Jun 17 2011 3:31pm

Joe Cleary & Boy’s Life Magazine

I found it fascinating when I was a kid that Boy’s Life Magazine embraced science fiction.  Strong illustrations, like this one by Joe Cleary, made time travel stories my favorite.

With such a lose application of line and tone, Joe still captured a feeling of the realness of the machinery. Indications of hardware with nuts, bolts, joints, dials, and wheels are placed just so, just enough to fill the scene with possibility. Even the faces depict a moment of caution, excitement, urgency. Joe had that mastery of composition that never allowed anything to seem like it wasn’t meant to be there.

I took a class from Joe when I went to the California College of Arts and Crafts for a year, so I know something of the technique used here. It is as radical now as it was in the 60’s.

Joe laid down a loose wash of colorful and rich dyes, then poured on a layer of Elmer’s glue. The glue made a strange and soft blur of the first washes, running them together. He would wait for it to dry into a glassy layer, then painted the shapes and lines in acrylic strokes on top of it. More dye washes, Elmer’s, and acrylics repeated until sometimes the illustration board was a quarter inch thick of glue and paint. It was luminous and seemed otherworldly on it’s own.

My imagination was not, and still is not, stimulated by detail. It’s excited by accuracy. Give me the elements to spark my memory of things, and I’m there. Loose and vibrant, even abstract and bold, Joe could get you to believe it.

This post originally appeared on the Muddy Colors website.

Greg Manchess is an artist and writer working in New York and Portland.

JOhn Johnson
1. smileyman
I first read John Christopher's "Tripod" series when it was serialized in Boys Life.
Stefan Jones
2. Stefan Jones
@smiley: Really? That's cool. I didn't know that the mag did serials.

I remember one of Poul Anderson's "Ythri" stories appearing in Boy's Life.

The last time I looked at a copy of Boys Life it seemed kind of lightweight.
Stefan Jones
3. mechazoidal
"Tripods" was serialized as one-page comics, IIRC, as was Asimov's "Norby" series. This(and their SF) was back during the 80's to the early 90's, so I dread to think what the magazine is like now.

(Besides our family's subscription, I remember hunting down other back issues just to read other stories, since pre-Internet I didn't have any other way to find authors that I'd like)
Cathy Mullican
4. nolly
I used to read my brother's copies, and one of the most memorable SF short stories I read as a child was in there: Mission: Survival.
Skip Ives
5. Skip
@smileyman, I read the Tripod series in Boys Life too. It led me to the Library because I couldn't wait for the next issue, and that started me reading science fiction.

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