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Jonas Mekas: Rocket Man!

Jonas Mekas Rocket Man

To the moon, Jonas! The blog Potrzebie posted up this scan of the cover of a 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science-Fiction featuring a dashing young Adolfas Mekas piloting a rocketship while his skeletal brother Jonas Mekas looms in the background. Apparently the cover is illustrating a tale of a spaceman who starves himself so his brother can pilot their lost ship back to civilization. (Click image to embiggen.)

How did the Mekas brothers end up on the cover of a sci-fi mag? The cover painting was done by their friend and fellow underground filmmaker Ed Emshwiller who had a career doing sci-fi illustrations back in the day. The Potrzebie blog is run by Bhob Stewart, an author and editor with a background in sci-fi and horror, who also directed his own short film in 1961 called The Year the Universe Lost the Pennant.

Stewart gives more on his background with Emshwiller in this other Potrzebie post. The two met when Stewart was booking underground films at the legendary Charles Theater in NYC. The Charles is also where Jonas Mekas got his start as a film programmer in 1961. His experience there eventually led up to his creation of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, which, at the time of this writing, is facing eviction from it’s current home in the Clocktower Gallery.

A book featuring Emshwiller’s sci-fi artwork is available called Emshwiller: Infinity x Two, which also includes an overview of the career of Ed’s wife Carol, a sci-fi writer. Emshwiller’s films are not available on DVD, but they are available from the Film-Makers’ Coop. Stewart’s 1961 film is available from them, too.

But, who knew Jonas Mekas had a sci-fi background? I guess my suggestion that he direct Iron Man 2 wasn’t so far-fetched.

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    And I would like to add that the film “Thanatopsis”, directed in 1962 by Ed Emshwiller, has nothing to do with the other underground film of the same title “Thanatopsis”, directed in 1989 by Beth B.,one of the leading filmmakers of the “Cinema of Transgression”.

  • Cypret says:

    Actually, Jonas in the figure standing in the background and Adolfas is the pilot in this Emsh piece. Emsh was always using people he knew in his artwork. He used a teenaged Bill Giffith (the Zippy cartoonist) as a model for a few sf magazines covers. Giffith lived across the street from him during the fifties and later did a comic story about growing up in Levittown. He got to draw Emsh into this story.

  • Cypret: Thanks for the correction. I fixed the article.

  • Bhob says:

    My memory is that Jonas was programming films at the Aspects Gallery on E. 10th St. PRIOR to the Charles, but memory fades.

    The Charles had mimeographed programs for its weekly Filmmakers Night. Jonas and I were puzzling over “Anonymous” in one of these programs, when suddenly Anonymous overheard us and introduced himself. He was Ken Jacobs, who wanted to remain in the shadows until he got an audience reaction to his film.

  • Arthur Guagliumi says:

    Jonas did not program films at the Aspect Coop gallery on 10th St, NYC in the 6o’s. I was an artist member during that time, knew Ed
    as well as other underground film makers and quite aware of such activities.
    Arthur Guagliumi

  • Bhob says:

    Arthur: Thanks for the clarification. I remember watching Aspect Gallery films through the window while standing outside on the sidewalk. Who did plan the film programs there?

  • Arthur Guagliumi says:

    Probably one of the members of the gallery coop.. Many of them
    were multitalented. My memory is also unclear about the peripheral
    activities of the Aspects Gallery even though I was an artist member
    from New Haven for a number of (wonderful) years.