Wednesday, June 29, 2011


"Raised Eyebrows", new expanded edition. Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!
This is the brand new cover for Steve Stoliar's revised and expanded paperback edition of his wonderful, hair-raising and ultimately touching book "Raised Eyebrows", to be published this fall by Bear Manor Media, chronicling his years as Groucho Marx's personal secretary and archivist, working inside the legendary comedian's Beverly Hills home, an eyewitness to history and Groucho's sad final years at the hands of the tempestuous Erin Fleming. In my opinion, it's the best book ever written about Groucho, or for that matter, any of the Marx Brothers (So, where's the Gummo book?) which is why it was a thrill for me to contribute the cover art. I also had the honor of meeting Groucho three times in the seventies, including spending an afternoon with my father and brothers in his house, making this book all the more personal and special for me.

The magnificent front and back covers were designed by Monte Beauchamp.

The back & front covers (Click to enlarge) Author Steve Stoliar is pictured with Groucho in 1974. Groucho's good friend Dick Cavett wrote the introduction.

Groucho inscribed this photo to Steve Stoliar, included in the book.

15 large, limited edition prints have been produced featuring my Groucho cover art (sporting his Captain Spaulding pith helmet):

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Barfo Family, "It's more than just a gag!"

"What the kids crave, sugar & vomiting" -Mark Newgarden
The Barfo family display box. Conceived by Mark Newgarden ,
designed by Drew Friedman, box painted by Patrick Pigott.
The Barfo Family Candy was unleashed by the Topps bubblegum company in 1990. The armless & legless torsos featuring an unhappy, nauseated, white bread family, with their heads mounted on accordion-like shaped bodies containing a delightful glop- like gel/"candy" (ingredients: sugar, water, glycerin, gelatin, citric acid, potassium sorbate, artificial flavors, artificial colors), are still fondly recalled by vomit novelty toy and candy afficianotos.

Barfo was a collaborative effort of Topps' new product development department, the original notion hatched by veteran candy man Abe Morgenstern, who arrived at Topps one morning in Brooklyn with a Thanksgiving turkey baster demanding to know: "How can we turn this into a candy container?" Mark Newgarden suggested a vomiting head, and The rest is history. As journalist Patrick Rosenkranz chronicled in "The Bubble Gum Wars": "The concept that couldn't be ignored, The Barfo Family quickly became a legend in their own time."
The prototype
Based on Newgarden's suggestion,  Morgenstern had a prototype sculpted in China and sent to Topps: This weird, Charles Burns like fellow sporting a plug in his mouth, to presumably hold in the "candy".

Close up of the lovely prototype.
Sketches by art spiegelman
Mark Newgarden came up with the idea to make them a nuclear fifties family, and long-time MAD writer Stan Hart suggested the name "Barfo", based on an earlier Topps product "Pluggo". These are Art Spiegelman's early concept sketches, with doodles by Newgarden. I was then hired to create tight pencil sketches of the Barfo family:

My initial sketches of "Dad" & "Mom" Barfo
"Jr." & "Sis" Barfo
"Spot" & "Baby" Barfo
My pencil design for the Barfo display box. "Sis" & "Baby" sadly didn't make the final cut (click to enlarge) 
The finished display box art painted by Patrick Piggot (click to enlarge)
"REALLY DELICIOUS!" Side view of the display box (click to enlarge)
"BARFO, IT'S MORE THAN JUST A GAG!" Barfo publicity sheet sent out to candy distributors by Topps. Whoever wrote this copy decided to give the family silly "gag" names.

Upon release, Barfo received national media attention, including this from TIME magazine's business section:

"SQUEEZE TO EAT" Close up of "Jr." Barfo

Barfo Family side view

Barfo has become an essential collectable favorite
This was a recent display at the Fantagraphics gallery in Seatlle containing some of the products I've designed over the years, including my pride and joy, Barfo.

