Holland. It was, at that time, probably the largest poster company in the world. And they wanted to hire Greg to do hidden image posters. I said, why? You’re doing this for an American market? Why are you doing this for an American market? Americans don’t care about hidden images. 

And they were like, no, no, no, it’ll be great. We know what we’re doing. 

So Greg painted two images, and they failed. I knew they were gonna fail, and they failed. The art was perfectly fine. But in 1980, American young people didn’t care about hidden images and fantasy at all. 

GH: Look at the Frazetta at that time. 

JS: So the gentleman who owned the company, Angel Vekurka, came to the United States. So I said, okay, well, I’ll take you all out to dinner. So I had four vice presidents, Greg, myself, and my brother, who was my business partner at the time. And I took them to this very, very fancy restaurant in New Jersey. 

I said, here’s what we’re gonna do. I hate that you paid us a lot of money upfront, and it didn’t work. So Greg and I are gonna come up with one image and I don’t want any money for it. You’re gonna put it out there. And I guarantee you it will earn the advances for both of these in less than three months. 

And the VP — Hans Bradenberger was his name. I love that name. Hans said, Jean, you can’t do it. 

I said, oh, yes we can. 

And so we went back to the studio. We started working together on an idea. And what came out of it was The Angel of the Gods, the girl laying on the hillside with the unicorn and the very phallic calla lilies in the foreground.

Angel of the Gods by Greg Hildebrandt

I sent them a scan, and in less than two months, it earned out the advance on the first two and just went nuts worldwide. They put it on everything, including velvet art. 

GH: And then that’s when Jean licensed it to Heavy Metal magazine. It was the biggest-selling Heavy Metal cover ever up to that point. It sold because it was risque, but mothers would allow their 14-year-old boys to hang the poster up. 

JS: Every time he did something that I thought would really make a good cover, I would call them. I believe we did nine; two or three we painted specifically for them. 

GH: Up through Kevin Eastman’s time there. And that was lots of fun. 

JS: And then we really didn’t, you know, the kind of pinup art he was doing now was not really fantasy. 

GH: It was more noir, more 40s. 

JS: So I hadn’t talked to them in years. 

And then I saw on the internet that Heavy Metal was doing “the women of Heavy Metal magazine” as NFTs. So I emailed the CEO just to let him know — in a very nice way — that they couldn’t use Greg’s art because he owns the copyrights. And if you wanna work with me with those as NFTs, I’d love to work with you, but you can’t just go make those. 

And about 20 minutes later, I got an email back from Matt [Medney]. He was like, okay, [the former CEO is] gone. I get all his emails. I’m the new CEO, and God, I would love to work with you; let’s talk. And I guess we all fell in love with each other. 

GH: Yeah, we did. We had a fantastic relationship, and that’s how we connected. 

JS: Part of the reason is Matt Medney has more energy than any 12 people I know in this industry. He really does. There’s no question about that. But he has a passion for art. It’s very important. And that’s why I chose to work with Matt and Artify in Australia, through Matt, on NFTs because I love the way they loved Greg’s art. That’s important. 

GH: And to me, I mean, just aside from how much we like Matt, Heavy Metal is so iconic. Like I said, going back to the original French, it’s just something I want to be working with, connected to, you know? It means a lot to me personally. 

“Gorta the Witch” from Urshurak by The Brothers Hildebrandt

MP: So, speaking of noir pinups, your other NFT going up is “Escape.” Can you tell me about that piece?

GH: It’s part of the noir series. With the pinup stuff, I’m trying to do more than just paint a beautiful woman. To have people think, given the title, what does that mean? What could that mean to a viewer looking at the picture? 

In other words, again, with a lot of the pinup art that I do like that particular one, I want people to think a little further for themselves, not just look at the image and say, oh, I got it. 

Escape by Greg Hildebrandt

JS: A really quick story that was very interesting. Many years ago, when he started the pinups, I took a booth at Art Expo in New York. Now Art Expo is a big deal, right? And for him, doing the pinups was a lifelong dream. And so it was a big deal. So I took a booth specifically just for that. 

I’m sure you’ve been to Javits Center. When you walk into the top section, they’ve got those huge banners that hang from the ceiling. So I took three of them. They were like 40 feet tall. 

And three days before the show, the Javits Center called me up and said, we’re pulling your booths. 

What do you mean you’re pulling my booths? 

