Frank Frazetta self-portrait (1962)
Frank A. Frazzetta
February 9, 1928
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||May 10, 2010 (aged 82)|
Fort Myers, Florida, U.S.
|Education||Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts|
|Known for||Illustration, painting, sculpting|
|Awards||Chesley Award (1988, 1995, 1997)|
Hugo Award (1966)
Spectrum Grand Master of Fantastic Art Award (1995)
Frank Frazetta (born Frank Frazzetta //; February 9, 1928 – May 10, 2010) was an American fantasy and science fiction artist, noted for comic books, paperback book covers, paintings, posters, LP record album covers and other media. He is often referred to as the "Godfather" of Fantasy Art, and one of the most renowned illustrators of the 20th century. He was also the subject of a 2003 documentary "Painting with Fire".
Born Frank Frazzetta in Brooklyn, New York City, Frazetta removed one "z" from his last name early in his career to make his name seem less "clumsy". The only boy in a family with three sisters, he spent much time with his grandmother, who began encouraging him in art when he was two years old. In 2010, a month before his death, he recalled that:
When I drew something, she would be the one to say it was wonderful and would give me a penny to keep going. Sometimes I had nothing left to draw on but toilet paper. As I got older, I started drawing some pretty wild things for my age. I remember the teachers were always mesmerized by what I was doing, so it was hard to learn anything from them. So I went to art school when I was a little kid, and even there the teachers were flipping out.
At age eight, Frazetta attended the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts, a small art school run by instructor Michel Falanga. "[H]e didn't teach me anything, really," Frazetta said in 1994. "He'd come and see where I was working, and he might say, 'Very nice, very nice. But perhaps if you did this or that.' But that's about it. We never had any great conversations. He spoke very broken English. He kind of left you on your own. I learned more from my friends there."
In 1944, at age 16, Frazetta, who had "always had this urge to be doing comic books", began working in comics artist Bernard Baily's studio doing pencil clean-ups. His first comic-book work was inking the eight-page story "Snowman", penciled by John Giunta, in the one-shot Tally-Ho Comics (Dec. 1944), published by Swappers Quarterly and Almanac/Baily Publishing Company. It was not standard practice in comic books during this period to provide complete credits, so a comprehensive listing of Frazetta's work is difficult to ascertain. His next confirmed comics works are two signed penciled-and-inked pieces in Prize Comics' Treasure Comics #7 (July 1946): the four-page "To William Penn founder of Philadelphia..." and the single page "Ahoy! Enemy Ship!", featuring his character Capt. Kidd Jr. In a 1991 interview in The Comics Journal, Frazetta credited Graham Ingels as the first one in the comic book industry to recognize his talent, and to give him jobs at Standard Comics in 1947.
Frazetta was soon drawing comic books in many genres, including Westerns, fantasy, mystery, and historical drama. Some of his earliest work was in funny animal comics, which he signed as "Fritz". For Dell's subsidiary company, Famous Funnies, Frazetta did war and human interest stories for Heroic Comics, as well as one pagers extolling the virtues of prayer and the evils of drug abuse. In comics like Personal Love and Movie Love, he did romance and celebrity stories, including a biography of Burt Lancaster.
In the early 1950s, he worked for EC Comics, National Comics (including the superhero feature "Shining Knight"), Avon Comics, and several other comic book companies. Much of his work in comic books was done in collaboration with friend Al Williamson and occasionally his mentor Roy G. Krenkel.
Noticed because of his work on the Buck Rogers covers for Famous Funnies, Frazetta started working with Al Capp on Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner. Frazetta was also producing his own strip, Johnny Comet at this time, as well as assisting Dan Barry on the Flash Gordon daily strip.
In 1961, after nine years with Capp, Frazetta returned to comic books. He also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy magazine.
Hollywood and book covers
In 1964, Frazetta's painting of Beatle Ringo Starr for a Mad magazine ad parody caught the eye of United Artists studios. He was approached to do the movie poster for What's New Pussycat?, and earned the equivalent of his yearly salary in one afternoon. He did several other movie posters.
