Barry Windsor-Smith • "A Fine Madness" (1976) Page 2

The earliest plan I had for work to appear through The Gorblimey Press was centered around the state of modern day single picture art. Most of the potentially good artists today, it seemed to me, were employing themselves as de-coders for a writer's ideas. Illustrators for stories, text material in magazines that, as Tom Wolfe observes, serve no other purpose but to illustrate text and have no value beyond that premise. In other words: Illustrations that if taken out of context were without meaning, reason or even, and this is by far the least of all, personal intensity. It was my intention (and still is) to create pictures that either told their own story or needed no such backgrounds at all.

The initial pieces I produced were (chronologically) The Sepia Horseman, The Four Ages, The Ram and the Peacock and Judgement of the Dead, by the Living. Apart from the Ages all were poster size. I was not at all used to working big, in fact I had no experience at all, with the exception of covers and title pages for comics (which average around 10 x 15) my usual stint was panels of approximately 3 x 4 inches. Still, I felt quite at ease with the new formats, I might even say very much at home (though I can't say why).

The Sepia Horseman was simple enough,

  an 8 x 10 originally, I did it some months before simply as a sketch to while away some time, I blew it up, retouched it, printed it in brown and voila, not the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen but it served a purpose, that of announcing to whomever might be interested that I was still working and had a new name, Gorblimey.

Whomever was interested happened to be Marvel Comics, initially, and after a few wink wink, grin grin jokes from Roy Thomas, intimating the likeness of Horseman to their registered Conan the Barbarian, I found myself naively believing that the threatened lawsuit they proposed against me could actually be justified. This caused some bad feelings all 'round which still haven't settled down. I received calls and letters from Cadence Industries' gangbuster lawyer who, believing that Stan Lee had invented Conan, threatened to put us out of business. The first dealer to handle The Sepia Horseman was offered the same threat, and he promptly stopped selling the picture (I found out a month or so later as he never found it deemable to inform me). Having a fair knowledge of common law I knew that the actions of the Cadence lawyer were not just out of line, but plainly unlawful. I sought my own legal advice. The Sepia Horseman is now a popular and successful picture. I regard Marvel less, and the freedom that could have gone under with my first picture, more valuable than ever.