Hannes Bok

Wayne Woodard was born in Minnesota in 1914, the third of four children born to Irving and Julia Woodard who had married at the age of seventeen. The eldest child died in infancy, the youngest when she was two. Julia had a nervous breakdown; she was thirty years old. [bio]

Young Wayne lived with his father after his parents split up but Irving discouraged his son from drawing and artwork. Wayne left home after high school graduation in 1932 and re-located in Seattle where his mother and surviving brother lived. Wayne began submitting drawings to pulp magazines under the pseudonym Hannes Bok — a play on Johannes Bach.

These were tough times and Bok could not afford art materials. For a time he lived with some other artists near a dump and used whatever he could scavenge as a ground for his work. One surviving painting is done on a piece of metal torn off a wrecked car.

Bok hitchhiked across the country in the mid-30s and met his idol, Maxfield Parrish. Parrish recognized the young man’s talent and gave him oil paints and brushes. Back on the West Coast, Bok was befriended by a teen-aged Ray Bradbury who brought him into science fiction fandom. In 1939, when Bradbury attended the first fan convention in New York, he took along some of Bok’s work to show to publishers.

Illustration commissioned by Pohl in 1939.

Frederik Pohl was among several editors who comissioned work from Bok and the artist soon moved to New York. From 1939 to his death in 1964, Bok turned out 150 magazine covers, 600 or so interior illustrations, and a number of book jackets. In 1953 he shared the first Hugo for science fiction art.

Bok’s color techniques were adopted from Maxfield Parrish: layers of transparent glazes separated by thin coats of varnish. It was a time-consuming method but it gave luminosity to his work.

Bok was not an easy man to know and alienated many people over his life. From about 1947 on, he became withdrawn and bitter and increasingly poor. Still, he remained a fixture in science-fiction illustration. As a young fan, Trina Robbins had a life mask made by Bok.

Bok’s wrap-around cover illustration for Roger Zelazny’s Hugo-winning “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction flipped the image and did not reproduce the colors as Bok wished. He let people know what a shoddy job they did.

Frederik Pohl recalls a visit with Donald Wollheim to Bok’s apartment. He was put off by Bok’s personality and then horrified to realize that the man had no teeth, not even dentures:

“He’s been living mostly on cornflakes,” Donald told me. “He pours milk, or sometimes water, over them until they’re mush, and then he gums them down.”

“Jesus,” I said. “How long can he go on like that?” Donald just shook his head, but not very long after that I got a definitive answer. That was when we got the word that Hannes had died in his sleep.The death certificate said “heart failure,” but when I talked to Donald he didn’t believe it. He shook his head and said, “Starvation.”

Here’s some Bok. More can be found at MonsterBrains and at GoldenAgeComicBookStories and many other places on line.

Illustration for H.P.Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model”






One comment on “Hannes Bok

  1. Robin Lee says:

    I am trying to get a “huge” story discovered about Maxfield Parrish. Did u know that Lucas said it was the art work of Maxfield Parrish that directly inspired the feel and look of Star Wars films ? What I own is a lost chapter in art history, I own the last documentary film footage of the Parrish art studio and it has been sadly destroyed! This is important info for the art world and the world of Star Wars! My story has so much info that was hidden and I need help getting this story discovered it is valuable info. ** OUR theory is that Star Wars truly began in 1904 in that iconic and amazing art studio of Parrish ! You should have seen that place, beautiful pure art work and beauty. Wait till u read my story maxfieldparrishmovie.com and maxfieldparrishmotif.com When u finish reading this, get it global — the force is here it was all over the Parrish estate, it does exist and it is in those masterpieces. Thank u for listening, Peace, Robin Lee up here in Maine

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