In Memoriam: Illustrator and Comic Artist Oliver Frey

We’re sorry to report the passing of Swiss born illustrator and comic artist Oliver Frey, whose many credits included work for the magazines CRASH, Zzap!64 and Amtix, along with art for War Picture Library, FEAR Magazine and drawing several “Trigan Empire” stories for Look & Learn.

He was 74, and had been ill for some time.

Oliver was the artist hired by director Richard Donner to create the comic book art for the black and white opening sequence in Superman: The Movie.

Frey’s death was announced by Chris Wilkins, publisher Retro Fusion Books yesterday, who commented “hope you are up there in heaven, painting the angels.”

CRASH Issue 32 - Dan Dare cover by Oliver Frey

As we noted in our 2017 profile of the hugely talented artist, although Oliver started his comics career in the 1960s on Fleetway’s War Picture Library, he’s perhaps best known for his work on “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire” for Look and Learn, “Terminal Man” (written by Kelvin Gosnell, re-published by Oliver himself in 2010) for the computer magazines CRASH and Zzap64.

A War Picture Library cover attributed to Oliver Frey
A War Picture Library cover attributed to Oliver Frey

He also drew “Dan Dare” for the revived Eagle of the 1980s, drawing two episodes of “Return of the Mekon” in 1982, the eight-part story known as “The Timads” in 1983, although the tale wasn’t given an official title in the comic itself; and a number of one-off Dare stories for various Specials and the 1984 Eagle Annual.

“SOS International” from Speed & Power, art by Oliver Frey. Via Book Palace
Battle Picture Weekly comic Issue 1 - cover dated 8th March 1975
Oliver Frey’s cover for the first issue of Battle Picture Weekly
Eagle - cover dated 29th October 1983 - art by Oliver Frey
Eagle - cover dated 11th November 1983 - art by Oliver Frey
Eagle - cover dated 31st December 1983 - art by Oliver Frey

Through the late 1970s and the 1980s Frey was a prolific creator of gay erotic art, usually published under the pen name Zack. These included “Rogue”, a comics series featuring a big, muscular bad-boy hero for HIM Magazine, a monthly gay male pornography publication which he and his partner Roger Kean owned, along with related titles.

Tributes came thick and fast in response to the sad news, across social media.

“My heart is broken,” commented games designer Luca Antignano, a close friend of the artist. “…Oliver was an incredibly kind, gentle and generous soul. An immensely talented artist that shaped and inspired a generation of people of my age (me included) thanks to his creations, together with Roger Kean and Franco Frey – to whom I am equally immensely thankful!”

Oliver Frey's cover of Fear Magazine #2, featuring horror writer James Herbert
Oliver Frey’s cover of Fear Magazine #2, featuring horror writer James Herbert

“Oliver Frey, artist extraordinaire and icon to so many of us who found you during the Newsfield days. You’ll be sorely missed,” commented Wil Overton, who worked on various computer games in the past.

No Mercy from 'The Monsters of Caton' - an episode of "The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire" by Oliver Frey for Look and Learn, published in 1977. Via Book Palace
No Mercy from ‘The Monsters of Caton’ – an episode of “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire” by Oliver Frey for Look and Learn, published in 1977. Via Book Palace

“His art was a huge part of my childhood, with his amazing airbrushed art adorning Newsfield mags,” writer Craig Gannell commented. “I much later met him while working with Thalamus Books. A lovely, friendly man. He’ll be much missed.”

“[It’s] hard to overstate the influence his paintings had on the whole of the UK games industry in the 80s and 90s,” noted game and comic creator Ste Pickford.

“His artwork inspired a generation,” noted Rob Hewson, CEO and founder of Huey Games.

“His vivid and moody paintings were a huge influence,” felt artist Robin Levy, who was co-creator of games such as Armalyte and Ruff n Tumble. “From sci-fi to fantasy and from whimsy to horror, he made it all look easy. And going by his ridiculously prolific 80s output, it might well have been.”

“Oli’s art for Crash and Zzap! leapt out at me from newsagents’ shelves as a kid – so much more dynamic and exciting than anything I’d seen before,” noted writer, editor and games designer Ian Malcolm, “and establishing a tone for much of my gaming in the 8-bit era, even on the other side of the world.”

Our sympathies to Oliver’s partner, Roger Kean, his family and friends at this time.

Oliver Frey aka Zack, 30th June 1948 – 21st August 2022

Web Links

On downthetubes: In Praise of… Dan Dare and Trigan Empire Comic Artist and Illustrator Oliver Frey (Published in 2017)

• Oliver Frey Official Site:

• Zack Art:

More about Oliver Frey’s adult-only work, later using the pseudonym here (18+ site)

Chris Wilkins is the new publisher of the magazines that Oliver Frey and Roger Kean created, at

Fusion Retro Books are publishing new editions of CRASH — check out their web site, Patreon or their store for more details

Oliver Frey: Men of Flesh and Fantasy by Paul Gravett

Warning: Paul’s Article is intended for Adults Only. Visitors of a sensitive disposition should turn back now

ComicArtFans: Oliver Frey Trigan Empire Gallery 1 | Gallery 2 | Gallery 3 | Gallery 4
Compiled by Geoff West from the Illustration Art Gallery/ Book Palace

• Back in 2010, Oliver self-published a collection of The Terminal Man, written by Kelvin Gosnell, back in 2010. The strip featured in Crash and Zzap!64 magazines in 1984 – 1986 and Oliver recreated three missing pages for the collection

A Guide to The Trigan Empire strip

This site is the work of the Don Lawrence Collection and includes links to buy the high quality collections of the strip

Jeremy Briggs’ Bear Alley piece about Oliver Frey’s work on his short lived Frighteners magazine

CRASH Online

The best online site dedicated to CRASH magazine (1984­92), with full screen covers, editorial detail and game reviews — a chance to see what much of Oliver Frey’s artwork looked like when it was plastered with cover lines

Categories: Art and Illustration, British Comics, Comic Art, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Magazines, Obituaries, Other Worlds

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2 replies

  1. Such sad news. Phenomenal talent, Phenomenal man. Love to all who knew him. I’ll miss his Xmas greetings emails. God bless, Oli

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