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Ron Cobb: 1937-2020 September 26, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Sorry to hear of the death of Ron Cobb, radical political cartoonist, illustrator and production designer, at 83, this week. He was a remarkable production designer whose work informed much of the aesthetic of the 1980s and after through films such as Dark Star, Star Wars, CE3K, Alien and so on. This piece in the Guardian gives a sense of the finished output.

But to me this piece here sums up just how impressive his work was. And it’s not just in the rollcall of work he did:

Star Wars (he designed the aliens in the famous cantina scene), Alien (he was solely responsible for the design of the entire human environment of the film – losing the spotlight to H.R. Giger’s design of the creature and the alien environment), Conan the Barbarian (he designed all the weapons and armor) his magnum-opus The Last Starfighter (he designed pretty much everything there) and perhaps above all Back to the Future (yes, the De Lorean time machine is his baby). One thing that stands out in both Cobb’s cinematic and non-cinematic body of work (he also did some visualization for NASA projects, designed the flag of the Ecological Movement, among other things) is his ability to infuse his designs with a sense of amused irony – he never takes himself completely seriously, often making a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual gag within an otherwise serious project. So unsurprisingly, in addition to his more familiar works, he also had a short but significant career as a cartoonist.

But look at the image that accompanies it,
This was from his work on Alien, and it shows his fluid and expansive approach. As noted previously I remember acquiring the Book of Alien in 1979 or so and being blown away by his, and Giger and Chris Foss’s work on the film.
Perhaps as, if not more, impressive was his work on the symbol of the Ecological movement in the US which he designed in 1969 – that being the elision of the E and O to create a shape like the Greek theta symbol.

The flag is still used today.

Cobb worked a political cartoonist on the radical Los Angeles Free Press during that period.

Now that’s a life…


1. Dekkard - September 27, 2020

Great post, love it.

The word legend gets thrown around too much but Cobb certainly was one. There is a whole scifi aesthetic that is down to him & a few others. Jodorowsky’s Dune is the starting point for loads of those people coming together.

I hadn’t know he designed the DeLorean Time Machine until I read an obit.


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