artist of the 20th Century.
are a few names in the history of science fiction art that
stand out. Hannes Bok, Frank R. Paul, Kelly Freas and Ed
Emsh, four legends of the first 30 years of science fiction
illustration, may be the first that come to mind to a hardcore
fan, but the one whose work the average man in the street
would recognize is Frank Frazetta.
created thousands of drawings and paintings for magazines,
books and even movie posters. The man inspired a generation
of artists that followed him and influenced the look of
High Fantasy in every conceivable way. He died on Monday
at the age of 82.
actually got his start doing art for comics. He worked for
EC and the company that would become DC, did a bunch of
westerns and a few hero (including The Shining Knight)
and horror comics. (Within the last few years, several
comics based on his paintings have been produced,
bringing it all full circle.) There are various pieces
that could have been his, but aren’t 100% attributed.
best stuff he did in that period were covers for Famous
Funnies featuring Buck Rogers. He was also active in
comic strips, assisting Al Capp on L’il Abner
and working on Flash Gordon before drawing his
own comic Johnny Comet. These were far from what
he’d be remembered for, but they were amazingly good
bits. He would later do Little Annie Fanny for
Harvey Kurtzman in Playboy. The 1950s and 60 saw
him as probably the single biggest rising star in the game.
was also the king of the paperback cover. Starting in the
late 50s, Frazetta paintings could be found on hundreds
of books, most importantly on the Conan novels of Robert
E. Howard. It’s been said by many that Frazetta’s
covers defined the modern conception of Conan nearly as
much as the writing of Howard himself. The visual language
of John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian feature
owed a great deal to the art of Frank Frazetta.(and
thus, perhaps, so do California politics...ed.)
painting of Conan the Conqueror.
His covers were legendary, and often they
were exhibited in museums around the world. Frazetta very
smartly held on to the original paintings for the Conan
covers and eventually established his own private museum,
refusing to sell any of them until 2009, when he sold one
for a million dollars to a private collector. He has work
in the permanent collection of several major collecting
did covers for albums, including two for Molly Hatchet,
Dust and Nazareth. He did many movie posters, starting with
What’s New, Pussycat?. My favorite of his
posters was The Night They Raided Minsky’s.
He would work in movies, including producing Fire and
Ice with Ralph Bakshi. He did a few other films, typically
having some influence on the process, but more just doing
years, after a stroke that led him to change his drawing/painting
hand, he went into semi-retirement. His children took over
running the handling of the collection, which led to a disagreement
with son Alfonso over the misappropriation of about 90 paintings,
including several of the Conan paintings. This led to a
couple of lawsuits and ended up with the authorities involved
after a break-in at Frazetta's museum. Last month, the Frazetta
children and their father settled the matter.
say that you can measure the importance of an artist by
the influence they have had on others. The most obvious
influence Frazetta had was on another legend of fantasy
and science fiction illustration: Boris Vallejo. Look at
the posters for National Lampoon’s Vacation
and European Vacation and you can see the obvious
influence. The lead artist for the Legend of Zelda series
of games, Yusuke Nakano, has cited Frazetta as one of his
biggest inspirations. You can even see his influence in
the works of comics inker Jimmy Palmiotti and sports artist
was one of the most lauded artists in the history of comics
and science fiction. He won the Hugo Award for Best Professional
Artist in 1966, and was nominated 5 more times between 1964
and 2004. He was three Chesley Awards, the awards given
by the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists.
He was named a Spectrum Grand Master of Fantastic Art and
was granted the Lifetime Achievement Award by the World
Fantasy Convention in 2001.
Sadly, he hasn’t yet been
inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, but he’ll
be in sooner than later
that's a simple aeroscayphe...
are dozens of images that you can point to as examples of
Frazetta’s genius, but my favorite is a cover he did
for a book by Richard Lupoff called Into The Aether.
cover shows a rather simple aeroscayphe rolling down a hill.
It’s a piece any number of artists could have done
a great job with. Somehow, without going way over the top,
Frazetta managed to completely make the image his own.
could tell instantly that it was a Frazetta, but you could
also see that he hadn’t pushed it too far. He went
to the exact edge and there he stopped before going over.
It’s rare that an artist knows whenever to stop for
it to be exactly right, and Frank had that ability.