The American illustrator and artist with the name of Roy Gerald Krenkel is probably a household name for most Robert E. Howard fans. He is often referred to as the father of heroic fantasy. Very often he is included in the list of some of the best known and most influential fantasy artists like J. Allen St. John and Frank Frazetta.

Roy Krenkel was born on the 11th of July, 1918 in the Bronx, New York. His mother (Louise Kuppenhoffer) and father (Frederick Krenkel) was second generation German immigrants. His father who worked as a cutter at a clothing factory was 41 at the time of Roys birth, his mother was 34. He did not have any brothers or sisters.

As an artist Roy was considered to be very talented but unambitious an self-effacing. His inspiration came from classical artists and illustrators like Franklin Booth, Allen St. John and a very strong influence from Norman Lindsay. Yet he is often considered to have seen his own work as disposable and unimportant. This may not be the entire truth according to A. S Damsits who knew him.

A collector since he was 10, Roy collected rare books and magazines with reproductions of artwork by the Golden-Age illustrators. He used the images in these to inspire his own artwork and studied these until he understood what created their magic. He always carried a pad of drawing paper and a folder of new clippings. Krenkel surrounded himself with other artists, and fired them up with his enthusiasm for the best of romantic realism. He has inspired and continue to inspired generations.

Before World War II he studied with George Bridgman at the Art Students League of New York. During the War he served as a Private in the U.S. Army in the Philippines. His enlistment papers of January 23, 1942, record him as living in Queens, as having graduated high school, and as single, without dependents, employed as an actor.

After the War, Krenkel attended Burne Hogarth’s classes at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School, which became the School of Visual Arts. There he met a group of young cartoonists, including Joe Orlando, Frank Frazetta and Al Williamson. Frazetta noted, “I met Roy Krenkel back in 1949 or 1950, and he has never ceased to be a constant source of inspiration to me—a truly conscientious artist who will not tolerate incompetence.”

His work includes 23 paperback book cover paintings as well as frontispieces for Edgar Rice Burroughs and other fantasy writers published by Donald A. Wollheim at Ace Books. During the late 1960s, he created cover paintings for DAW Books and Lancer Books. When Lancer revived Robert E. Howard’s creation Conan the Barbarian, with revisions by L. Sprague de Camp, Krenkel was cited by cover artist Frazetta as a consultant. He also created preliminary roughs which Frazetta modified and used when he painted covers for Warren Publishing’s Creepy and Eerie. Krenkel drew one-page “Creepy’s Loathsome Lore” and “Eerie’s Monster Gallery” stories as well as rough layouts and inks for “H2O World” with collaborator Al Williamson.

During the 1970s, he illustrated both covers and interiors for Howard’s The Sowers of the Thunder and The Road of Azrael, published by Donald M. Grant. It was at this time Krenkel created seven special paintings for a limited edition portfolio illustrating the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. He also contributed to several science-fantasy fan publications, including Richard A. Lupoff’s Xero, the Burroughs-oriented ERBdom and Amra, devoted to the works of Howard.

Danton Burroughs, the grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, commented, “Roy Krenkel was a key factor in the 1960s revival of my grandfather’s writings. Krenkel’s illustrations forever secured his position as one of the all-time great Edgar Rice Burroughs illustrators.”

Following his death, Krenkel’s friends Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson created the story “Relic”, published in Epic Illustrated #27, as a tribute to him.

Roy Krenkel died of cancer at age 64 on February 24, 1983.

Portrait of Roy at work
Used as cover for Lancers King Kull

Sources:
Wikipedia, Amazing Stories, James Gurney and A. S. Damsits words for the book ‘Roy G. Krenkel father of heroic fantasy‘. Roy-Krenkel.org. Teaser-image by artist JG Jones.

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