R.I.P. Ron Cobb, cartoonist and designer
September 22, 2020 10:52 AM   Subscribe

"Cobb started his career in show business at 17, working as an animator on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty in the ‘50s before moving on to a gig as an editorial cartoonist for newspapers. By the ‘70s, Cobb had started working in the movie industry, specifically on John Carpenter’s Dark Star with writer Dan O’Bannon, who later asked Cobb to put together some concept art for his next movie, Alien. Cobb worked with H.R. Giger, who famously designed the film’s eponymous monster (later dubbed a “xenomorph”) and some of the more memorable and disgusting aesthetics, while Cobb designed the interior and exterior of the Nostromo, the doomed ship that inadvertently brought the alien on board." --Sam Barsanti @ avclub
posted by valkane (21 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
posted by doctornemo at 10:59 AM on September 22, 2020

roncobb.net is worth your time - cartoons, design, other oddness. I'm very fond of his Semiotic Standard from Alien.
posted by zamboni at 11:13 AM on September 22, 2020 [14 favorites]

The Semiotic Standard link really highlights the level of visual fidelity and care that made Alien special. Between Giger, Cobb, Chriss Foss and Moebius, Alien remains a dream team masterpiece of art direction. All these different artists with varying styles that should clash finding ways to make that work, visually.

Cobb's pre-Giger alien designs are pretty interesting, although that would have been a very different film. It's not the same without the sense of massive scale, but there's still something hauntingly alien about his space jockey. I seem to recall a reptilian design as well, but can't find that at the moment and don't recall if that was Cobb or someone else. I prefer the linked one, anyway.

Also, not to take away from Cobb's work, but Foss' designs are beautifully weird and underappreciated as well. There's a whimsy that reminds me Yoshitaka Amano that I wish had made it into the film intact in some way.

posted by Lonnrot at 11:18 AM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Everybody knows his single-pane cartoon of the man wandering the post-apocalyptic wasteland carrying a busted TV set, looking for a place to plug it in; but my favorite is the old man in the future gazing at a plant that's broken through the concrete at his feet.posted by Rash at 12:05 PM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

One of the best visionaries of all time.
I was a told a story by a friend of his once.. Cobb was asked by Steven Spielberg to direct the script for his Close Encounters follow up ( which I think was called Nightskies ). Cobb wasn't sure he wanted to do it but agreed. After production had started Spielberg came back and said he had changed his mind and wanted to make it himself. Cobb didn't mind and handed it back to Spielberg. As a consolation Spielberg said he'd give him some small percentage of the box office revenue for the film. The film turned out to be E.T and decades later Cobb had forgotten ( probably Spielberg too ) all bout the agreement and was reminded by someone. Cobb got in touch with Spielberg and received something like $400K from Spielberg as promised.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:07 PM on September 22, 2020 [6 favorites]

Also.. don't forget Cobb's cameo in Conan the Barbarian and the guy selling stuff at the marketplace who points Conan in the direction of the Tower where he fights the snake.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:09 PM on September 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I thought was brilliant that Scott used two very different artists, Cobb and Giger, to create the human and alien designs respectively. Cobbs stuff is so geometric and angular which gave a great contrast to the organic creations of Giger.
posted by octothorpe at 12:16 PM on September 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

posted by Faint of Butt at 12:35 PM on September 22, 2020

posted by Splunge at 12:47 PM on September 22, 2020

. His work was an inspiration for me.
posted by coppertop at 1:30 PM on September 22, 2020

I contacted him a few years ago to purchase some of his cartoon books. I sent off a check to Australia. 100 bucks or so. I received the books a short time later but the check was never cashed.
posted by Chitownfats at 1:35 PM on September 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

posted by jquinby at 2:18 PM on September 22, 2020

This post has inspired me to dig out my ratty old copy of The Book of Alien, which I’ve been carrying around since 1979. It’s stuffed to the gills with concept art by Cobb, Foss, Giger, Moebius, etc (including that space jockey concept linked above, but not a reptilian version—I just checked).
posted by ejs at 3:01 PM on September 22, 2020

posted by Token Meme at 3:29 PM on September 22, 2020

posted by acb at 3:36 PM on September 22, 2020

Cobb's political and socialogical one-framers from the 70s have left an indelible print in my psyche. I recently rediscovered him and his website, like 3 weeks ago. I was amazed at what he had been up for the last 40 years! I'm glad I did this exploration and review of his life before he died. Godspeed, Ron, and thank you!
posted by rmmcclay at 6:24 PM on September 22, 2020

Those Semiotic Standard icons are incredible. I feel like you can extrapolate about 80% of the Designers Republic art from them...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:38 AM on September 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by SageLeVoid at 2:49 AM on September 23, 2020

posted by Krazor at 3:06 AM on September 23, 2020

posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 3:53 PM on September 23, 2020

posted by filtergik at 7:41 AM on September 25, 2020

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