Design as virus 11: Burne Hogarth


Mighty Baby (1969). Illustration by Martin Sharp.

Yet another album cover prompts this post, part of an occasional series. Mighty Baby were a British rock band who formed out of psychedelic group The Action in the late Sixties, and their music is fairly typical of the period, being “heavy” without any of the psych trappings which—for me—often make everything from that time a lot more interesting. This was a journey undertaken by many groups at the end of that lurid decade, a junking of the playful and evocative side of what was now called rock music in favour of a denim-clad earnestness. This album isn’t one I like very much—I’d rather listen to their earlier incarnation—but the cover painting by psych artist Martin Sharp is certainly a startling piece, being a violent mutation of one of the most famous Tarzan drawings by comic artist Burne Hogarth.


Tarzan by Burne Hogarth (194?).

Hogarth was drawing Tarzan for much of the 1940s and this particular panel showing the Ape-Man attacking Numa the lion dates from the latter part of his run on the series. I wish I could pin this to an actual year but I don’t have a complete set of the comics and that detail eluded me. If anyone knows the date, please leave a comment.


Reverbstorm 7 (2000).

Readers of the Savoy comics series, Reverbstorm, which David Britton and I created in the 1990s, will be familiar with its many references to Hogarth and other artists (some of which were catalogued here). The image of Tarzan and Numa was reworked on three separate occasions. The first was a double-page piece in a long run of pages which are the most excessive and outrageous things I’ve drawn to date. Burne Hogarth saw some of this work, including this spread, and while he wasn’t impressed at all by the violence he had the good grace to say some very flattering things about my drawing.


That image of Lord Horror on the solar-phallic lion was reworked for the cover painting in a style intended to resemble the work of Frank Frazetta. This version also tries to match Hogarth’s original more closely.


Near the end of Reverbstorm #7 one finds this panel showing Jessie Matthews astride Picasso’s bull from Guernica (1937) in the midst of Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884). How the story gets to a point of such intertextual confusion would involve far too much explanation; the curious will just have to buy the comics, or wait for the definitive book edition to appear.

I’m fairly sure I’ve seen other reworkings of Hogarth’s drawing aside from the Sharp version. If anyone knows of others, please leave a comment.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Design as virus 10: Victor Moscoso
Design as virus 9: Mondrian fashions
Max (The Birdman) Ernst
Design as virus 8: Keep Calm and Carry On
Design as virus 7: eyes and triangles
Design as virus 6: Cassandre
Design as virus 5: Gideon Glaser
Design as virus 4: Metamorphoses
Design as virus 3: the sincerest form of flattery
Design as virus 2: album covers
Design as virus 1: Victorian borders
My pastiches
A premonition of Premonition

23 thoughts on “Design as virus 11: Burne Hogarth”

  1. I noticed this several years ago when I came across the Burne Hogarth illustration as a pen and ink rendition in Penguin Book of comics publ 1967. by Alan Aldridge and..I forget his name. It’s on page c.128.

    I think I emailed John when I was searching for Burne Hogarth.

    I discovered that the Martin Sharp work matched the original work perfectly in dimension and proportion. I sent my discovery to Mighty Baby Bass Mike Evans my observation, he was suitably freaked and knocked out – it was such a clever idea. I told guitarist Martin Stone, he as always was ahead of the game, as he knew. He then revealed that Martin Sharp painted this on a pane of glass!

  2. Hi Deepinder. Funny that the band didn’t know the reference, although there’s no real reason why they would have unless Sharp had told them. There’s another very vague link between Mighty Baby and Burne Hogarth in the person of Michael Moorcock who began his publishing career in the 1950s editing Tarzan Adventures. That magazine reprinted Hogarth’s Sunday pages chopped into strips which rather ruined the careful page design of the originals. Moorcock and Martin Stone have been friends for some years and they still see each other when Mike is in Paris.

    Doesn’t surprise me that Sharp painted on glass, I was thinking it might have been on a sheet of metal the way the light reflects. As noted here previously, he’d already been producing posters on foil sheets.

  3. Yes, the Moorcock and Stone connection is an old one. If you can find it, the Short film ‘The Cardinal and the Corpse’ about 1992 shown on C4 Without Walls written by Iain Sinclair and Christopher Petit has appearances by them. Also Alan Moore, Dr Brian Hinton of Dimbola fame – he who once crossed the road and back again carrying a Gutenburg pressed book! Driff Field, and characters around Brick Lane. All these characters are looking for a book. The title being a shilling shocker which may be Flann O’brien in disguise. It all neatly dovetails into Barney Bubbles.

  4. I’ve had Cardinal on tape for years, and included a grab of Alan in his Rorschach t-shirt for his 50th birthday strip. David Seabrook is in there as well, whose second book I did a cover design for. He died recently, only discovered that several months after the fact.

  5. I recall seeing “the cardinal and the corpse” when it was first transmitted , Id love to see it again.
    The martin sharp cover is wonderful, always been a favourite of mine.Interesting to discover that it was painted on glass.
    Youre right about how psych dissolved into earnestness and earthy rootsiness.I lay the blame at the doors of The Band and Led Zeppelin.I guess the playfulness continued in a tarted up form into Glam and some of the stranger prog bands. God knows, i love heavy rock, but running away from the psychedelic and back into blues wasnt really the way to go.
    Very interesting post (and comments). Hopefully one day ill be able to buy that reverbstorm book and complete my set!

