Monday, November 11, 2013

The Old West illustrated

First Lt. Blueberry novel, 1965
Christoph Roos over at his excellent blog is an authority on book illustration, comics, graphic novels, and so on, with a special interest in the Old West. His self-named blog is subtitled “Phantastische Bilder Zwischen Traum und Wirklichkeit” [Fantastic Pictures Between Dream and Reality]. Roos is a German-speaking artist and blogger, who lives in Switzerland.

Readers here may be surprised to discover the breadth and depth of work by European graphic artists devoted to Old West themes. In recent posts, Roos has featured Czech artist Zdenek Burian (1905-1981) who illustrated editions of western novels by the Irish-American writer Thomas Mayne Reid (1818-1883) and the German writer Karl May (1842-1912).

Zdenek Burian, Scalphunters, 1937

Zdenek Burian, Northern Star, 1936

Zdenek Burian, Friend of the Solar Gun, 1935

For a more recent example, a hugely popular western series was a French-Belgian production, “Lieutenant Blueberry,” which began in the 1960s and still has a following in Europe today (see Fort Navajo cover above). Roos has a page devoted to its artist, Jean Giraud. (For more information on this series, there is an extensive entry in English at Wikipedia.)

Artist: Jean Giraud

Roos is an illustrator himself and has posted samples of his own western comic sketches. Like other illustrators working in Europe, his style demonstrates the high drama in the way the Old West is imagined, in both the action and the landscape.

Sketch by Christoph Roos

Roos also discusses photo images from western movies, like his recent tribute to Robert Duvall with stills from several of his films. The best way to sample his blog (even if you don’t know German) is to scroll through posts using the label “western” [or click here]. At the end of the page, click on “Ältere posts” to get more pages.

Image credits:

Coming up: Charles Bronson, Breakheart Pass (1975)


  1. Much of the superb cover art for my Skye's West series was done by a Spanish artist called Royo. It couldn't be better. I believe he did all the covers for the original eight mass-market titles.

  2. Gorgeous. The horses seem poised to jump off the page.

  3. This is some brilliant art. These look like real photographs and not works of art.