Science Fiction Trading Card Spotlight - David Mattingly

| Trading Card Spotlight

Our next Science Fiction Trading Card Spotlight features David Mattingly, who is displayed on card number 298, from the Science Fiction Collection.  David has produced over 2000 book covers with his extraordinary artistic talent. He has worked for some big names in the business, such as Bantam Books, Marvel, Playboy along with many others. He also has illustrated the cover for “Honor Harrington”, which was a New York Times best seller. David has worked with some famous names over the years such as Michael Jackson, Lucas Films, Universal Studios and Galloob Toys. David has won numerous awards for his book covers and still to this day enjoys the art of science fiction. You can see his work at

How early in your life did you know you would be an artist?

I knew I wanted to be an artist all my life. My earliest influences were comic book artists like Jim Steranko, John Buscema and Jack Kirby, although I have been influenced by a wide range of artists like Jackson Pollock, Robert McCall and John Singer Sargent.

How has science fiction today changed from when you were younger? What do you like or dislike about the changes?

Science fiction for me has always been about looking to the future, positive and negative. I think science fiction is pretty much the same today, although I think William Gibson’s work, especially “Neuromancer,” changed the way we look at the world.

If you did not become an artist, what would you be doing?

 I wanted to become a musician at one point, although anyone who has heard me sing would probably say I took the right path.

What is your favorite science fiction movie or TV show, and why?

“2001” is my all-time favorite movie—visual poetry. I also love “The Good, the Bad and The Ugly” and “Blade Runner.” All three are great movies and withstand almost unlimited viewings.

What are your favorite hobbies today?

I am a movie buff and have seen almost everything. Can that be counted as a hobby? I also love to listen to movie soundtracks. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is one of my favorites, along with “Chinatown.”

How has your involvement in creating the art for book covers been important to you?

I feel an illustrator is in service to the author and the publisher. I love when I feel I have come up with a good melding of the author’s narrative, as well as an image that will sell the book. Even if a cover doesn’t exactly match the book’s narrative, if it sells the book, it has done its job.

What does it take to be a professional artist today?

Today I think a mastery of social media is a necessity. When I got into the business there was no internet and I used to send slides and tear sheets to potential clients. Today it is all about getting your name out there, and social media is a big part of that. And, of course, your work needs to be good.

What do you think about electronic books that you can download versus the actual physical hard copy?

I got into the business when it was all about the hard copy. I think electronic downloads will become an increasingly important part of the business, but the cover tends to be less important. As an illustrator, the cover has always been of the utmost importance.

What authors do you admire today and who did you look up to as a child? 

As a kid, I read a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs. My middle name is Burroughs, so I always had a fondness for him. I think I read everything Heinlein ever wrote. Today William Gibson is one of my favorite contemporary writers.

 Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a trading card? 

Actually, I had a 90-trading card set in the late 1990’s from Friedlander Enterprises that featured my artwork. I loved trading cards as a kid, so I am proud to be part of this set.

When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?

I never met Walter. I heard about his trading card project through Toni Weisskopf at Baen Books and e-mailed him to see if he wanted to include illustrators.

If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?

He seems very nice from my e-mail correspondence.

What is your favorite books past and present?

I have a huge library of art books, and some of my favorite writers are artists. One of my favorite books is “Creative Illustration” by Andrew Loomis, a must read for any artist. I also love Charles Dickens books for the strong storytelling.

Who is your favorite celebrity and what makes that person special?

If I could have dinner with one dead person, it would be Stanley Kubrick. All of his movies fascinate me. Of living people, I think I most admire Christopher Nolan. “Inception” and “Tenet” are two of my favorite movies of this century. By the way, you have to watch “Tenet” twice for it to make any sense.

Did you play video games growing up and what were some of your favorites?

Believe it or not, I never play video games. I think the last one I played was “Pack Man” 30 years ago.

If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why? 

Pac-Man. That is the only one I have ever played seriously.

What do you see the Science Fiction genre in the next 10 years?

I hope it isn’t all vampires, zombies and 16-year-olds. For me, science fiction has always been first and foremost about ideas. I hope authors keep swinging for the fences, looking for the next big idea that will make me think hard about the future.

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