H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel War of the Worlds has famously inspired at least seven motion pictures as well as an infamous, historic, and hysteria-inducing radio broadcast, directed and narrated by the late, great Orson Welles in 1938. The radio-play caused such panic that public outcry called for stricter regulation and guidelines by the FCC. Be that as it may, the overall success of the radio program helped to secure Orson Welles’ reputation and fame as a serious dramatist.
One figure not often associated with, but connected to the genius of War of the Worlds, was the American writer and illustrator Edward Gorey.
From 1953 to 1960, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting some magnificent book cover (and very often text) illustrated by the artist Edward Gorey. Gorey would eventually become quite successful as an artist and author of his own material, eventually penning over 100 books, but from 1953 to 1960, he lived in New York City and worked as an illustrator in the art department of Doubleday. He toiled alongside other unknown artists like young Andy Warhol, illustrating the works of famous mainstream authors such as Thomas Wolfe, Henry James, Anton Chekhov, and Franz Kafka.
One example of many of Gorey’s stunning book covers.
Thankfully, both Gorey and Warhol would eventually break out of their respective ruts and change the art world forever. Gorey’s unique pen and ink style made him popular with fans as diverse as children and goths. During his tenure at Doubleday, he illustrated kid’s books as well as classics like Bram Stoker’s horror masterpiece Dracula. When he struck out on his own, he even dabbled in what can only be described as “asexual pornography.” But it’s toward the end of his time at Doubleday that he was asked to add his stark trademark pen and ink style to illustrate a new edition of the H.G. Wells’ classic The War of the Worlds. This was for the Looking Glass Library series, which was published in 1960. (Most of Gorey’s own works are obscure and hard to find, but there are collections of his work available through The Gorey Store found in The Edward Gorey House online.) Gorey begins each chapter of The War of the Worlds with one of his eerily unmistakable pen and ink sketches.