They said, well, these banners just came in, and we hung them, and they’re naked from the waist up. Do you know how big the nipples are? 

GH: Laughs

JS: I said, of course I do. I just paid you for those banners. Are you kidding me? They were a fortune. And so I said to the young man on the phone, before you pull my booth, I need you to tell me who is the woman who’s in charge of this that dislikes Greg’s art. 

And he said, how do you know it’s a woman? 

I said, it has to be. There’s no guy that’s gonna not like this art. Just tell me who that person is. I wanna talk to her before you pull my booth. 

They got her on the phone, and she said, this art is too risque.

I said, you’re Art Expo. You’ve had nudes from Michelangelo and Sistine Chapel here on giclée that are 20 feet wide. 

GH: And nudes from contemporary artists too. 

JS: And you’re telling me that nipples are too risque? 

GH: Funny the conversations you end up in. 

JS: You have a problem with Greg Hildebrandt. It’s not Greg. Your problem is with his paintings. 

And she said, well, what do you mean? 

And I said, when you look at Greg’s art, what you realize is he adores women. And in every one of his paintings, the woman is fully in control of the situation. And that makes you uncomfortable as a woman. 

And there was such silence on the phone. 

And she finally said to me, I think you’re right. 

I said, I’ve had women walk away from the booth, pulled their husbands away from the booth. I’ve had women walk up and buy this art. They love it. But most women are not bred to think of themselves as in control, powerful. And that’s what he paints: In control, powerful women. And you don’t like that. 

So at that point, there was this lull in the conversation. And then she finally said to me, all right, Jean, you know what? I’m not gonna pull your booth. You’re absolutely right. When is Greg gonna be there? I wanna meet him. 

And she came down and spent an hour with him, and it was great. 

“Made in the USA” by Greg Hildebrandt

GH: You know, I grew up in the fifties. I remember the mentality. Women’s place was in the kitchen and in the bedroom, and keep your mouth shut. Wear an apron when I come home and have dinner on the table and be happy with the vacuum sweeper I gave you for Christmas. This was the effing bullshit that you saw in ads. All kinds of shit about how women were second-rate citizens. And I said this is bull. 

The women who were posing back then busted out of that, you know, Betty Page and Jane Mansfield. They were in control. They were gonna do what they damn well wanted to do and let all the righteous people criticize them for not being under their thumb. 

JS: I think it’s interesting. A lot of women, if you have a good sense of yourself of who you are and what you’re accomplishing in your life, pinup is an expression of who you are. You know, it’s not demeaning at all. It’s not. 

MP: I know you were heavily influenced by comics from an early age. I’m curious how you think about creating stories with essentially a single panel. What is your iterative process there? 

GH: Oh boy. If I’m illustrating a book like Alice, I read the text in detail and sit there with a ballpoint pen and just do sketches that first hit me. If the author is describing the setup and the scene and what’s going on, well, that’s what I’m trying to get down. 

Once you come down to single panels in a book, I’m not sure exactly how to explain how I do that. 

I go through it very pragmatically: Who’s in the scene? What’s the scene about? What’s the mood? What’s the atmosphere? What time of the day is it? Is it outside or inside? What’s the building look? What’re the costumes? What’s the lighting? 

So it’s all very pragmatic like that to get it all worked out to convey what it is I’m trying to convey in that one picture, you know? 

JS: But also, the end product, what’s it gonna be used for? Because if you’re doing a cover, a book cover, a comic cover, you want that main character right in your face. 

But if you’re doing an interior book illustration, like Phantom of the Opera or Dracula, maybe you have a scene where you have six or eight vampires. That’s okay, it’s inside, it’s not the outside. It’s not the first thing a consumer sees when they walk into the store. That’s gotta be big figures in your face, big lighting. 

GH: And the thing is, I put myself in the scene that I’m doing. You know what I mean? Whether it’s my own or somebody else’s, the effort is to get inside the setup. You’re in the scene, and you have to be an actor, director, cinematographer. You’re all these people in one as an illustrator, basically. 

You have to sense and feel the character and what the character is experiencing. And then, hopefully, you get that with a series of sketches. I just start sketching, and sometimes I’ll do 50, 60, 70 sketches for one illustration. 

It isn’t because I’m necessarily dissatisfied. I just wanna explore it and have fun checking this thing out from every conceivable angle. What’s the best angle? Where should I be near the floor? Should I be up high? 

