Memoriam: Frank Kelly Freas
4am Sunday, January 2nd, 2005, the world of Science Fiction
lost one of its all-time legends with the passing of legendary
artist Frank Kelly Freas (pronounced freeze). A leading
Science Fiction artist since the early 1950s, Freas’
style was immediately recognizable and nearly omni-present.
of wonder within his head...and his brush.
started out painting bomber noses (a passion that he attempted
to rekindle in his final years, searching for a private
bomber owner who might be interested in using one of his
designs). Around 1950, his art began to appear on book and
magazine covers. It’s difficult to accurately estimate
the number of covers he painted, but it is certainly greater
than several hundred, and possibly more than a thousand.
Among these were a few of the most well-remembered covers
of Analog. He also painted the covers of the 1970s Laser
series of books, all 58 of them. While the books were seldom
anything of note, many of the covers were classics. He also
painted covers for several of the books in the GURPS gaming
For most Fanboy Planet readers, his most
memorable achievement might be Alfred E. Neuman for MAD
magazine. A personal favorite of publisher William Gaines,
he painted covers from 1955 to 1962, several of which are
among the most valuable issues of MAD. He also painted the
cover for DC’s 1982 Star Trek Annual.
In addition to the obvious works, Kelly
did many pieces for many diverse groups. He painted more
than five hundred Saints for The Franciscans, the Skylab
I patch for NASA, and did medical illustration. An adaptation
of one of his most famous covers for Analog was used for
Queen’s album News of the World. The same image, of
a Robot holding a man in its hand, was used in an exhibit
on robotics that toured the USA. His work can be seen in
the Smithsonian at the Air & Space Museum, in the collection
of the Computer History Museum and the Science Fiction Museum
and Hall of Fame in Seattle, in the private collections
of many science fiction authors and several filmmakers.
won eleven Hugo Awards for Best Professional Artist, including
a streak of five in a row, a record for the category. In
addition, he won the Frank R. Paul Award, The Skylark, several
Chesleys and a myriad of other awards that cluttered up
his living room. His influence on three generations of artists
is quite evident, especially in recent artists such as Hugo
winner Frank Wu.
in there may be an actual alien spacecraft.
Frank Kelly Freas’ influence on my
being a part of Science Fiction Fandom is huge. Somewhere,
there’s a picture of baby Christopher Garcia, baby
Chris’ Mom and Dad and Mr. Freas from the first North
American Science Fiction Convention in 1975. The first science
fiction book I ever read on my own was Phillip Jose Farmer’s
A Woman a Day with a Freas cover featuring a naked woman
on an examining table. One of his 1971 Analog covers was
the first issue I ever bought used, starting my collection
that has grown to several hundred.
One of my great pleasures was to get to
spend several hours with Kelly at Silicon in 2002. He presented
a fine slide show and then Kelly, his wife Laura, myself
and a couple of other friends enjoyed dinner with them.
He told some great stories of the old days and of WorldCons
and the work he did over the years. And he told all the
stories while wearing an original prop jacket from Battlestar
Kelly Freas was 82.