Frazetta also produced paintings for paperback editions of adventure books. His interpretation of Conan visually redefined the genre of sword and sorcery, and had an enormous influence on succeeding generations of artists. From this point on, Frazetta's work was in great demand. His covers were used for other paperback editions of classic Edgar Rice Burroughs books, such as those from the Tarzan and Barsoom (John Carter of Mars) series. He also did several pen and ink illustrations for many of these books. His cover art only coincidentally matched the storylines inside the books, as Frazetta once explained: "I didn't read any of it... I drew him my way. It was really rugged. And it caught on. I didn't care about what people thought. People who bought the books never complained about it. They probably didn't read them."
After this time, most of Frazetta's work was commercial in nature, including paintings and illustrations for movie posters, book jackets, and calendars. Primarily, these were in oil, but he also worked with watercolor, ink, and pencil alone. Frazetta's work in comics during this time were cover paintings and a few comic stories in black and white for the Warren Publishing horror and war magazines Creepy, Eerie, Blazing Combat and Vampirella.
Once Frazetta secured a reputation, movie studios lured him to work on animated movies. Most, however, would give him participation in name only, with creative control held by others. An advertisement based on his work was animated by Richard Williams in grease pencil and paint and shown in 1978. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with producer Ralph Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice, released in 1983. The realism of the animation and design replicated Frazetta's artwork. Bakshi and Frazetta were heavily involved in the production of the live-action sequences used for the film's rotoscoped animation, from casting sessions to the final shoot. Following the release of the film, Frazetta returned to his roots in painting and pen-and-ink illustrations.
Frazetta's paintings have been used by a number of recording artists as cover art for their albums. Molly Hatchet's first three albums feature "The Death Dealer", "Dark Kingdom", and "Berserker", respectively. Dust's second album, Hard Attack, features "Snow Giants". Nazareth used "The Brain" for its 1977 album Expect No Mercy. The U.S. Army III Corps adopted "The Death Dealer" as its mascot.
Later life and career
In the early 1980s, Frazetta created a gallery, Frazetta's Fantasy Corner, on the upper floors of a former Masonic building at the corner of South Courtland and Washington streets in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The building also housed a Frazetta art museum that displayed both his own work and, in a separate gallery, that of other artists. From 1998 to 1999, Quantum Cat Entertainment published the magazine Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated, with cover art and some illustrations by Frazetta. In his later life, Frazetta was plagued by a variety of health problems, including a thyroid condition that went untreated for many years. A series of strokes left his right arm almost completely paralyzed. He taught himself to paint and draw with his left hand. He was the subject of the 2003 feature documentary Frank Frazetta: Painting With Fire.
By 2009, Frazetta was living on a 67-acre (0.27 km2; 0.105 sq mi) estate in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, with a small museum that is open to the public. On July 17, 2009, his wife and business partner, Eleanor "Ellie" Frazetta, died after a year-long battle with cancer. He then hired Rob Pistella and Steve Ferzoco to handle his business affairs.
Shortly after Ellie Frazetta's passing, in December 2009, Frank Frazetta's eldest son Frank Jr, was arrested on charges of stealing $20 million in paintings from the family museum in a fight over family fortune. According to the police report, Frazetta Jr, with the help of two men, broke through the museum door using a backhoe and took about 90 paintings. According to the affidavit, Frank Jr. told the responding trooper he had permission from the owner, Frank Frazetta Sr....The trooper called the owner, who said he had not given his son permission to either be in the museum or remove paintings from it. At issue was whether Frank Jr. believed he had the authority to remove the paintings from the Frazetta museum. Frazetta Sr.'s youngest son Bill Frazetta testified that the paintings belonged to a corporation called Frazetta Properties LLC, of which he shared management duties with his sisters. "The LLC is owned by Frank Sr. and was formed for estate planning purposes. I am a manager of the LLC. The art was supposed to stay in the museum," Bill Frazetta said. Frank Jr. maintained that he was trying to prevent the paintings from being sold, per the wishes of his father, whom he said had given him power of attorney over his estate. In a March 2010 Pocono Record article, Frank Sr. said he didn't understand why his son thought he had permission to take his paintings. But he doesn't think Frank Jr. was acting in his best interests, as the son has claimed. "No, absolutely not. I don't know what the hell he was doing," Frank Sr. said. The Frazetta family later issued a statement on April 23, 2010, that said, "all of the litigation surrounding his family and his art has been resolved. All of Frank's children will now be working together as a team to promote his ... collection of images....".
