Thursday, May 13, 2010
RIP Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta died on May 10, 2010 at the age of 82.
Everyone dies. It's just a fact of life we all have to deal with sooner or later. Friends, loved ones, heroes.
I never met Frank Frazetta. I have no genuine, emotional tie to the man. Still, his passing makes me sad.
When I was a young teenager, I discovered the wonderful world of Conan the Barbarian paperbacks. Now, of course, those were written by Robert E. Howard (and heavily revised and altered by L. Sprague DeCamp) but -by virtue of their cover paintings- they were inextricably linked to the art of Frank Frazetta. Nearly all the books had covers by Frazetta. The rest had covers by Boris Valejo. I quickly became a connossieur of the Frazetta paintings. They had it all, anatomy, action, composition, and a raw, visceral quality that screamed "this IS battle".
Look at that horse! This whole piece is pure battle-madness!
The influence Mr. Frazetta had on the world of fantasy art is impossible to calculate. Inspired by the film "The Vikings" starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine, Frazetta eschewed a more historical look for his characters' costumes and went in a more theatrical direction, showing as much raw muscle as possible, but without the over-developed, body-builder look of his later imitators.
Frazetta's popularity may have been its own curse in some ways. The very raw qualities that made Howard's work ideal for Conan also appealed to the heavy metal and Southern rock crowd. Today, one of Frazetta's most iconic paintings "The Death Dealer"
Note the town on fire in the background and the vultures circling overhead.
is most commonly associated with the album covers of Molly Hatchet and with the juvenile, fantasy gore-fest comic "Death Dealer" produced by Glen Danzig.
I'm no longer a 14-year-old boy, wasting away a summer afternoon with a paperback. But, in a very real way, those painting by Frank Frazetta will always be a part of me. and I am saddened by his absense in my future.
As to comics- the subject of this blog- Frank Frazetta did TONS of comic book work in the 1940's and 1950's,
Walt Kelly and Carl Barks are lucky Frank discovered fantasy.
Most famously, Frazetta did The Shining Knight for DC. Clearly, at this stage of his development he was heavily influenced (like EVERYONE else) by Hal Foster's Prince Valliant.
Still, hints of his later work are there.
What other romance comic EVER looked like this??
These two Tarzan paintings are among my current favorite Frazetta pieces:
Chimps ARE scary. It's just a matter of context. And those tree shadows! I would kill to paint like that!
You can feel the gravity. AND the distance. The composition in this one just blows me away.