When the much beloved Abe Morgenstern retired from Topps in the early nineties, the new product development team decided to have an "ABE" candy box painted, framed and presented to him as a departing gift. I created this pencil art design, in the spirit of Barfo. (click to enlarge)

This is the finished box art (click to enlarge), painted by Patrick Piggot. Abe was delighted. Rest in Peace's Abe!

Thanks to Mark Newgarden for supplying some of the images and Alan Nahagian.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The many sides of Sandy Kossin

Poster art by Sandy Kossin for "Don't Drink the Water". A prime example of the poster being far better than the film. When Woody Allen finally saw this film version adapted from his play, he vowed to never again let Hollywood "adapt" any of his work.
Sanford (Sandy) Kossin is an illustrator I've admired for many years, ever since I first saw his work on the cover of the paperback edition of my dad's play "Steambath". Kossin's signature tended to blend into his work, so it wasn't till several years later that I connected the dots and realized he was the same talented artist that created some of my favorite film poster images and paperback covers. The amazing thing about his work was his deft ability to shift styles, depending on the particular assignment. He had the rare talent to create stunning, vivid, sometimes intensely realistic images, at the same time also creating fun/funny delightful cartoony images. An "Illustrator's illustrator". As one renowned artist once summed him up: "There are many Sandy Kossins". Here are some of my favorite samples of his work, mostly from the sixties & seventies, when his artwork was omnipresent.

many of the images, mainly of Sandy's paperback book covers, came from this flickr set:

photo of Sandy Kossin in 2014 by Ken Farrell
1969 interview with Sandy Kossin for American Artist magazine

Kossin was one of he most in-demand paperback cover artists of the sixties. heres some of his most stunning covers.

Perhaps Kossin's most well known work was illustrating the invasion of the Bay of Pigs for LIFE magazine in 1963, including the cover.

Poster art for the film satire: "Oh! What a Lovely War"


foreign poster by Kossin
"The Devil's Brigade"
Paperback cover art by Kossin for "The President I Almost Was" by "Mrs. Yetta Bronstein",
who had been a write-in candidate for president and
actually received enough votes to warrant a book deal.
Poster art for the legendary Clint Eastwood Spaghetti western "Hang 'Em High"

The Train
Cover art for the 1969 movie tie-in paperback

Cover for the 1972 bantam paperback edition of "Steambath". Kossin created this wraparound cover art, and when PBS presented a production of Steambath in 1973, the art (in B&W, with a black bar over her boobs) was used in Hollywood trade publications and newspapers to advertise the show (scroll down).
Steambath Back cover

Kossin poster art for: "Hannibal Brooks". Yes, there once was a day when Michael J. Pollard actually starred in films!

Kossin poster art for "Cold Turkey"

Closer detail

Second version by Kossin

SK poster art for What's Up, Doc?
More realistic Kossin paperback covers.

Add for the 1973 TV production of Steambath using Kossin's earlier paperback artwork.
Poster art for Billy Wilder's poorly received Jack Lemmon comedy: "Avanti!" To this day I haven't seen this film, but always loved his MAD-like poster art.
Some hip, cool Kossin paperback covers from the seventies.

And you thought M*A*S*H only took place in Korea? Think again. In the mid-seventies, Kossin illustrated the covers for a series of M*A*S*H paperbacks, where "M*A*S*H", somehow took to the road for a series of "zany adventures".
Even though M*A*S*H was filmed in Hollywood, they even got to visit Hollywood!
Kossin illustrated just a few assignments for MAD magazine. Here are 2 spreads from the seventies. (click to enlarge)

Kossin poster art from 1975. Jack Rickard also created a poster image for this film.

2 1970's humorous hardcover book covers by Sandy Kossin.

another foreign film poster by Kossin
 film poster art created by Sandy Kossin, 1980
Sandy Kossin posed in 1969. He's alive and well, still working and teaching illustration near his home on Long Island.

Here's a recent photo of Sandy and his good friend Mike Lynch.