Illustration Showcase – The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham

Today I am very excited to be featuring some of the amazing artwork from A.R. Witham’s debut novel: The Legend of Black Jack. This is a fantastic fantasy adventure story which I reviewed here.


Prize: One US audiobook code for The Legend of Black Jack!
To enter: Follow me @SueBavey and @ARWitham on Twitter and comment “Me please!” on this blog post to be in for a chance!
The draw for the lucky winner will take place on July 4th 2022. Good Luck!

Jack Swift can tell you every element on the periodic table, recite Treasure Island verbatim, and would remember in perfect detail every word you’d ever say to him. He has been alone for a long time, so he has buried himself in books, using them to plan his escape.

But no textbook could ever prepare him for the land of Keymark.

At 3:33 a.m. on his fourteenth birthday, Jack is kidnapped by a hideous monster to another sphere of existence. Now there are two moons in the sky, and he is surrounded by grotesque creatures and magical warriors training for battle. They want the impossible: Jack must use his abilities to save a life or be trapped in this bizarre world with no chance of rescue.

Jack doesn’t have secret magic, a great destiny, or any experience.

So why do they all expect him to become a legend?

The Legend of Black Jack contains 20 full-page illustrations and has been described as classic portal fantasy, a standalone coming-of-age adventure, and a descriptive, wholesome, heartwarming story. It features a smart, empathetic hero, lovable characters, loads of action, and a thrilling grand finale.

On the book’s cover, you will find a small keyhole. If you choose to unlock it, nothing can prepare you for the adventure that comes next.

Welcome to Keymark—don’t forget your map.

Amazon US | goodreads | Audible

Benjamin’s Map of Keymark

About the Illustrator – Turner Mohan

I am a fantasy illustrator living and working in NYC.
I work mostly in pencil and pen, but have been trying to get into watercolor as well.
(I also make medieval armor, in case anyone’s interested :) )

Come take a look, leave a comment. I’ll be happy to hear from you:

Contact me:

Here are the amazing illustrations followed by A. R. Witham’s explanations for each of them:


You know those leather-bound journals with the lock on the cover?  That’s what I wanted for the cover of the book.  An armored tome with silver clasps like something from the library of Doctor Strange.  Something that felt private and mysterious that contained something so dangerous it had to be kept under lock and key.  

Monster in the Streetlamp

This is where it all started.  The image of a rhino in a filthy alleyway with broken windows, flickering lights and cracked pavement beneath its massive hands.  I wanted something monstrous and wonderful, something I’d never seen before, as our introduction to a world just beyond our reality.  


After all the chaos that launches the story, I wanted a moment of peace and beauty, something where you could hear the warm wind whispering through the trees and the ocean waves in the distance.  It’s easy to love Keymark and the people who make it home, and I wanted to give the readers something to inspire their imagination.

Just A Boy

This is the crux of the entire first act.  Jack Swift is completely out of his depth. I love that all the equipment, the gloves, the mask, the shirt, all of it is too big for him.  It sums up Jack’s predicament entirely: too much too soon.   And that look on his face is priceless.

Venture Brigand

James Turner Mohan came up with the idea of the belly turret when we were talking about vehicles other than catamarans that we could reference and he brought up the design of the B-52 bomber.  We decided it could be a pilot cabin with a deckwheel during lousy weather, and a way to descend on smaller ships from above.


A little touch of horror goes a long way, and the kekubi, based in Japanese myth, were a great jumping off point.  The idea of watchmen posted along the roads was something I needed, and the idea of zombies that would rip off their heads and embed them at crossroads as spies struck me as an idea I hadn’t seen before.


I love Django, Li-Bao and Chance, and I needed them to have their own art.  We intentionally avoided human faces in the art to let readers develop their own idea of what everyone looked like, but the Trio was a perfect opportunity to let loose.  Chance is designed around an African serval cat, and looking at this image, I want to take him home and feed him tuna.


The Citadel Akkadian is all based around the idea of a circular staircase that goes up forever and it was impossible to pass up the opportunity to show the ultimate moment of vertigo at the top.  Li-Bao makes a bold decision.  Freezing that moment he jumps is the thrilling image I was hoping for.

Coming of Age

This is the moment the entire story has been leading to.  Jack is faced with a decision about which path he wants to take, and the choice is his alone.  Valerian, his adopted father figure, stands silent, knowing that there is nothing he can say to help.  This scene is the heart of Jack’s story, and the decision of what kind of man he will become.

Knight of the Burning Tower

This one always struck me as special.  The scarlet samurai stands overlooking Highyon Garde, separate from his army, alone.  In the story, it is a particularly cold and hollow moment, and I love the juxtaposition of the image of a perfect, beautiful hero counterbalanced against the desperation and despair going on inside that helmet.


It was intentional for the art in the book to have an ancient parchment feel to lend texture and history to the illustrations.  However, the Crownéd Dæmon Chulurath is best left to our imagination, and hiding his flaming body behind the wall of blue ice in Steeplechase was too good an opportunity to pass up.  It is the shadow that haunts your dreams, and it is coming for you.

About the Author

A. R. Witham is a three-time Emmy-winning writer-producer and a great lover of adventure. He is the world’s foremost expert on the history of Keymark. He loves to talk with young people and adults who remember what young people know. He has written for film and television, canoed to the Arctic Circle, hiked the Appalachian Trail, and been inside his house while it burned down. He lives in Indianapolis.

The Legend of Black Jack prequel, Noble Seven (the story of how the Border Knights came to Keymark) is available free at

5 thoughts on “Illustration Showcase – The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham

  1. Pingback: SPAAW – Self-Published Middle Grade Fantasy Recommendations | Sue's Musings

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