Tuesday, August 20, 2019


The very first book about the great illustrator Austin Briggs has just been published by Auad Publishing (previous publisher of books about Robert Fawcett, Albert Dorne, Henry Raleigh and other classic illustrators).

I had the great pleasure of writing the text for the book.  

Briggs was one of the true greats of 20th century illustration.  I've often written about him on this blog, especially about his drawing which I greatly admire.   But Briggs worked in every kind of medium and played a significant role in every type of illustration from comic strips (Flash Gordon) to pulp magazines to the early movies to magazines, books and records. He ended his life painting landscapes and gallery paintings in Paris.

I was able to delve into his fascinating life with the cooperation of the Briggs family.

The Briggs book is  9 x12, 160 pages, $34.95, available from the Auad web site.

In the days ahead, I'll be posting additional images by Briggs that I particularly like, to supplement the new book.  


Tom said...

Congratulations David! It looks good, just from the sample pages on the Auad website.

Li-An said...

I live in France and the mail cost is 50 US$ (!!!) Well, thanks God, my sister lives in the States. Too bad there is not a lot of images content to have a good idea of the book I buy.

John Shipman said...

Cannot wait to get the book, see the images (Briggs is one of my absolute favorites!), and read your text!

Laurence John said...

congratulations David.

is this the fourth book you've written the text for (after Dorne, Fawcett and Fuchs)... or have i missed any ?

David Apatoff said...

Tom-- Many thanks. As with all these books, the art is the only reason to buy them and I'm reluctant to displace good art with text, but we're at a time when all the memories, documents and photographs about the lives and views of these great illustrators are rapidly dissipating. If somebody doesn't collect them and put a stake in the ground with a book, they will be gone forever. In this particular case, I had a chance for in depth interviews with Briggs' son-- now retired and living in Mexico-- and to get the benefit of his personal collection of materials. Hopefully this will give future scholars a starting place from which to work.

Li-An-- That's absolutely nutty, and I am making inquiries about cheaper postage.

John Shipman-- I appreciate that.

Laurence John-- You're very kind to keep track. I've co-authored a bunch of books-- Al Parker, the Japanese book on Fuchs, Richard Thompson-- and contributed essays to books on Phil Hale, Tom Fluharty, Sterling Hundley, etc. Plus a couple of museum catalogs... an upcoming book on Mead Schaeffer.... Looking back, that's an awful lot of blather but what can I say? I love the stuff.

comicstripfan said...

From my interest’s point-of-view, I wonder whether the book is able to offer any clarity regarding what would I suppose would be considered a minor phase of his career, i.e., working in comic strip art. (1) Some commentators say he “assisted” Alex Raymond on Flash Gordon 1936-38 (without elaboration as to what that exactly meant). In contrast, Information derived from Walter Reed of Illustration House, N.Y. states that he “was never Raymond’s assistant, but he did ghost …Flash Sunday pages under Raymond’s name.” (2) From 1938 to 1940 he apparently drew Secret Agent X-9 (I’d love to, but have never, seen any samples from this period) prior to taking over the daily Flash. However it is usually noted that Nicholas Afonsky (of whom I am a huge fan, particularly of his under-rated “Ming Foo”) was primarily the artist on X-9 during 1938-40, but to what extent I have not been able to determine. (3) He did the daily Flash from 1940 to 1944 (I only have the 1940 dailies from Kitchen Sink Press - his artwork on human forms is amazing!). (4) He then switched to Sundays from 1944 onward (the syndicate apparently didn’t find an adequate replacement for him on the dailies, which were dropped until they would return in 1951) - again, I haven’t seen any samples of these. It was, finally, in late 1948 when Mac Raboy took over the Sundays that his comic strip career came to a close.

comicstripfan said...


With Mr. Apatoff’s permission, a postscript to the above for those who might be interested in Briggs’ comic art work: His 1944-48 Flash Sundays are available in restored colour in hardcover by Titan Comics; and, of course, doing the Sundays meant also doing the “topper” strip Jungle Jim 1944-48 (Raymond’s version, overshadowed as it is by his Flash, I think is under-appreciated): samples of his JJ during these years are accessible on the internet. Examining his comic strip work, it appears that, although at first somewhat faithfully imitating Raymond, he nevertheless developed his own “photographic” style which, for a comic strip, I believe was very good. I suspect that Mr. Apatoff is probably underwhelmed by this phase of his art; I believe Mr. Briggs was also. Ron Goulart in his “Alex Raymond” subtitled “An Artistic Journey: Adventure, Intrigue, and Romance” (2015) states : “In the autumn of 1938, Austin Briggs ghosted five Sundays. By 1940, he was also drawing the just launched Flash Gordon daily strip, a somewhat slapdash venture that never did very well. Increasingly unhappy as a comics artist, Briggs wanted to get back into illustration.” And it’s a good thing he did. Goulart later added: “Austin Briggs had stayed with the Flash Gordon Sunday…until 1948. Then he balked at renewing his contract. Later he admitted that when he left the syndicate on that day, he felt sick, worried that maybe he’d made the wrong decision. But he went on to do impressive work for such magazine[s] as Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and the Saturday Evening Post, as well as numerous advertising illustrations, including a much-admired series for TV Guide…When I interviewed him…Briggs told me that the decision to quit comics had been the right one.” So all’s well that ended well for Mr. Briggs (and for all of us who appreciate his illustrations).

David Apatoff said...

comicstripfan-- I don't want to give away any surprise endings but I feel I was able to unearth some interesting new material about Briggs' comic art career.

Briggs and Raymond met at a party in 1934 when Briggs was doing illustrations for the pulps (particularly Blue Book) and Raymond was doing comics. The two traded business connections, with Briggs helping Raymond get work for Blue Book and Raymond helping Briggs get work for King Features. Recollections varied, but Briggs' wife insisted that he helped Raymond on both X-9 and Flash Gordon on and off from the very first year. Briggs allegedly brought the Matt Clark dry brush style, which he had been using successfully in Blue Book, to Flash Gordon.

Briggs was not proud of his comic strip work, and may have under stated his role for that reason. But there were anecdotes of the two of them working together, the most interesting one as follows: Raymond and Briggs had worked around the clock to meet a deadline on Flash Gordon, taking benzedrine to stay alert. After they completed the Flash Gordon Sunday they were so jazzed up that they couldn't go home or sleep so they amused themselves by writing, drawing and inking an entire additional Sunday but this one was about the sexually explicit adventures of Queen Fria of Phrygia. Briggs took it home to his studio where it remained for many years until it was stolen.

If anyone out there has seen the missing explicit Sunday, I'd love to hear from you.

comicstripfan said...

Mr. Apatoff: Thanks for an intriguing “inside” story that really brings into focus the Briggs-Raymond relationship -hope that Sunday turns up!

Jesse Hamm said...

I'm so glad this is available! I just ordered a copy. Looking forward to both the wonderful art and your always excellent comments and info, David.

kev ferrara said...

Congratulations on the book.

Anonymous said...

Same as Li-An,
I have all the books of famous illustrators published by Auad. But this time, this one is not sold on Amazon where I bought the other volumes. As a result the postage is too expensive. Too bad.

David Apatoff said...

Jesse Hamm and Kev Ferrara-- Many thanks. I'm hoping this book will be a good starting point for future biographers.

Anonymous-- I've asked Manuel Auad about this shipping cost issue and while he feels your pain, so far he has been unable to find a way to ship the book by air to anywhere in Europe for less than $50. I love Briggs but I wouldn't spend $50 for postage. Still checking out a few options.

the hey hey kid said...

Received my copy today.Cant wait to pour over it on the weekend.