The terrifying cover art for Queen’s sixth album, 1977’s News of the World, is an adaptation of a painting by science fiction illustrator Frank Kelly Freas.
Originally designed for an October 1953 issue of the comic book “Astounding”, it features the robot holding the dead body of a man, and captioned, “Please… fix it, Daddy?” to illustrate the story The Gulf Between by Tom Godwin. The robot killing the man was likened to a child injuring a bug and looking up at his parents saying “what have I done?”
A science fiction artist with an awe-inspiring body of work, Frank Kelly Freas was involved in the science fiction field from 1950 until his death in 2005. He painted everything from pieces for NASA, book covers, magazine covers, buxom beauties, nose art on fighter planes, even Mad Magazine’s Alfred E Newman, as well as the covers for the GURPS books for Lensman and Planet Krishna. He won numerous awards, and was often hailed of “The Dean of Science Fiction Artists.”
Drummer Roger Taylor, a huge fan of science fiction, had the comic book and shared the image with his band mates who were similarly inspired. They contacted Freas and he agreed to alter it for their cover of News of the World.
The figures in the original painting were cleverly replaced with Queen band members. Freddy Mercury and Brian May were put into the robot’s hand, while John Deacon and Taylor were falling to the ground. You can only see Taylor on the back cover.
The LP inner gatefold image is the same robot reaching into the dome while crowds of panic stricken people run for their lives. The inside cover was also used to promote the band’s North American tour of 1977.
It’s one of rock’s great and most identifiable album covers, and has become something of a pop-art curio, even featured heavily in an episode of Family Guy. News of the World is one of the band’s most satisfying albums, and contains definitive Queen stadium-filling stompers like We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, as well as the blistering heavy rock of Sheer Heart Attack.
There is also campy crooning (My Melancholy Blues), bluesy shuffles (Sleeping on the Sidewalk), breezy Latin rhythms (Who Needs You), neo-disco (Fight From the Inside), and mechanical funk (Get Down, Make Love) which the band would explore fully on subsequent albums such as Jazz (1978), The Game (1980), and the unfairly maligned Hot Space (1982). Best of all though is the majestic and underrated Queen classic, It’s Late.