Kenneth Smith’s Singular Warren Visions

« Quodo seemed to be a paradise. It was a lush green planet of peace and solitude. Then the pilot met the blonde… » — Nicola Cuti, “Weird World”

Kenneth Smith (1943-), the fantasy artist, inhabits the same body as Kenneth Smith, the retired philosophy professor and incorrigible obfuscator. Whereas someone like, say, Bertrand Russell would make his point clearly and concisely, Kenneth would just pile it higher and higher, leaving the reader entangled in a maze of syntax and syllogism.

Since you may not be familiar with the man’s infamous column in The Comics Journal, Dramas of the Mind, here’s a typical quotation from the man, where he, er… takes on “obscurantism”:

« In characterizing realities no less than in taking positions on issues, consciousness generalizes, i.e. genericizes: in articulating or formulating, it reduces things, even our own selves, to forms, abstractions, idealizations, types, archetypes, simplisms. “Thinking” is an activity that ultimately grounds or resolves itself in the satisfying, self-certain form of orthodoxies, preconceptions, uncriticized and imperative norms; and it is overwhelmingly inept to recognize just how pathetic, parasitic or placental is its relation to its “own” fundamental norms of understanding and valuation. Rarely if ever does any act of thinking grow so laserlike or iconoclastically intensive as to escape from the dense miasma of what is acceptable. To think what actually is is even more contranatural for humans than to see what actually is: as subjectivizing as “seeing” is, “thinking” is many degrees or magnitudes more saturated with conditioned biases, delusions, self-deceptions. A program of hygiene or asepsis for the sanity, acuity and clarity of syncretic or wholesided thinking—a discipline of orthotics for sobering, grounding and polemicizing of well-formed gnoseonoesis—is needless to say unknown in modernity. Not just language but virtually all of intellect, education, culture, etc. have been adapted into utilities, tools whose very aspectivity militates against the nakedness of “evidence,” which is to say, against candor and against truth: regardless of what it may be called, “evidence,” even the most obvious and blatant, is in actuality not so “evident” to most people, and the modern development of “sophistication” or “education” typically worsens the obscurantism. »

For all that, I’ll take a guy with such an overflowing abundance of vocabulary and ideas that he doesn’t know when to quit… over most of the boneheads frequently passing for writers nowadays. Still, if you don’t mind, we’ll (mostly) stick to his Warren artwork today.

Creepy no. 35 (Sept. 1970). Regardless of its month of release, its lovely shades of emerald bring thoughts of springtime to mind.
Creepy no. 36 (Nov. 1970), unique amidst Smith’s Warren covers in that it presents the human form in a somewhat less… grotesque fashion.
This is Creepy no. 41 (Sept. 1971). Owing to its lower than usual print run, this ranks amongst the scarcest Warren issues.
This is Creepy 1971 Annual, all reprints, but quite a choice roster of them: Ditko, Toth, Boyette, Craig, Crandall, Sutton, Adams, and Torres.
And here we have Mr. Smith’s last, and arguably least, Warren cover. Only a detail of the full painting was used. Eerie 1971 Annual also features naught but reruns.
And this is the original painting in its entirety. Sorry about the glare, but this is likely the only publicly available image of this privately-owned piece.

Bonus time: Mr. Smith created this lovely piece to illustrate R.A. Lafferty‘s masterful short story Mr. Hamadryad. I first encountered them* in the anthology Prime Cuts no. 1 (Jan. 1987, Fantagraphics). Hey, any fan of Old Man Lafferty’s is someone I’d happily clink glasses with. Cul sec, Mr. Smith!

« I believe that Mr. Hamadryad was the oddest-looking person I had ever seen. Surprisingly I regarded him so, for I first became aware of him in The Third Cataract Club in Dongola, and some very odd-looking gentlemen came into The Third Cataract. If you cock an eyebrow at someone in that place, then he’s really odd. » — R.A. Lafferty

*Smith’s illustration first graced Lafferty’s tale in the limited edition (1000 copies) collection Golden Gate and Other Stories (1982, Corroboree Press, MN). However, “Mr. Hamadryad” first turned up in STELLAR I (Judy-Lynn Del Rey, ed., 1974).


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