Steve Stiles A Retrospective

Steve Stiles is a living double entendre:  not only does he draw icons of the field, he is an icon of the field.

If brushing twilltone off your lap after reading is a familiar experience, Mr. Stiles will need no introduction.  You have no doubt marvelled at his art.  You’ve also probably laughed your posterior off.  If PDF zines are more your experience, no doubt you have seen his illustrations and wry, knowing humor.

Steve was kind enough to provide one of our own – Leah Zeldes – with an illustration for her profile.  It happens to display a near perfect propeller beanie, the official headgear of fandom.  No doubt Leah will one day get around to explaining that for the uninitiated. And it serves to demonstrate just how well Mr. Stiles knows his subjects.

In partial recompense to Mr. Stiles for his generosity, Amazing Stories will now allow him to speak for himself and display just a small bit of his talent.

(One quick note:  since we don’t believe in fig leaves, we are compelled to warn you that some of the following images contain nudity and even nakedness.)

Steve Stiles:

I discovered s.f. fandom in 1957 and almost immediately began cartooning for the fanzines, which in turn led me to a 20 + year professional career in comics. Since then I’ve won a number of Fan Activity Achievement (FAAn) Awards for best fan artist, and in 1998 I was delighted to win the first Bill Rotsler Award (which was Very Cool since Bill was one of my heroes) and I frequently (since 1967!) get nominated for the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award. Some day I may actually get one!

Best Award: Getting married to Elaine!

Another Best: Having Will Eisner (The Spirit) tell me he liked my work!

Professionally I began working for Marvel’s British comic line in ‘75, and then branched out into a wide variety of comic genres, ranging from humor to horror, including work for the award winning XENOZOIC TALES and the recently reprinted THE ADVENTURES OF PROFESSOR THINTWHISTLE. In 2008 I designed a Humanitarian Achievements medal for the Samaritan community in Israel for the purpose of promoting peace in the Mid East.

A fanzine interlineation I coined, “Death Is Nature’s Way Of Telling You When To Stop,” became a national catch phrase after being reprinted in Pageant Magazine in 1962, but I’ll bet it never winds in my obit –well, that’s life!

For those of you who want to check out more of my work, my web site is at

Stiles Kitchen Sink button


I was asked to do a t-shirt design for SFContario 2, Toronto’s Autumn Science Fiction Convention. The Guests of Honor were writers John Scalzi and Karl Schroeder so I tried to reference their novels in this drawing.

SFContario color small

The late Ed Emshwiller, one of the best science fiction illustrators the science fiction field has ever known, had a famous cover for the April 1961 issue of F&SF; a half-eaten banana floating in space: was it God who munched on the fruit or just some space-faring litterbug?

I loved that illustration but felt it had additional possibilities of cosmic frustration: aint I a stinker?

stiles UNIV 099 H small

(Editors Note:  Askance is written and published by our own John Purcell.)


“Robot Rapture” was done for John Purcell’s fanzine ASKANCE. I don’t remember the exact time period but it was around one of those silly seasons when some fraud was predicting the End Times and Rapture –you know; when I get to go to heaven and the rest of you are stuck on Earth, left to deal with war, crime, and politics.

Why not a rapture for robots? Here we see them ascending to their Mecha-Diety.

stiles rapture small


Every year in October the Washington Science Fiction Association holds its annual Capclave , and I’ve been happy to contribute art to its program book because (a) Capclave is a fine convention, and (b) I love drawing their dodo mascot!

This year I am the Fan Artist Guest of Honor while George RR Martin is the Writer Guest of Honor: I’m hoping George will not want to kill me for what I have in mind for this year’s cover!

stiles Capclave- Five Points small


In 1966, author Richard Lupoff and I collaborated on a comic strip “The Adventures Of Professor Thintwhistle And His Incredible Aether Flyer” for his fanzine Horib.


In 1979, editor Ted White suggested we redo the strip for his magazine, Heavy Metal. Later Dick turned the strip into a novel (with a cover by some talentless hack named Frazetta!), and in 1991 the strip was published as a graphic novel by Fantagraphic Books. Still later, it was reprinted again in 2010 by Wildside Press


Professor Thintwhistle just may have the distinction of being the very first Steampunk graphic novel!

stiles Aether Flyer small


I’ve always been a big fan of Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie; whether or not you agree with him politically, I think Gray was a fine storyteller whose deceptively simple drawings were quite graphically sophisticated. With that in mind, I’ve always daydreamed about doing a 30th century version of the strip— and this is what it would look like! The title I’ve chosen for it, ATom Arfer, is a tip of the hat to a fine fan artist, the late great and very fabulous Arthur Thomson (Atom).

stiles ATom-Arfer_s small


One of the few straight science fiction illustrations I ever attempted, this was for a convention progress report, probably Balticon’s. It was rendered in pencil, chalk, and watercolor on textured paper.

stiles wings small


After 37 years of fan inactivity Earl Kemp was inspired to resume his fanac in 2001 with a number of online fanzines, chief among them being sixty issues of his very excellent effort eI.

At some point along the way I began doing art for Earl’s fanzine, and this is a piece I did for a February issue. Always a sentimentalist, I themed this one for Valentine’s Day.

stiles Not now!small


Another illustration for Earl Kemp’s eI. I don’t remember why—curmudgeons need no steenkin’ reasons!—but originally Earl had to twist my arm for quite a while before I agreed to do anything for him. And yet, once I started, I found it hard to stop –Earl, start publishing again! For one thing, it really taught me how to do a lot of things in Photoshop; things I might not have learned if not for that arm-twisting: thanks, Earl!

stiles Welcoming Committee copy small


For eight years I was associated with Mark Schultz’s award winning XENOZOIC TALES, doing the back up story of Mark’s science fiction series about humans struggling to exist in a world where dinosaurs had reemerged.

This is the first panel of a story I illustrated. It depicts the adventures of Vice and Mikla Terhune, the Nick and Nora Charles of the Slimeball Set.

This was the last story I did for XT: it folded with that issue, #14, and later so did the entire independent comic book field, taking my comics career with it. At least I went out with a bang!

stiles Family Business small


What can you say after that ending?  Not much, so I will conclude with a B-Movie Tradition:  Is this the beginning of the End?  Or is it just the end of the Beginning?

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  1. Whenever Steve Stiles sends in a bit of art for ASKANCE I am always excited and humbled. Getting excited is easy to understand because Steve is one of our most gifted artists, either fan or pro, but I am humbled by the thought that he likes my zine enough to contribute artwork. I mean, ghosh-whow! boy, oh, boy! It's a cover by Steve Stiles!

    I must stop this now. The rest of you may faunch over his work all you want. I do it all the time, too.

  2. Congratulations on collecting all this great artwork by Steve in one place. You might want to consider setting up a permalink to this page, so it won't soon be lost to your readership. (It might also tie into the recent post by Astrid Nielsch on Fan Art. There's a long tradition of Fan Art in the s-f community that's not specifically tied to recreating scenes from popular science fiction and fantasy novels.

  3. you know, I have to admit that I never specifically checked the artist: you put out a call for some help with illos, Steve responded, you sent in your new avatar and that makes me guilty of not double checking – my sincere apologies to Ray Nelson, Steve Stiles and you.

  4. Er, that's not a Stiles on my profile. It's a detail from a hand-stenciled Ray Nelson cartoon from sometime in the 1960s. Ray was the cartoonist who popularized the beanie as fannish headgear beginning in the '40s — after he created the real thing.

    But do watch "The Clubhouse" for Steve's cartoons in the future!

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