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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Touching up the Edges - Tony Masero

When the possibility that the Edge series would be revived became a certainty we found ourselves facing a major problem - the artwork on the original books had become iconic, particularly the appearance of Edge himself. How could we relaunch the series for the digital age without keeping that classic look? We could of course opt for an entire new look and this was considered for the briefest of moments but when Terry Harknett, the man behind the George Gilman name suggested contacting Tony Masero, the artist responsible for many of the original Edge covers and making him an offer he couldn't refuse - namely, give us a new cover, pretty please!  the response was better than expected.

Archive Exclusive - the new cover for the forthcoming free eBook, Two of a Kind
Not only did Tony, by combining two of his original works, produce a cover for the first Edge eBook that was totally new but retained the classic feel, he also  threw himself into the project wholeheartedly. Following the publication of Edge: The Loner  later this month, the Edge series will settle into a schedule of quarterly releases. The books will be released in the correct chronological order but with two of the original novels in each eVolume. As well as the 61 Edge novels originally published by New English Library Terry also wrote three team-up novels featuring two of his most popular characters, Edge and Adam Steele and as soon as Tony learned that the plan was to offer the first of these team-up novels to readers free to coincide with the publication of the second Edge eBook, which will contain the novel Ten Thousand Dollars American and Apache Death, he jumped in by promptly creating a cover for that book also. The image is exclusively revealed here. And in my humble opinion Tony's new image is even better than the cover he produced for the original paperback - the colour scheme and font this time out are far more eye-catching. The title Steele/Edge, a nod to the popular fanzine of the day which was edited by Mike Stotter, also works far better than having Edge's name leading as in the original paperback series.

I caught up with Tony and fired a few questions his way.

GD: I read somewhere that the original depiction of Edge was based on the footballer, George Best. Is this true?

TM: The story goes that the look of Edge was conceived by both the original illustrator, the late Dick Clifton Dey and the New English Library Art Director at the time, Cecil Smith. Clifton Dey used George Best, the footballer, as a basis for the character with some of his own worry lines and wrinkles to add character. When I came on the scene and took over the cover artwork it was an existing look and obviously needed to be maintained at least to some degree to give continuity to what was proving to be a growing series.
Clifton Dey was a very fine illustrator who I had great admiration for but obviously we all have our own techniques and style, so I was eventually able to bring my own look to the covers. Across the years I felt some calls were needed for change every so often as taste and inclination progressed amongst the buying public, the shift to a looser oil painting style in No. 45 forinstance. Then latterly, more design based images using airbrush as in No. 58.
Where the original cover look succeeded I believe, was in the minimalist content - main figure and some kind of suggestion of violence in the background. A simple and effective shorthand which gave the main character predominance and repetitively created a visual personality the reader could identify with.

GD:  When commissioned for a paperback cover painting - western or otherwise,  how much freedom did you have in deciding on the painting?

"Edge 30 . A lot of gouache work."

TM: It varied greatly, some clients were very particular about following the synopses or manuscript I received. Others, as was the case with the Edge and Steele series, I had a great deal of leeway and was usually allowed to come up with my own ideas with maybe an element or two from Terry’s synopses (Mexicans or Noah’s Ark! - the guy had some weird ideas sometimes) to give the cover relevance. Every cover had to have a pencil visual which needed to be okayed by the publisher before going to artwork and usually this was a rubber stamp procedure.
Normally I would strap on the gunbelt and Navy Colt, grab the model Winchester and snap off a set of shots using a Polaroid - there was a little shoe box I had set aside for all the Edge bits and pieces; black shirt, necktie, etc. Then it was a matter of finding reference for the background and stitching Edge’s head correctly in place instead of mine. Movie stills played a big part as a reference source and scouring the movie shops and convention halls for these was an ongoing mission.

GD: Any particular favourites among your work?

TM: Edge favourites: No. 30 - pleased with the painting, which was a lot of detailed gouache work with a ‘000’ sable brush and with a difficult lighting source to achieve. No. 20 - just like the gouache paint work on this one which I think was particularly successful. No. 48 - personal reasons really, because I used my (then) young son as a model.

GD: Your new mesh-up for the first Edge eBook is spot on and obviously shows an understanding of the character, so what is it about Edge do you think that gives him this evergreen status when many other western series are forgotten?

TM: The archetypal anti-hero image, I suppose. Man in black, standing alone against all odds, a format that fits so well into the Western genre.

Tony's personal website HERE contains many examples of his distinctive work and not only in the western field - over the years Tony has worked in just about every genre there is. His work for the Dr Who Books must be seen to be believed. Readers may also like to check out the detailed interview with Tony over at Western Fiction Review.

And there's more Edge to come on the Archive when creator, Terry Harknett joins us around the virtual campfire.


Steve M said...

Great to see a new interview with Tony. Really enjoying seeing the new artwork.

Chap O'Keefe said...

I'm always fascinated by different artists' accounts of their methods of work. It dates right back to my earliest writing/editorial days in London in the 1960s. Many of the publications I worked on were heavily illustrated, and they all -- comics, magazines, books -- needed effective covers.

It has been good, too, seeing Tony Masero back in the western saddle as it were with some sharp covers for the Hale Black Horse Westerns.

Charles Gramlich said...

Interesting interview. I agree that Edge definitely had an iconic image on those books. Immediately you recognize that character.

Jon Dudley said...

I have fond memories of seeing Tony painting some of these covers. Glad he's still at it.