His painting Egyptian Queen sold for a world record $5.4 million (£4.2m) on 16 May 2019 at a public auction of vintage comic books and comic art held by Heritage Auctions in Chicago, Illinois.
Frazetta has influenced many artists within the genres of fantasy and science fiction. Filmmaker and creator of Star Wars, George Lucas mentions Frazetta's work in a 1979 article by Alan Arnold stating "I’m a fan of comic art. I collect it. …There are quite a few [contemporary] illustrators in the science-fiction and science-fantasy modes I like very much. I like them because their designs and imaginations are so vivid. Illustrators like Frazetta, Druillet and Moebius are quite sophisticated in their style". In 2018, it was announced that The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be displaying (4) Frazetta originals from Lucas' personal Frazetta collection. The museum is set to open in late 2021 in Los Angeles.
Guillermo del Toro, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker said in a 2010 Los Angeles Times article that Frazetta was nothing less than “an Olympian artist that defined fantasy art for the 20th century.” del Torro went on to say “He gave the world a new pantheon of heroes,.... He somehow created a second narrative layer for every book he ever illustrated.”
Fantasy artist and musician Joseph Vargo cites Frazetta as a primary influence, and his art calendars since 1998 mark Frazetta's birthday. Chris Perna, art director at Epic Games, stated in an interview in 2011 that Frazetta was one of his influences. Other artists influenced by Frazetta include comics artist such as Marc Silvestri and Shelby Robertson.
In early 2012, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez announced plans to remake Bakshi and Frazetta's film Fire and Ice. Sony Pictures acquired the project in late 2014, with Rodriguez set to direct. In 2013 Robert Rodriguez displayed Frank Frazetta's original artworks, on loan from the collections of Holly, Heidi, and Bill Frazetta at the Wizard World Comic Con in Chicago. Robert Rodriguez continued his Frazetta artwork tour by showcasing them at the SXSW event in Austin Texas in both 2014 and 2015.
As of 2013, Holly Frazetta's collection was traveling throughout the U.S. with public showings at comics conventions. She also co-founded Frazetta Girls LLC alongside daughter Sara Frazetta in 2014. The Frazetta Girls company operates as a web store for official Frank Frazetta merchandise, and has a large social media presence for daily postings of Frazetta's work. Since 2014, Frazetta Girls has also collaborated with modern influential brands such as Primitive Skateboarding, Kid Robot,HUF Worldwide, and Mezco Toyz. In March 2020, Holly Frazetta announced the reopening of the Frazetta Art Museum location in Boca Grande, Florida by appointment only, featuring original Conan The Barbarian and Death Dealer works.
List of works
Year and date painted
- Carson of Venus – 1963
- Tales from the Crypt – 1964
- Lost City – 1964
- Land of Terror – 1964
- Reassembled Man – 1964
- Wolfman – 1965
- Conan the Barbarian – 1966
- Conan the Adventurer – 1966
- King Kong – 1966
- Sea Monster – 1966
- Spider Man – 1966
- The Sorcerer – 1966
- Swords of Mars – 1966
- Winged Terror – 1966
- The Brain – 1967
- Bran Mak Morn – 1967
- Cat Girl – 1967
- Conan the Conqueror – 1967
- Conan the Usurper – 1967
- Night Winds – 1967
- Sea Witch – 1967
- Snow Giants – 1967
- Conan the Avenger – 1968
- Rogue Roman – 1968
- Swamp Ogre – 1968
- Egyptian Queen – 1969
- Mongol Tyrant – 1969
- Primitive Beauty / La of Opar – 1969
- Savage World / Young World – 1969
- Vampirella – 1969
- A Princess of Mars – 1970
- Downward to the Earth – 1970
- Eternal Champion – 1970
- The Godmakers – 1970
- Nightstalker – 1970
- Pony Tail – 1970
- The Return of Jongor – 1970
- Sun Goddess – 1970
- Tyrannosaurus Rex – 1970
- Woman with a Scythe – 1970
- Conan the Destroyer – 1971
