Thursday, March 21, 2013

Oh No, Mitchell Hooks Is Gone

This is sad news, indeed. Canadian artist Leif Peng reports in his blog, Today’s Inspiration, that noted U.S. illustrator Mitchell Hillary Hooks--whose work has been showcased several times on this page--has died. I don’t see any obituaries online, but according to Wikipedia, Hooks perished on Monday, March 18, at age 89.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1923, Hooks was influenced early on by newspaper cartoon strips--Jungle Jim, Secret Agent X-9, and especially Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. “I’ve always had an affinity for anatomical drawing,” he later explained, “and, in retrospect, I can attribute my abilities to the long hours spent studying Raymond’s beautiful drawings.” After graduating from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Hooks worked for General Motors, converting two-dimensional blueprints into three-dimensional drawings. Following a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II, he relocated to New York City, where he found opportunities in the commercial art field before winning magazine-illustrating assignments (from The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, etc.) and establishing a career painting artwork for paperback book jackets.

Over the years, I’ve collected a number of crime novels featuring Hooks’ work; in fact, I just ordered a copy of the 1963 Signet softcover edition of Wade Miller’s Guilty Bystander, because it boasts a beautiful Hooks cover (though I understand the story inside is also quite good). After hearing that the artist had died, I went through my scans of his book fronts and pulled out just a few of my favorites, which I am posting here. As far as I’m concerned, his talent cannot be celebrated frequently or fervently enough.

If you would like to learn more about Hooks and his career, I recommend digging up the posts Peng has written about this artist over the years. You should find them all by clicking here.

UPDATE: A short obituary for Mitchell H. Hooks has finally been posted here. It doesn’t tell much more than we already knew about his career or the circumstances of his having “died unexpectedly.” But this obit does correct the date of his death--March 18, not the previously listed March 17 (I’ve fixed that information above). And it reinforces the sense that Hooks was generous with his time and talents. “Inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1999,” the item reads, “his warm and unassuming manner encouraged many hopeful young artists who sought his inspiration. A fan remarked, ‘He was such an iconic figure in the golden age of illustration.’” Hooks will certainly be missed.

READ MORE: The James Bond-focused Web site MI6 notes that artist Mitchell Hooks gave the world [its] first look at a stylized Sean Connery as 007 on the 1962 Dr. No poster ...”


TracyK said...

It is sad that Hooks is gone, but he has a great body of work and a lot of variety in style. This is an illustrator who I was not aware of by name, but some of the covers are recognizable. Thanks for introducing me to his work. I will check out further your other blog posts and those at Today's Inspiration.

Anonymous said...

That's Cass Tech, not CAS Technical High School.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Thanks for the typo fix, "Anonymous." The information in this post is now corrected.