Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Amazing Bedfellows

In trying to piece together the early career of my father, John Schoenherr, I’ve been actively accumulating copies of the pulp magazines he illustrated, yet seldom saved. Amazing Stories was one of his early clients, along with others in the Ziff-Davis Publishing Company stable, like Fantastic Science Fiction, Dream World, and Sports Cars Illustrated.

According to his work log, job #28 was a 1 1/2 page illustration for “Monster on Stage 4” by Henry Slesar. He got the commission on May 7, 1957, and must have done it quickly, since he billed for it on May 16. Although it hinted at what was to come, his scratchboard technique was still pretty iffy at this point as he experimented with different ways of rendering form, tones, and texture. And I should note, too, that he based his creature on Edward Valigursky’s cover painting for the issue.

“Monster on Stage 4” was published in Amazing Stories for August 1957, which also contains Dad’s illustration for G. L. Vandenburg’s “Look-Alike Army.” Originally titled “Many Mr. Kanes,” this was job #21, which he got on March 4, 1957, and invoiced for on April 4. It paid $30 - his typical price, then, for a single page illustration - and although finished earlier than “Monster,” his technique feels more confident and refined in this one. Maybe he took more time to do it.

Just last month I bought a copy of the magazine and got to see these pictures - made by a then-21-year-old, unknown, and uncredited John Schoenherr - for the first time. And in leafing through it further, I was surprised to find the following letter from another then-unknown science fiction fan, who went on to even greater notoriety...

Yes, that Roger Ebert, who turned fifteen on June 18 that year.


P.S. (of February 4, 2014) And here’s yet another Ebert letter, written later that year and published in the November 1957 issue of Amazing Stories...


  1. Amazing Work. I came across your blog when I was looking up a print I have. I bought it in 1975 at Walt Disney World in Florida. There was no Epcot yet. It is "Lion Stare" by John Schoenherr. Please see a phot of the print at:

  2. I remember that one - and somewhere around here I probably have more information on it. 1975 also marked my very last visit to Walt Disney World - made with my father's dad and step-mother and my sister. It was a very different place, then - and I had no idea they sold his prints there.