The Fantasy Art of Oliver Frey Extended Edition – review

I have a confession to make. To my shame, I never bought the first version of this book – The Fantasy Art of Oliver Frey – when it was first published back in 2006. There, I feel better now that’s off my chest. However, I feel that now it may have been a good thing. You see, if I had of made that purchase – it may have spoiled me for the beautiful book I received in the post just yesterday, an extended edition of that book, which had me exclaiming “whoah!” to a room devoid of other people as I unpacked and turned it’s pages for the first time. Yes, this book has impact.

If, like many of us, you were messing around with home computers in the early 80s and live in the UK you will undoubtedly have heard of and seen Oliver Frey’s now legendary cover art for the likes of Crash, Zzap! 64 and Amtix! The book, which was funded via Kickstarter in April this year, is both the story of Oliver Frey’s career as an illustrator and a showcase for the amazing fantasy art he produced both for the Newsfield videogame magazines and his many other commissions. These covered everything from children’s history book covers to the inlays for the videogames themselves.

Inside the book

The Fantasy Art of Oliver Frey – Extended Edition by Roger M Kean (Reckless Books) is a large-format hardback book, measuring approximately 23 x 29 cm and protected with a full colour glossy dust-jacket. Starting with a foreword by Roger Kean – former managing director and senior publishing executive at Newsfield – then heading straight into a 26 page biography, it tells the fascinating story of the Oli’s life and career both in his country of birth – Switzerland, and in England. As might be expected, a lot of focus is put on the video game boom and the prolific Newsfield years, with some great photographs of Oli working on Crash artwork and other images of the team behind the now fabled monthly magazines working from their offices in Ludlow.

But let’s face it. As interesting as all that is – and it really is – what this particular publication is about, is the artwork. And this is where the book really comes to life, with the remainder of the pages dedicated to showcasing that artwork as vividly as possible with none of the graphics and other text which originally obscured much of his magazine and book illustrations.

Beautifully printed, glossy, full colour spreads, split into genres, capture Oli’s work and turn this publication into the premium artbook it is, deserving pride of place on anyone’s coffee table. It’s what a coffee table was made for and will have both you and your guests reminiscing over old magazine covers you remember whilst being amazed at how stunning the artwork looks by itself, free from logos, cover tapes and barcodes.

In summary

The Fantasy Art of Oliver Frey – Extended Edition is the type of book that you will want to show anyone that comes through your door. Just to prove to people how good an illustrator Oliver Frey is. Because even if they know already, chances are they won’t have seen his artwork looking this good. Or as much of it in one place. In short, if you were a Crash, Zzap! 64 or Amtix fan, or indeed, you just appreciate beautifully rendered fantasy art, you need this book.



PS. Oh, and thanks to this book, I also just realised that I was an admirer of Oli’s artwork way before those 8-bit computer magazine covers too, as an avid reader of The War Picture Library books in the mid 70s!




Purchase the book (Fusion Retro Books)

Reckless Books website


Author: Ant Harper

Father, Husband, website developer, avid gamer since the mid-70s and collector of just about anything video game related. 8-Bit microcomputer and Sinclair specialist with a huge Sinclair related collection of his own. Blogs about retro gaming here but occasionally elsewhere when people ask. Bored of Mario and never much liked Zelda. Performs quirkafleegs for cold hard cash. Often found destroying ice crowns in the Lands of Midnight. Remembers: Lunar Lander. Plays: Steel Battalion, Gears of War

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