Greg Hildebrandt: Living an Illustrated Space Fantasy
Listen to Greg Hildebrandt as he tells his amazing stories on this week’s episode 315 of Skywalking Through Neverland. This article features an overview of Greg and his brother Tim’s work and career.
The lava lamp is nice and warm. The shag carpet feels so soft as you lay on your bedroom floor. Headphones on; playing “Stairway” for the zillionth time. Your friends are on their way over to play some Dungeons & Dragons. The Lord of the Rings calendar on the wall says it’s 1977. The year of The Brothers Hildebrandt.
The Brothers Hildebrandt Rule the Ring
Along with the Lord of the Rings calendars from 1976 and 1977, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt illustrated the Star Wars style “B” poster and original oil paintings based on Terry Brooks’s epic fantasy, The Sword of Shannara. When it came to fantasy art, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt are the kings (no disrespect to Frank Frazetta, who is equally influential but has a more mature artistic style). The Brothers Hildebrandt, as they are known, are twin brothers born in 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. And from their earliest days, all they wanted to do was work as animators for Walt Disney.
Dreams of Disney
While that dream never came to fruition, Greg and Tim were heavily influenced by the art of Snow White, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. They also loved to absorb the art in comic books and pulp science fiction magazines like Amazing Stories. Illustration artists like Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish were also a source of fascination for The Brothers Hildebrandt. Having been born five years before George Lucas, their interests paralleled each other so closely it would eventually bring the trio of creative minds together.
Greg and Tim’s talents also brought them success at Marvel and DC, and later with the beloved Wizards of the Coast roleplaying games, Magic: The Gathering and Harry Potter. Some of the more obscure work from the Brothers Hildebrandt was a group of posters called “Camp Us” from the Coca Cola Company. These can be found in a 1979 out-of-print book called “The Art of the Brothers Hildebrandt”. Some of their best work can be found here, which also included a fascinating introduction to their life and work by Ian Summers. Fortunately, there is an online gallery of Hildebrandt art at Spiderwebart.com where prints can be purchased.
The Stars are Aligned
Before Star Wars’ release in 1977, Greg and Tim were approached by 20th Century Fox to create a second promotional poster for the UK release in December. Fox executives thought the Style “A” poster by Tom Jung was too dark. The Brothers Hildebrandt gained a reputation after illustrating the Lord of the Rings calendars and creating a concept poster for Young Frankenstein. Fox asked Greg and Tim to rework Jung’s poster into something more accessible.
Thirty-six hours later, the Style “B” poster became a reality. However, it lacked the droids in the bottom right, so they were quickly added with an enlarged “Hildebrandt” signature. Star Wars opened in the UK in December 1977. The Hildebrandt poster was used until late January 1978, until it was replaced by Tom Chantrell’s style “C” poster. However, their artwork was used in the U.S. for merchandising and was seen on posters, T-shirts, bed sheets, and Kenner packaging.
When in doubt, Urshurak!
Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of The Lord of the Rings came out a year later in 1978, but much to the Brothers Hildebrandt’s disappointment, they were not tapped to contribute to the art of the film despite their strong association to the book series. Shortly after that, Greg and Tim collaborated to develop a concept for a fantasy movie called Urshurak. Although the film never saw the light of day, the Brothers Hildebrandt worked with author Jerry Nichols to publish Urshurak in the form of an illustrated novel in 1979.
The brothers returned to the movie poster business with the 1981 cult classic, Clash of the Titans. Shortly after (possibly due to the lack of success with Urshurak), the brothers decided to work independently. Greg Hildebrandt began doing cover artwork for magazines like Omni and Heavy Metal and book covers for The Wizard of Oz, Aladdin, Robin Hood, Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera, and Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy.
Tim also had a go at doing book covers, including books like The Time of the Transference and The Byworlder. Tim even got to create covers for science fiction magazines he coveted as a child. And returned to doing illustrations for calendars like Dungeons & Dragons. In 1983, Tim was an Associate Producer on a science fiction-horror movie, The Deadly Spawn. Twelve years later, the brothers reunited and worked with Marvel to create X-Men and Spider-Man card sets.
Hildebrandt and Black Sabbath?
Whether working together or separately, the Brothers Hildebrandt achieved great success for decades. Greg is also responsible for the album art for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and concert merchandise. Likely the most unusual place to find Greg’s art is on the cover of Black Sabbath’s 1981 album, Mob Rules. The cover is a modified version of Greg’s Dream 1: Crucifiers from 1971.
In 1999, Greg started his American Beauties pinup art (young eyes look away). He began his first foray into the Star Trek franchise with the comic book series, Star Trek: Year Five, from IDW Publishing. Meanwhile, Tim continued his work in fantasy with two children’s books, Dungeons & Dragons calendars, and the poster art for the film The Secrets of NIMH.
Awards and Achievements
Such an illustrious career cannot go unawarded. In 1992, Tim won the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist. In 2010 Greg received the Chelsey Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Arts. Sadly Tim passed away from complications due to diabetes on June 11, 2006.
To this day, Greg is still very active artistically, and his love for art grows every year. Check out his site spiderwebart.com. And once again, check out an all-new exclusive interview with Greg Hildebrandt on episode 315 of ‘Skywalking Through Neverland.’
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