And color, which is all determined by light. Is there blue moonlight coming through the window? Is there a fireplace on? All those thoughts and everything are mingling and forming the image in a way before I even get to the painting. So by the time I get to a painting, I pretty much have got it all figured out what I wanna do. 

There’s still invention to do while painting. It gets more and more to the point, more and more detailed, closer to the source that you’re after. But I basically have the whole thing figured out ahead of time. 

JS: No, there’s always a point that’s right in the beginning, before your pencil goes to paper, where he has to know what’s the object of this illustration, what’s the purpose of it? What are you trying to convey for the client? 

You can do simple, you can do complex, you can do anything, but it has to say something. And the client’s trying to reach a particular thing, and that’s what [Greg]’s gotta figure out is how to convey that thing. 

GH: The work is like that proverbial iceberg where the bottom of the iceberg is it and the top, that’s the completed painting. The rest of this is all that other stuff that precedes it. 

MP: Can you recommend any of your favorite artists that our readers might not have encountered? 

GH: The first big initial influence that I had was the comic strips. And I’m talking about the 1940s. Prince Valiant was a full page by Hal Foster. That was critical. Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, which had a lot of combat and movement. He was the first guy to really handle it almost like a movie. 

Then Gustav Tengren, who styled Disney’s Pinocchio and Snow White. And he was a book illustrator. I had tons of his stuff. Johnny Gruelle, who did Raggedy Ann and stories and fairy tales. My mother used to read those. That was an initial influence. 

Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy

We would go to the Detroit Art Museum, which is a fantastic museum, one of the best in the country. And they had an incredible medieval collection and a wide range of Peter Bruegel. 

And then they had the Diego Rivera Hall that he had painted back in 1933 or 34. It’s mind-boggling. It’s about the auto industry. It’s an incredible juxtaposition of images. He had to take the hall that was not designed for him and now design it so that it all worked. And he was telling a story, and that blew my mind. I mean, as a little kid, I had no idea about content. It was just the imagery. And so I grew up on that. 

Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry

Then Disney, early Disney. The very first film I ever saw was Disney’s Pinocchio. That was in a re-release. So I was like seven years old. And that was the first movie I ever saw. There was no television back then. We had radio and comics, and that was it. I went nuts, went stark-raving mad over that. I knew it was artwork, and I didn’t know what the hell was going on. It was moving. I didn’t know about movies. So Tim and I were both starting to analyze it. We’re questioning our parents, we’re reading. We spent half our life in a library digging up information. 

Then we finally found a book by Fields, was his name. I got three, four copies of it now — it gave you the whole breakdown of how they animate. So that was huge. 

And then I got into special effects by the 1950s, George Powell’s War of the Worlds particularly blew Tim and me away, the martian machines, these manta ray things. Our parents were living in Rochester, Michigan. They had three acres, and they had a garage and a barn. We took the barn and garage over to start building miniature sets. So we’re looking at all the special effects, John Fulton, and all these great special effects artists. So that was a big hangup for a long time. It still is a big influence. 

From War of the Worlds

And then the classic illustrators that my parents had in the house, tons of books, they loved the work, J. Allen St. John, who did the original Tarzan and Pellucidar, all the Edgar Rice Burroughs stuff. So my parents had those books. Tim and I went crazy over that stuff. And then it was also, they had N.C. Wyeth‘s books, Treasure Island and Robin Hood. Howard Pyle and his pirate book. 

And then magazine illustrators. My mother had all the Ladies’ Home Journal and Red Book. Some of the greatest illustrators in the world working in those magazines. That list of names is endless to me. 

And then classical painting too. Caravaggio and Peter Bruegel, Michelangelo and Raphael. I mean, it’s all over the place. 

Plus comic book art, you know, just the sequence of telling stories. I worked for, yeah, I taught at Joe Kubert’s school for a while, you know, the golden age guys. And anyway, so it’s all over the place. 

MP: Amazing. I’ve got some research to do. Which of your pieces do you feel the strongest emotional connection to and why? Which piece feels the most personal? 

The one that I just repainted. That’s me. That’s an experience that I went through in trying to convey global hate. And what I was personally experiencing back then and still see in the world. Obviously, it’s worse than ever. 

The ancient Greek idea of theater was to elevate consciousness. Definitely to entertain. It has to be entertaining, but hopefully, when you come out of it, the consciousness is elevated somehow. That’s what I hope for. That image would be more the one I would recommend people look at. 

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