Detail from Werther's Skull by Rodney Matthews

Elric at the End of Time


Last week I wrote about my 'Wizardry and Wild Romance' illustrations - twelve interpretations of scenes from the novels of science fiction and fantasy author Michael Moorcock.  These images were marketed by Big O, UK, as a range of large posters and then a calendar for 1978. I showed a few of the images last week, but thought I'd show you a few more, along with the complete list of titles, before moving on to the next part of the story.

The first six pieces, completed by October 1976, were:

  • 'Elric and Moonglum' from The Sleeping Sorceress;
  • 'Corum Escapes' from The Knight of Swords;
  • 'The Ice Spirit' from The Ice Schooner;
  • 'Hawkmoon Defends Castle Brass' from The Jewel in the Skull;
  • 'The Great Mishassa' from The Lord of the Spiders; and
  • 'The Twilight Tower' from The Shores of Death.

The next six, completed by May 1977, were:

  • 'The Dragon Lord' from Elric of Melniboné;
  • 'Tanelorn' from Quest for Tanelorn;
  • 'The People of the Pines' from The Oak and the Ram;
  • 'The First Masters' from Masters of the Pit;
  • 'The Sea Chariot of Rowernarc' from Phoenix in Obsidian; and
  • 'Illian of Garathorm' from The Champion of Garathorm.

Hawkmoon Defends Castle Brass by Rodney Matthews

'Hawkmoon Defends Castle Brass'

1976, 70 x 100cm, inks and gouache

The Sea Chariot of Rowernarc

'The Sea Chariot of Rowernarc'

1977, 70 x 100cm, inks and gouache

Illian of Garathorm by Rodney Matthews

'Illian of Garathorm'

1977, 100 x 70cm, inks and gouache

The late 70’s was a time when fantasy was "king". Big O published everything I did.  As the two great creative passions of music and art forged ahead in the western world, I should not have been surprised at the financial success of my association with Big O, but I was!  Peter Ledeboer sold truck-loads of posters featuring designs from the world’s leading fantasy and surreal painters including Roger Dean, Bob Venosa, Mati Klarwein and so on. The royalties rolled in.

The relationship between Michael Moorcock, Peter Ledeboer and myself solidified to the point where Peter and I thought we might risk asking Michael for a story for me to illustrate. Moorcock agreed, saying something like:

“I have an Elric short story up my sleeve, would you like to propose some images to be included?"

Thus, Elric at the End of Time became a Moorcock/Matthews collaboration!

I got to work scribbling out ideas – an inverted landscape:

Inverted Landscapes by Rodney Matthews

'Inverted Landscapes'

1980, 70 x 100cm, inks

a sky city:

The Sky City by Rodney Matthews

'The Sky City'

1979, 36 x 52cm, inks

even an alien rock band:

Encore at the End of Time by Rodney Matthews 'Encore at the End of Time'

1981, 70 x 100cm, inks

Of course, the band on stage was my nod to Hawkwind and the fact that Michael regularly appeared on stage with them. Loosely speaking, ‘Encore at the End of Time’ featured a similar line-up and atmosphere to the actual performances of
Hawkwind, except that their audiences were usually a tad more numerous than the two insect dudes seen standing below the stage.  This particular colour artwork was painted larger than most of the other pieces in the book because I felt it would make a good poster subject at 70 x 100cm.  However, this very decision would later pose some difficulties.  Because of the level of interruptions I was receiving at my then studio at Paulton, North Somerset, UK, I had arranged to use a room at the newly acquired offices of Big O (they had moved out of London and into premises on Stroud Road, Gloucester).  I would drive up to Gloucester via the M5 motorway in my Caterham Seven to work on 'Encore', driving back to Somerset at the weekend, but because the car was so small and the painting so large, it necessitated strapping the artwork behind the spare tyre at the rear of the car, where (in all weathers and at considerable speed) it would flap about for some 46 miles each way!  It’s quite amazing that the original artwork survived!  

Rodney Matthews' Cars

My Caterham Seven (right) - minus the artwork!

In later life, 'Encore at the End of Time', in addition to the book, has appeared as a poster, an album cover for ‘Out of the Shadows’ by Hawkwind and a limited edition litho print.  More recently, it appeared on the front cover of Record Collector magazine relating to their article ‘The ascent of Prog’:

Record Collector Issue 457

Record Collector, September 2016, Issue no. 457

Back to the book.  The story is a tongue-in-cheek account of Elric’s reluctant adventures contrived for him by, among others, Lord Jagged of Canaria, Werther de Goethe, the Duke of Queens and Mistress Christia. The landscapes and situations are conjured up by the "End of Time" characters, with their power rings to make Elric feel at home. Inevitably, there are mistakes in their interpretations of his requirements and in historical accuracy, Elric believes he has fallen into the power of the Lords of Chaos, who occur in the original Elric tales, and believes they are playing an extravagant game at his expense.

The colour image (below) was chosen for the front and the pencil image was an alternative:

Elric at the End of Time Front and Alternative Version by Rodney Matthews'Elric at the End of Time' Front Cover (left)

1981, 36 x 26cm, inks 

'Elric at the End of Time' Alternative Front Cover (right)

1981, 36 x 26cm, pencil 

In total, 33 of my illustrations were printed in this book - 22 colour pieces and 11 pencil works.  Here's a few of them:

The Chequered Floor by Rodney Matthews

'The Chequered Floor'

1980, 36 x 26cm, inks

On the Staircase by Rodney Matthews

'On the Staircase'

1980, 36 x 26cm, inks

Werther's Skull by Rodney Matthews

'Werther's Skull'

1979, 36 x 52cm, Inks

The Battlefield of Chaos by Rodney Matthews

'The Battlefield of Chaos'

1980, 36 x 52cm, Inks

All my colour artworks and pencil drawings for Elric at the End of Time were completed by 1981, ready for publication by Big O, but there occurred at that time a wind of change.  Many publishers of art (and in particular fantasy) books became top heavy and collapsed.  Punk music swept in, rendering fantasy-influenced stuff unfashionable almost overnight.  Big O, who had been experiencing problems with their lucrative US office, became one of the casualties, and suddenly I found myself casting about for replacement publishers.

Elric at the End of Time was eventually published - six years later - by Dragons World/Paper Tiger books, in hardback and paperback formats, yet even then I could see it was too late in the day. Hubert Schaefsma and his valiant company Paper Tiger hung on, but ultimately the changing times got the better of them.

Next week, read how things have gone full circle, in my final instalment of Moorcock tales.

Click here to read Part III: Michael Moorcock - Full Circle

UPDATE 22/9/2021 - 'The Dragon Lord', 'Encore at the End of Time' and 'Tanelorn' are being exclusively dropped as NFTs by Terra Virtua on 30th September 2021 at 5pm BST.  Click here to learn more and to view the images, which have been subtly animated to add an extra dimension!

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