Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy 86th Birthday Frank Frazetta!

Frank Frazetta is one of the greatest practitioners of the comic arts to have ever lived. His stunning draftsmanship is so perfect as to almost look inhuman. In all of his work, no matter the genre, from funny animal to romance, there is this barbarian aesthetic that peeks it’s head which eventually manifested itself into a career of illustrating Conan paperbacks and other barbarian paintings which were so revered that they spurred a whole genre of painting all it’s own.

Frank Frazetta
(February 9, 1928 – May 10, 2010)
A giant of the Golden Age of Comics!

Even in Frazetta’s earliest work, the Snowman (1944), you can see Frazetta’s incredible ability to draw the figure, as well as seeing his lifelong interest in depicting barbarians.

Frazetta went on to draw such strips as White Indian and the Shining Knight for DC Comics. Though you can see Frazetta’s incredible talent in these works, he is much more tame and restrained in these early comics. You can see a lot of Hal Foster in them.

Frazetta really hit his stride when he did Thunda, the only comic he drew from cover to cover. Thunda featured a jet pilot that finds himself in a primitive land of dinosaurs and cavemen. It also features some of Frazetta’s most stunning draftsmanship really showing off what he is capable of doing with ink on paper.

The detail found in these pages is just breathtaking. When you consider what it took to do the brush work on the monkey men's faces for this page from Thunda (1952), you get an idea about the amount of intentionality and accuracy in Frazetta's brushwork.
In 1953 Frazetta did a series of strips for Personal Love, a romance comic. In these strips Frazetta makes each panel so stunning that each one is frame-worthy. Though it is a romance comic, Frazetta’s love of strong, handsome men and voluptuous woman really comes out. The figures that Frazetta populates these ‘modern’ settings seem less modern and more primeval, betraying his love all things barbarian. He even slips in a few barbarian sculptures in the d├ęcor of one of his apartments.

In order from upper left, Untamed Love from Personal Love #52, 1954, Too Late for Love from Personal Love #25 1954, Empty Heart from Personal Love #28, 1953, and Wrong Road from Personal Love #27 1953.
At this time Frazetta also did an outstanding piece that happened to be the only piece he would do for EC Comics, Squeeze Play

In Squeeze Play Frazetta would use photo references such as the picture shown here of himself that he used as reference for panel 1.
Though, as stupendous as Frazetta’s comic work is, what he is most known for is his illustration work. In 1966 he was asked to do a painting for the cover of a new paperback, Conan the Adventurer! This illustration was so well received that it spurred on many more cover illustrations.

They would lead him on to do many more paintings for paperback collections and other commissions. They became so well loved that you could say that Frazetta basically created a new genre of illustration all by himself.

The paintings from upper left, Death Dealer, The Silver Warrior (1972), The Destroyer (1971), and Dark Kingdom (1976). The Destroyer sold for a huge $1.5 million dollars just two months after Frazetta's death in 2010.

Frazetta's work inspired numerous imitators in comics and illustration such as the comic artists Bernie Wrightson and Jeff Jones as well as the fantasy illustrator Boris Vallejo and Joe Jusko.
From the upper left, Bernie Wrightson, Jeffery Jones, Boris Vallejo, and Joe Jusko
Frank Frazetta is a 20th century phenomenon who’s influence went way beyond his chosen field of work.

Frank Frazetta's first comic work The Snowman in Tally-Ho

Frank Frazetta's Personal Love comics

Frank Frazetta's Squeeze Play

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