Frank Frazetta has passed into the West


Dark Kingdom
"Dark Kingdom" by Frank Frazetta (also a Molly Hatchet album cover)

If you were a kid growing up in the 70s and early 80s, and you were a kid who read a lot, and probably read a lot of cheap fantasy and science fiction paperbacks or comic books, then chances are almost certain you have encountered the artistic work of Mr. Frank Frazetta. You didn’t have to picture what Conan the Barbarian or John Carter of Mars looked like, Frank Frazetta showed you. Frazetta’s distinctive, moody style set the visual tone for genre paperback books and comics for at least three decades. So many artists have followed his inspiration it’s hard to remember that if there was a single guy to take credit for the fantasy art explosion after the 70s, it was probably Frazetta. Frank Frazetta labored in the trenches of commercial illustration and comic book artistry for decades, starting at age 16. His distinctive style– a dominant central figure, usually a brawny heroic type with well defined musculature, accompanied by one or more beautiful women with over-sized womanly attributes, became a defining visual of genre fiction during that time. Frazetta was so prolific during his lifetime I could scarcely do the man justice here. Many famous genre characters were given life by his brush.

Frank Frazetta passed on yesterday.. a sudden stroke at his residence in Florida. He had had a rough last decade of his life– plagued by ill health, declining faculties and an increasingly intense family squabble that eventually led to one of his children being arrested for breaking into the Frazetta museum and stealing 80 of his paintings. I like to think that Mr. Frazetta has passed into a better reality now– but I know loyal SF/Fantasy geeks like me will continue to miss him. Rest In Peace, Frank Frazetta.

3 comments

  1. Dear Walt

    Right you are. Frazetta has actually yet to achieve the acclaim he is due. He may be a household word, and he may be world famous, but that is not the same thing as the appreciation of his work. In many ways Frazetta is a lot like Vargas, though the products and artworks are radically different, nevertheless there are huge similarities between their art. While it is easier to see in Vargas, Frazetta no less was a person entirely out of the “classical” mold and very definately a Reubenist, and not for the sometimes “Rubinesque” charms of his women. Both painted images that were far more than “pretty pictures” and embodied within them an idea, or an ideal that was heavily dependent upon the mind and imagination for its completion. Vargas’ women and Frazetta’s heroes were equally as unobtainable and impossible in real life, bt nevertheless they represented an idea, and an ideal that could be approached. But Frazetta was also far more than a mere illustrator and his art towards the end began to mutate to show this other dimension. Most important “The Frazetta Stle” has been mimicked and copied and become a trope in itself such that some of his immitators have become caricatures — NOT of Frazetta but of themselves.

    It really is too bad that he has passed out from amongst us.

  2. Well said, Walt. I was talking about his passing with some folks today and was greeted with some eye-rolling, but had to point out that it’s not to the man’s discredit that his work was reproduced and his style imitated to the point that it became a cliche. He really did define the genre in the 70s and early 80s — not that there weren’t other fantasy artists, but there was only one who mattered.

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