- Desperation – 1971
- John Carter and the Savage Apes of Mars – 1971
- At the Earth's Core – 1972
- Birdman – 1972
- Creatures of the Night – 1972
- The Silver Warrior – 1972
- Thuvia, Maid of Mars – 1972
- A Fighting Man of Mars – 1973
- Atlantis – 1973
- Black Emperor – 1973
- Black Panther – 1973
- Black Star – 1973
- Conan of Aquilonia – 1973
- The Death Dealer I – 1973
- Flash for Freedom – 1973
- Flying Reptiles – 1973
- Ghoul Queen – 1973
- Gollum – 1973
- The Mammoth – 1973
- Monster Out of Time – 1973
- The Moon Maid – 1973
- Serpent – 1973
- Tanar of Pellucidar – 1973
- Tarzan and the Ant Men – 1973
- Tree of Death – 1973
- Barbarian – 1974
- Flashman on the Charge – 1974
- Invaders – 1974
- Madame Derringer – 1974
- The Mucker – 1974
- Paradox – 1975
- Dark Kingdom – 1976
- Bloodstone – 1975
- Darkness at Times Edge – 1976
- The Eighth Wonder / King Kong and Snake – 1976
- Fire Demon – 1976
- Queen Kong – 1976
- Golden Girl – 1977
- Castle of Sin / Arthur Rex- 1978
- The Cave Demon – 1978
- Kane on the Golden Sea – 1978
- Sound – 1979
- Witherwing – 1979
- The Sacrifice – 1980
- Las Vegas – 1980
- Seven Romans – 1980
- Fire and Ice – 1982
- Geisha – 1983
- The Disagreement – 1986
- Victorious – 1986
- Predators – 1987
- The Death Dealer II – 1987
- The Death Dealer III – 1987
- The Death Dealer IV – 1987
- The Death Dealer V – 1989
- Cat Girl II – 1990
- The Countess and the Greenman – 1991
- Dawn Attack – 1991
- The Moons Rapture / Catwalk – 1994
- Beauty and the Beast – 1995
- Shi – 1995
- The Sorceress – 1995
- The Death Dealer VI – 1996
- From Dusk till Dawn – 1996
Source unless otherwise noted:
- What's New Pussycat? (1965)
- The Secret of My Success (1965)
- After the Fox (1966)
- Hotel Paradiso (1966)
- The Busy Body (1967)
- The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)
- Who's Minding the Mint? (1967)
- Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)
- Mad Monster Party (1969)
- The Night They Raided Minsky's (1969)
- Mrs. Pollifax-Spy (1971)
- Luana (1973)
- Mixed Company(1974)
- The Gauntlet (1977)
- Fire and Ice (1983)
- "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VQSH-J36 : accessed 25 Feb 2013), Frank A Frazetta, 10 May 2010; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
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- Playboy's Little Annie Fanny Vol. 1 (November 2000) and Vol. 2 (September 2001), Dark Horse Comics
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- "Facsimile copy" (PDF). www.legacybookspress.com. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
- "The Force was strong in LA as 'Star Wars' creator George Lucas launched his Narrative Art museum". March 14, 2018.
- "The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art". www.lucasmuseum.org.
- "George Lucas's Museum of Narrative Art Hires the Met's Education Department Whiz as Its New Director". artnet News. October 30, 2019.
- "Portrait of Nintendo's illustrator". Zelda Universe (official site, Legend of Zelda series). Originally published as "Inside Zelda, Part 3" in Nintendo Power Magazine. 2005. Archived from the original on May 2, 2010.
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- on YouTube
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- "Creating a Graphic Novel : Art – Food – Photography: Shelby Robertson". October 28, 2009. Archived from the original on September 1, 2017. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
- Gilchrist, Todd (April 24, 2012). "'Machete Kills' Director Robert Rodriguez Lines Up 'Fire and Ice' After 'Sin City 2'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
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- Book: Testament: The Life and Art of Frank Frazetta, ISBN 1-887424-62-8
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- Magazine article: "Mr. Fantasy", Circus, November 14, 1978
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