Wednesday, September 23, 2020

RIP Ron Cobb (1937-2020)

When I was a child, I owned a book called The Art of Star Wars. It was a fairly thick perfect bound book that featured sketches, drawings, and concept art from the production of the 1977 science fantasy film. I adored the book and carried it everywhere with me, which is why it eventually fell apart. I spent untold hours looking at its pages upon pages of illustrations, many of which I can still see in my mind's eye today. Among the artists whose work was included in the book was Ron Cobb, who died yesterday at the age of 83.

There was another book, published just a few years later, in which Cobb's art was even more prominent. Entitled, The Book of Alien, I read a library copy of it voraciously, checking it out and re-checking it innumerable times. As it was rated R, it would still be many years before I would see the movie, but I remember very well how fascinated I was by the film, due to its heavy promotion in magazines like Starlog. The Book of Alien ably served as a substitute for the movie until I was older and, like The Art of Star Wars, I read it again and again. In doing so, Rob Cobb's concept art forever seeped into my sub-conscious.

Cobb's work had a "grounded" quality to it; there was something believable about his visions of starships and aliens and far-off planets. To this day, when I think of sci-fi in a generic sense, it's colored by Cobb's strong, sleek line work. My ideal edition of Traveller – or Thousand Suns! – would be illustrated by Cobb. He had, in my opinion, an amazing ability to bring the little details of living and working in space to life in a way that few other artists working in Hollywood have. I'm sorry to hear of his death: may he rest in peace.

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