Jim Cawthorn, 1929–2008


“Jim Cawthorn and I have been inseparable for over twenty-five years, sometimes to the point where I can’t remember which came first—the drawing or the story. It is his drawings of my characters which remain for me the most accurate, both in detail and in atmosphere. His interpretations in strip form will always be, for me, the best.” Michael Moorcock.

Jim Cawthorn—illustrator, comic artist and fantasy historian—died this week. Cawthorn was the first illustrator employed by Savoy Books and one of the key factors in drawing me to their doors in the early 1980s. His illustrations made their books special and his comics adaptation of Moorcock’s The Jewel in the Skull was a big influence on my early black and white work.

Mike Moorcock, Dave Britton and I seem to be in a minority in regarding Cawthorn as one of the finest fantasy illustrators of his generation. His carefully stipled drawings of the late Fifties and early Sixties are all miniature masterpieces and I don’t care how many artists attempt lavish paintings of Moorcock’s Elric character, for me the definitive representation remains the drawing used on the cover of the first edition of Stormbringer in 1965. Cawthorn was Moorcock’s illustrator of choice for many years and was involved with the Moorcock-edited run of New Worlds right from the start with his cover illustrating Ballard’s Equinox story. He also provided reviews for New Worlds, and his critical faculties were demonstrated to the full in 1987 with Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, an overview of the genre credited to Cawthorn and Moorcock for which Cawthorn himself wrote most of the entries.

I wrote in more detail about Cawthorn’s work for the Savoy site several years ago. For an overview of his career and influences, there’s Dave Britton’s interview from 1979.

Update: some extra pictures added.


Jagreen Lern and Elric (1963).


The Metal Monster (1962).


The Jewel in the Skull (1978).


Moorcock portrait 1: The Apocalyptic (1979).


Moorcock portrait 2: The Aesthetic (1979).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
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Previously on { feuilleton }
Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls
Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others

15 thoughts on “Jim Cawthorn, 1929–2008”

  1. I’ve loved his work for Savoy- what horrible loss to the art world and anyone who knew him/his work.
    Do you know if he finished his adaptation of Princess of Mars?

  2. I’ve no idea how far he got with PoM. Adapting books into comic form takes a while and Jim worked slower than most. Dave and I have always been disappointed he never did the full-length Elric adaptation he was planning in the Eighties. He sketched out the whole thing then for some reason never got started on it.

  3. Death toll hasn’t close up for the year yet, good Lord!
    I know Cawthorn’s art from long ago, I have that issue of Savoy Books on which he drew the opening pages (something took from an illustration he made for a Michael Moorcock story, if memory does not fail me).
    Well…R.I.P., Jim.

  4. John —

    We never get to talk, but I’ve admired your art and design for a long while. Great post here on a sad occasion — a very sad day for all Moorcock fans and all Elric fans especially. Mike just gave me the news a while ago, and I found your post here via Google. I’ll do a blog post today as well dedicated to Jim Cawthorn, and link to your excellent post here. Very best, John

  5. Thanks for that, John. Jim and I were friends from 1955. He first improved my fanzine Burroughsania (and others I did in those years) with his astonishing stencil technique and then went on to pep up Tarzan Adventures and did work for Sexton Blake when I went to work there. He began scripting and writing features for Fleetway around this time and regularly illustrated New Worlds until 1979. He also illustrated many of my books in the UK, US and Germany. We remained in touch until his last letter, which I received about ten days ago. He was a highly valued friend.

  6. Márcio: that picture you’re thinking of may be Dorian Hawkmoon’s entry into Londra from Jewel in the Skull which I’ve added to the examples above.

    Hi John and thanks, mutual admiration all round.

    Hi Mike, I should have mentioned his earlier work. Most of what I know of the pre-NW period comes from Dave’s interview and conversations with Dave, of course. We might also mention his work for fantasy magazine AMRA.

    I’m glad to see a couple of other places (including Ballardian) have picked up this news. (Links below the comments.)

  7. It amazes me how much the deaths of people I have never met has affected me this year. I was so looking forward to his third Hawkmoon adaptation THE SWORD AND THE RUNESTAFF. Would you happen to know how far along he was? Would you ever consider finishing his work if it was far enough along? I suppose not with all of your own projects. But so is the greed of an audience. My condolences and apologies both.

  8. I think the final Hawkmoon book was pretty much finished although I can’t recall now whether I saw all the artwork for it. The crucial question is whether Savoy has money to put it out; Crystal and the Amulet appeared in the days when the company had more shops and a lot more money. I’ve mentioned before how there’s a lot of planned Savoy works currently stalled due to lack of funds.

  9. I have in my hand a copy of the book Armada Sci-Fi 2, edited by Richard Davis and Illustrated by Jim Cawthorne. Published 1975. It this the same guy as Jim Cawthorn?

  10. Hi Richard. I haven’t seen a copy of that book but it’s a safe bet it’s Jim Cawthorn with his name mis-spelled. The following page detailing his work shows that he contributed to the third book in the Armada series:


    Having your name mis-spelled is a common hazard for artists: I still get credited as “Coulthard”.

  11. I knew Jim about 40 years ago. I realised that I was still young and he was very much more mature than I. Jim penciled an illustration for my first sojourn into publishing. He only did me one more illustration – for publication – over 18 years after. The illustration (I have) has never been published. It was drawn for a short story by Andrew Darlington called “Eternal Assassin”. The story and illustration were to be published in a glossy magazine that I had high hopes for . . . but no money and a job that kept me out of the UK for years.

    Jim raved over Andy’s story: “It’s the best story that Mike (Moorcock) never wrote!” The illustration is amongst Jim’s best.

    However, Jim and I corresponded over a period of twenty years. His narration was sparkling . . . oh so erudite and funny. And he never finished a letter without drawing a cartoon – either at the end of the last page of his scribbelings, or on the back of the envelope that contained his letter.

    Alas, I only have three envelopes and an end of letter to remind me of Jim. I lost the rest in a flood.

    I hope that I can publish his illustration of Andy’s story, plus his cartoons, soon.

    I still miss Jim’s letters and cartoons. He was part of my life.

    I remember Jim with great affection.

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