Report From The Universe – A Springbok Puzzle I Once Had

I’m three years into my space art exploration, and I often find myself wondering where this fascination began in my past. It’s not an unusual stretch of imagination for those that know me personally, as I’ve always been a space and science fiction fan going back as far as I can remember. I came into this world just in time to witness the first moon landing. Space TV shows were all over the few channels any of us could access through the air.

But space painting and art? As much as I loved space and science fiction, I also loved to draw. A lot. I drew on anything and everything, often to the point of annoyance to my parents and teachers. Maybe my friends got tired of it too, who knows.

It was clear I loved this stuff, so at some point before I was say, ten years old, I was given this puzzle as a gift. A kid’s puzzle by Springbok, which featured a somewhat generic spacey scene. I don’t recall if this was a Christmas or birthday gift, but I remember it was in a pile of stuff that would normally be chucked over the shoulder like a cleverly wrapped pair of socks – which leads me to think it was a Christmas gift. But the picture was cool. It was unlike anything I’d seen at the time. It wasn’t from Star Trek, or Lost in Space, nor was it a scene from the Apollo moon landings. It was different, and I liked it.

I must’ve sat and built this puzzle a dozen times over the years. In those rare, slow moments I’d pull it out and let the scene unfold on the table. The pieces were huge, making it a quick build as puzzles go. And it seemed to tell a story. A story that made me wonder “what happens next?” The left side depicted a Chesley Bonnestell inspired moon scene, recently discovered by a human mission. The humans had a saucer-shaped spacecraft like something out of Forbidden Planet or Lost in Space. We see the reactions of two explorers who’ve crossed the mountains, to see a lush green and very alien city, impossibly placed in what should be an absolute vacuum.

Over the years, and after many builds, I lost the box. The pieces ended up in a brown paper grocery bag stuck on the game and puzzle shelf in the basement. I’d still pull it out occasionally but as the years wore on it became forgotten. Eventually it was lost, probably during one of the basement floods that struck our house over the years. A lot of fun things were lost along the way, and this was one of them.

I probably hadn’t thought about this puzzle until I started thinking about space art again. And then the memory of this puzzle rushed back to me. I had this great scene, what happened to it? Who painted it?

Once those thoughts start forming, I knew I had to find it. With the power of the internet, I was sure to find it. Someone had to have some record of this puzzle. If it was a gift, it had to be out there in relatively large numbers or else this kid in mid-Michigan wouldn’t have it land in his lap.

Turns out that search wasn’t so easy. I didn’t remember the name of the puzzle, and had no idea who published the thing. I didn’t know who painted it. This made the search very hard. I Googled every permutation I could think of – I even tried Bing, the last hope for finding the unfound on the internet. Okay, that might be DuckDuckGo, but nothing turned up. I tried eBay, Pinterest, deep searches into space artists over the years. Nothing. At this point any sane, rational person would’ve given up on this colossal waste of time, but dammit I had to know where this came from.

Last week, after nearly three years of casually looking in the wee hours of the morning or being annoyed by Facebook, I finally found it on eBay. I had a bit of cash in the PayPal account so I bid, and won the puzzle.

Box_WithPuzzle

It was smaller than I’d remembered, but then I was smaller back when I owned it. Produced by Springbok, one of the biggest puzzle makers known to mankind, the box even had a back story of sorts. I’d forgotten about the back story, having lost the box early on. It was fun to see it again, after a quick build on the dining room table.

Box_Back

Curiously, there’s no artist signature on the painting. It’s possible it was cropped out for the production. During my search, I thought perhaps it was the work of one of the more well known space artists like Vincent DiFate, Paul Lehr, Dean Ellis, Bob McCall. Each artist had a similar style, but the image never really turned up in a search.

BoxCover_Report_From_The_Universe_Puzzle_sml

Looking at it now, I can see bits of John Berkey’s brush strokes and style in the image – especially the space suits and faces. In the late 60’s, early 70’s Berkey’s work was less impressionistic, and he was a prolific illustrator. Hard to say.

If you have any ideas of your own, drop me a line. Here’s a very large photo of the fully-built puzzle if you want to look closely at the art:

Report_From_The_Universe_SpringbokPuzzle

2 comments on “Report From The Universe – A Springbok Puzzle I Once HadAdd yours →

  1. I’m afraid I can’t help you ID the artist (your guesses are as good as–if not better than–mine), but I just wanted to say that I instantly recognized the scene on the thumbnail. I still have my copy of that puzzle… it’s been a favorite of mine since I was about 8 or so when I got it. Way back then, I also wondered about the story being told both visually and with the tantalizing ‘communique’ text on the back of the box. (Around that time, I also got a ‘puzzle in a can’ of a space battle, featuring red alien ships strafing what appeared to be an Earth outpost, with a large blue gas giant making up most of the background. Not quite the same style as the ‘Report from the Universe’ artist, but equally as important to my then young, pre-Star Wars developing interest in SF.)
    Thanks for posting the pics! NIce to know I’m not the only one who remembers that puzzle with such fondness.

    1. Thank you! It’s still a mystery to me who painted it but I have my suspicions that it’s an unmarked John Berkey or perhaps Paul Lehr. The paint strokes are very similar to Berkey, who also painted astronauts in a very similar manner in some of his other works. Before Berkey became a well-known science fiction artist he worked as an illustrator for calendars and magazines, quite possibly as a line artist. I’ll be sure to post an update if I ever find a positive ID on the artist.

      Cheers!

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