December 11, 2009

Golden Age Artist Spotlight - Frank Frazetta

Frazetta came to mind today for all the wrong reasons.  His son actually used a backhoe to bust into the museum holding Frank's artwork and made off with $20 million dollars worth of original paintings.  More information about the break-in here.  It's always sad to see family squabbling about inheritances make it into the public forum, even worse when it involves felonies.  As covered in the excellent documentary, Frank Frazetta: Painting With Fire, trailer provided below, Frazetta had a very close relationship with his wife (and business manager), and with her passing due to cancer in July of this year, the glue that held the family together might have dissipated beyond easy repair.

The fact that there are paintings worth tens of millions of dollars reveals a lot of Frazetta's mainstream success.  Comic books were just an early part of his success, his breaking-in phase.  Frazetta went on to become one of the most well-known fantasy artists of the twentieth century, illustrating beautiful painted book covers (famously for Robert E. Howard's "Conan" and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and John Carter), album covers (for bands like Molly Hatchet and Nazareth), movie posters (including What's New, Pussycat, Mad Max, The Guantlet, and his cinematic collaboration with Ralph Bakshi, Fire and Ice), and comic strips, including Al Capp's Lil' Abner, Dan Barry's Flash Gordon, and Harvey Kurtzman's Little Annie Fanny in Playboy magazine. 

Again, as heavily covered in the documentary, Frazetta was bigger than life.  He was, and still is, tough as nails.  This is a man, who after suffering a stroke and losing the ability to draw with his right hand, taught himself to draw with his left and continued to produce world-class art work.  His kinetic, photo-realistic drawings of the human form grounded the often-far-flung fantasy genre, which in combination with the heightened availability of mass market paperbacks featuring his artwork, paved the way for an entire subgenre of art, allowing artists like Simon Bisley, Boris Vallejo, Jeff Jones and others to find success.   Frazetta is a true American original, in a way that the simple, overused label cannot understate.

The trailer from Frank Frazetta:  Painting with Fire, which plays occasionally on the movie channel IFC and is available on DVD:

While his comic book cover art isn't voluminous, it is memorable.  I remember buying my first Famous Funnies Frazetta book, and spending time looking at every time I set up at a comic convention.  I have tried, and often failed, to purchase Frazetta-covered magazines from Jim Warren's stable of seventies classics, including Creepy and Eerie.  In attempting this exercise, it's amazing to note how few "so-so" covers there are.  I could put up virtually his entire comic book cover catalogue....


UPDATE:  5/11/10

The news regarding Frazetta's death hit the wires yesterday.   Frazetta passed away at the age of 82.   I was never very good at obituary-writing, but suffice to say that Frazetta was an artistic influence that cannot be overestimated.   His work redefined several genres, including comics, paperbacks, and sword-and-sorcery, among others.  

Here is a re-published interview with Gary Groth at The Comics Journal (originally conducted in 1994).   It shows great insights into the man:  Frank Frazetta Interview.



  1. Did you know that Al Capp was from New Haven and your grandmother and grandfather knew him. Interesting blog

  2. I all the time educated this site post page to every one of my amigos, in light of the way that if like to examine it then my associates will likewise.
    Mobile service center franchise