George Lois Explains It All

Some weeklies still attempt to make art out of their covers, but it’s a shame that most monthly magazine’s have resolved to splash celebrities in largely uninteresting poses. Not like the days of George Lois at Esquire, who has laid out the story behind 12 of his famous covers:

“It was 1968, and Ali was waiting for an appeal for draft evasion to reach the Supreme Court. I said to Hayes, ‘I want to do a cover with Ali, I want to depict him as the famous martyr Saint Sebastian.’ And I called up Ali, told him I needed him and his pretty white trunks and shoes. I showed him a postcard of a painting by Castagno, with Sebastian’s body relaxed, but his head back in agony. And he says, ‘Hey, George, this cat’s a Christian? I can’t pose as a Christian, I’m a Muslim.’ I tried to explain that it’s symbology, but he said no, and I asked if I could talk to Elijah Muhammad, who was the head of the Muslim community at the time. He calls him up, puts me on the phone, and there I am talking to Elijah Muhammad about religion, imagery, symobolgy, etc., and finally he said, ‘Okay, sounds good to me.’ And Ali did it. It really became a rallying cry, the anti-war poster at that time. It was a combo of race, religion, and war in one image.”

See Ali as Saint Sebastian, and 11 others, here.

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