100 Illustrators that all Illustrators should know: #59
Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)
Famous for: Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, Sword and Sorcery, Fantasy and Science-Fiction illustration, Comics, Paperback Novel covers, LP covers
Influenced: William Stout, Dave Stevens, Jeff Jones, Bernie Wrightson, Michael Kaluta, Barry Windsor-Smith, Capcom, Nintendo, John Buscema, Mark Schultz, Ken Kelly, Boris Vallejo, Justin Sweet, Brad Rigney, Richard Corben, Mike Mignola, Roy Krenkel, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, Shane Glines, John Kricfalusi, Arthur Suydam, Paul Bonner, Simon Bisley, Claire Wendling, Bruce Timm, Frank Miller, Frank Cho, Adam Hughes, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo Del Toro, Alan Lee, John Howe, the Hildebrandt Brothers, Joe Jusko, Marc Silvestri, Michael Whelan, Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Comic art (and the genres themselves) as a whole, Illustration as a whole
Influenced by: Howard Pyle, Gustave Doré, Franklin Booth, Willy Pogany, Zedenek Burian, Wally Wood, Roy Krenkel, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, J. Allen St. John, Norman Lindsey, Heinrich Kley, N.C. Wyeth, Hal Foster, Frederic Remington
Born Frazzetta (he would later remove one ‘Z’) in 1928 in Brooklyn, Frank Frazetta was a renowned American illustrator of Science Fiction, Fantasy and comics. Encouraged in his art-making from an early age by his grandmother, Frank was what many may consider a child prodigy, and attended the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts at the young age of 8; a place Frazetta says he learned more from his friends there as opposed to his professor, Michel Falanga. Frazetta broke into the comics industry at age 16, inking interior pages of humor and gag comics in the mid and early 40s, later working in genres such as western, fantasy, mystery and horror. By the early 1950s, Frank started working for EC comics, among other publications, often collaborating with friends and mentors such as Roy Krenkel and Al Williamson. In 1964, Frazetta would create one of his breakout illustrations; a caricature of Beatles member, Ringo Starr for an ad in Mad Magazine. This illustration caught the eye of United Artists, and was approached for several movie posters during this time. However, his most iconic paintings were done for another big market of the time; Paperback novel covers. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, Frazetta painted a slew of masterpiece covers for stories such as Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars and Tarzan, the likes of which revitalized the entire fantasy genre of illustration and storytelling. During this time, he’d also contribute to Warren’s publications such as Eerie, Creepy, Blazing Combat and Vampirella. Some of his iconic pieces, The Death Dealer, Dark Kingdom, and The Brain were repurposed for album covers in the late 70s for bands such as Molly Hatchet and Nazareth. In the early 80s, Frazetta also collaborated with experimental and underground animator Ralph Bakshi for an animated feature called Fire and Ice. Frazetta was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1995, the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999, The Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1998, and was named Spectrum Fantastic Art’s first Grand Master in 1995.
Besides Rockwell, Frazetta is among the most prolific and iconic illustrators to ever live and is perhaps the most widely cited specific artist influence in the entire illustration and comic industry. He reinvented the entire fantasy art scene and became an inspiration for newcomers to break into the field and has left an unmistakable mark on pop culture as a whole as a result, influencing properties such as Star Wars to the Legend of Zelda and everything in between. Frazetta passed away at the age of 82 at his home in Florida and his works have been since purchased by collectors or reside in the Frazetta Museum in East Stroudsburg, PA, of which I highly recommend a visit.
One of the oddities of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars is that everyone lives for a thousand years or more and are young almost all that time. So Dejah Thoris, her father Mors Kajak and her grandfather Tardos Mors should look like they’re the exact same age. Artists, though, make Tardos Mors much older, which is visual shorthand that works but robs this idea of its novelty.
I was this kid (well, maybe with a better haircut), and the Barsoom stories did this to me. Jusko did a beautiful tribute to what it was to have your mind blown as a young fan by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and for that I thank him.