Boris Vallejo (born 1941)


Tales of the Zombie #3, 1973, cover by Boris Vallejo

Worked for:

Marvel, Penthouse

Known For:

Fantasy, Science Fiction and Erotica; illustrations of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian and Doc Savage


Artist and illustrator Boris Vallejo began painting at the age of 13, in 1954, and had his first illustration job three years later, in 1957, at the age of 16. He attended the Escuela National de Bellas Artes on a five-year scholarship, and was awarded a prize medal. After briefly pursuing a career in medicine, which may have influenced his later renderings of human anatomy, Vallejo was trained in graphic design before moving to the United States in 1964 to pursue a career as an artist. At the age of 23, he quickly garnered a fan following from his illustrations of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and other fantasy characters. Vallejo’s work is often compared to the work of Frank Frazetta, whose created cover images of many of the same characters as Vallejo.

In the United States he met and married his first wife, Doris and worked in advertising and other areas before beginning in 1971 to paint some covers for Warren Publishing. He then worked for Marvel Comics,  where his covers for The Savage Sword of Conan soon caused him to be tagged “the next Frazetta.” Vallejo then shifted to book covers in 1975, starting with a cover for the paperback edition of Edgar Rice Burrough’s  I Am a Barbarian that displays the style of art he became famous for. It portrays depicted a muscular, nearly-naked warrior using a sword to defend a similarly undressed woman against an approaching tiger. He then created many cover images for books dealing with heroic fantasy, both for Ballantine Books and Del Rey.

Vallejo continued to worked steadily as a cover artist throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and he also began publishing compilations of his artwork as well as books illustrating the writings of his daughter Doris Vallejo; though these works are technically not Vallejo’s, as his then-wife was their true author, these are listed below as Vallejo’s books since, in these cases, the illustrations are of much greater interest than the text. However, his career significantly changed after he divorced Doris, married Bell in 1994, and forged a productive partnership with his second wife, Julie Bell.

Vallejo’s preferred medium is oil paint on board, and has employed digital media to form composite images. He and Julie Bell have worked on collaborative artworks together, signing the completed works with both of their names.

Vallejo is also widely admired for the film posters he as made for  numerous fantasy and action films, including Knightriders and Barbarian Queen. He has also illustrated posters for comedies, including National Lampoon’s Vacation and European Vacation.