Thursday, 15 December 2011

Mike Hinge - an obituary

Thanks very much to Andrew Porter  for sending me the obituary, Mike is very much missed.

After a long delay, Tom Cardy's obituary for Mike Hinge was published in New Zealand's second largest daily paper. The Dominion Post (Wellington, New Zealand) December 11, 2003

Michael Barry Hinge, illustrator and graphic designer. B Auckland, August 9, 1931, d Philadelphia, August 2003.

DESPITE success as an illustrator and graphic designer after moving to the United States 44 years ago, Mike Hinge remained virtually unknown in New Zealand. His success included portraits with a distinct pop art influence for the cover of Time magazine -- Japanese emperor Hirohito in October, 1971 and Richard Nixon, as the Watergate crisis deepened, in November 1973. The artwork for both covers are now held by the Smithsonian. Film-maker Stanley Kubrick hired Hinge to design a "cryogenic module" for a display at cinemas to promote his 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the display was never constructed.

Hinge illustrated many covers and interiors for American science fiction magazines Amazing Science Fiction, Fantastic and Analog in the 1970s, as well as book covers. A comic strip, which he also wrote, appeared in the graphic magazine Heavy Metal in 1982.

As a professional artist, Hinge was nominated for a Hugo Award -- sci-fi's most prestigious trophy -- in 1973. New Zealand has featured in the awards only twice since then, when Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring won best dramatic presentation last year and The Two Towers this year. Hinge was also nominated six times for the Locus Awards bestowed by American sci-fi news magazine, Locus.

Hinge grew up in a state house in Mission Bay, Auckland. His English father was a bus driver and his South African mother was a former nurse. Hinge's twin obsessions were sci-fi and everything American. As a child he would stay up till 3am, drawing spaceships and futuristic vehicles. By the time he was a teenager in the late 1940s, he regularly wore a cowboy hat, listened to the blues and Louis Armstrong and was learning to play jazz trombone.

By the standards of the day, he was a maverick. To the consternation of audiences at Auckland cinemas, the Americanophile refused to stand when God Save The King was played before each film. He hated the Union Jack on the New Zealand flag and suggested a koru design instead. Hinge studied at Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts in 1947 and 1948, then worked as a commercial artist at the Farmers Trading Company and advertising agencies. In his spare time he helped illustrate several New Zealand amateur sci-fi publications.

Hinge remained fixated with the US. In 1952, he had applied for a green card to work there. In 1958, he was granted one and left in June. Until he boarded a ship to America, the only place he had visited outside Auckland was Waiheke Island. He enrolled at the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles. Commissions included record covers, fashion layouts for JC Penney and supermarket interiors.

In New York from 1966, Hinge worked in advertising agencies as an art director and designer. His designs for typefaces and graphics won him several awards and were exhibited, including a show at the Brooklyn Museum. A book about his art, The Mike Hinge Experience, was published in 1973, and his work featured in the anthology The New Visions, in 1982.

Hinge returned home only once. In 1984, his brother Noel, who had won $333,000 in Lotto's predecessor Golden Kiwi, paid for the trip and bought him a house in Orewa. But Hinge found the pace too slow and advertising agencies would not hire him. He returned to New York the following year and resumed work as a freelance illustrator. His last professional work was the cover of Amazing Stories in 1993.

Hinge was based in Philadelphia for the past 10 years. He never married, fearing he couldn't support a family as a freelance artist.He lived alone and friends became concerned after they had not seen him for several days. Police broke into his apartment and found his body. He had died of a heart attack, most likely about a week earlier, around his 72nd birthday. His ashes were interred in Auckland.

 -- By
Tom Cardy. Sources: N Hinge, N Rowe, S Meschkow, Locus Online, The Mike Hinge Experience by James Steranko.


  1. I loved his work--especially of my stories. Wish I'd known him!

    1. Hi Gregory, Thanks for the comment. I wish I had known Mike as well. He had such an interesting life it would make an interesting movie.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi - Do you know who deals with licensing rights for Mikes work? Or is there anyone you know that I could get in contact with who might know about this?

    1. Hi Mike, The lady you need to speak with is Jane Frank at World of Wonder, she's the authorised agent of Mike's estate.

      I'm interested to know what project you might have in mind.

      All the best Ivan.

    2. Hi Ivan. Many thanks for the info. I am trying to get permission for cover art on a vinyl record. The music itself is very retrospective with a sci-fi edge. It would be incredible to use one of Mikes incredible works of art. I have sent an email but I get the feeling it's going to be a long shot. I had to at least try. Many thanks again for the info. Much appreciated. M.

    3. Ticks all the boxes for me; vinyl record, sci-fi edge music, Mike Hinge cover! Sounds like it will be amazing, I look forward to the outcome. Good luck. All the best Ivan.

  4. I'm interested to read about Jane Frank, Mike was my Auncle and his brother,
    Which of course is my Father is very much alive!