  6. There were a few bands carried on flying the psych flag into the Seventies, my old employers Hawkwind being the obvious example; Dave Brock said several times that he produced their first five albums while on acid. Then Krautrock shows the Germans doing psychedelia in their own way regardless of it being over by the time the German scene really got going. And, as you say, there’s a pysch influence in a lot of the prog stuff; aside from Pink Floyd, Steve Howe of Yes was in Tomorrow, Keith Emerson in The Nice, and so on.

    Regarding my own work, I’m manically busy at the moment but working between too many other things on something which could be called psychedelic. More about that later.

  7. Anybody interested in the ‘Cardinal and the Corpse’ please get in touch. I have the tape and will work out how to dump it onto disc.

    I had forgotten to mention earlier; The Independent used to supply ‘The Independent Magazine’ with their Saturday paper .

    There was a regular page at the back named ‘Heroes and Villains’. Iain Sinclair waxed on about Martin Stone as his hero, and prised in several references to the film. Interestingly the same publication had OZ 5 on the cover to present a piece on Robert Whitaker the photographer, and another issue with Martin Sharp and Richard Neville on the cover. The article inside was about Hippie Hippie Shake the book by OZ editor Neville, what I fawned over was the magnificent contemporary colour photograph which formed the tableau of the main characters, with all the memorabilia they created. This was the first time I had seen Martin Sharp.

    I will find the date of these issues.

  8. There’s an interesting reference to Mighty Baby in art critic Mathew Collings book Blimey! He writes about growing up in a house in Chelsea inhabited by Mighty Baby and the band Family. He describes Mighty Baby as sitting in their rooms ‘wearing their afghans and afros and snakeskin boots, and listening to Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl and Frank Zappa’s Peaches En Regalia, eating lychees.’ Explains a lot.

  9. Explains what a great band they are. Careful regarding Matthew Collings, he was in the news in 1970 when he went to the US on a Jumbo jet without buying a ticket, and makes TV programmes with a copy of We’re only in it for the money by the Mothers on the back seat of his hired topless sedan, making sure that the film crew are carefully position from a lofty position to take the shot. The house is the Lots Rd squat. Close to the ‘Iron Lung’ featured on the front cover of ‘To Aynsley and the boys’ Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation.

  10. Hi Adrian, thanks for commenting. I think I favour Family over Mighty Baby if one had to choose. As for Collings, I still have painful memories of his early art reports on The Late Show. The less said about them the better.

    Deepinder: I liked the Independent magazine a lot when it was around. That paper is a shadow of its former self today. I don’t recall that issue you mention, however, must have missed it. One for your Flickr pages, maybe? And while on the subject of Sinclair and co, let’s not forget Martin Stone’s appearance as “Nicholas Lane” in White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, still my favourite Sinclair novel.

  11. I’ve just posted a rambling overview of Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers at the site and with Martin Stones involvement that includes references to The Action and Mighty Baby – would like to link to this if thats OK?

  12. A great piece by Untidy Barry. Since Barry has the Kings of the Robot Rhythm elpee, has he noticed the invisible clue inside the lyric sheet insert?

  13. The Action weren’t ever really a ‘psychedelic’ band, more a mod/r & B group, initially doing Motown covers in the vein of The Who, though like Townshend et al, they did dabble with the trippier side (eg. ‘Shadows and Reflections’) while remaining in the mod-rock style.

  14. Thanks for the link comments and also for the kind words Deepinder, I’d definitelty be interested in the ‘Cardinal and the Corpse’ and would love it if you could get it onto disc. BTW there are plans brewing for Martin Stone to play London, more to come.

  15. Look at the sheet towards the light – lyrics on one side – colour me the colours of the rainbow bow tie on the other.

  16. Sad news. Mike Evans of Mighty Baby died a week last Friday; which was the funeral itself. He was only 65. He will be deeply missed.

  17. I’m sorry John (Sep 30 2009) has painful memories of me on The Late Show. I’m also sorry about the reference to “afros” re Mighty Baby in Oakley Street. In fact it was the recently joined bass player of Family who had something like an afro, maybe just curly hair. (I think he’d just come from Blind Faith.) Lychees was right though.

  18. Actually Deepinder (Sep 29 2009) the house was in Oakley St, no. 93, as commemorated on Family’s instrumental track “93’s OK J”. Thanks for your snidery re my films. Good luck!

  19. Ooops! Sorry Matthew. For those things that come to bite me back. I have unearthed some photo’s of Mighty Baby in their most thoughtful period; the time they used their advance from Blue Horizon to buy Fender amps so they could hear each other better.

  20. Maybe you’ve found this out already but the date of the Hogarth Tarzan Sunday is 13th November 1949. Have been slowly reading through your illustration articles.

  21. Oh, thanks, I hadn’t yet traced the date so it’s good to have it pinned for future reference.

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