Frazetta, Frank 1928-
FRAZETTA, Frank 1928-
PERSONAL: Born February 9, 1928, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Alfred Frank and Mary (Prinz) Frazetta; married Eleanor Doris Kelly (manager of Frazetta Prints, Inc.), November 17, 1956; children: Frank, Bill, Holly, Heidi. Education: Attended Brooklyn Academy of Fine Art. Hobbies and other interests: Baseball.
ADDRESSES: Office—Frazetta Art Museum, 82 South Courtland St., East Stroudsburg, PA 18301-2827.
CAREER: Artist and freelance illustrator, 1960—. Illustrator of comic strips, including "Johnny Comet" (title changed to "Ace McCoy"), 1952-53, "Flash Gordon," 1953, and "L'il Abner," 1950s; creator of "Death Dealer" character painted on Army tanks, airplanes, and Boeing helicopters and adopted by other air corps groups. Also illustrator of numerous covers of books, albums, and periodicals, including Gent, Cavalcade, and Playboy. Former artist with comic book houses, including Baily, Toby, Pines, Fawcett, Prize, Fiction House, Standard, National, Eastern Color, Hillman, Avon, and Western. Founder of Frazetta Prints, Inc.
MEMBER: National Cartoonists Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: Hugo Award, 1996; World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2001; four awards from Warren Publishers; awards from other organizations and periodicals, including Playboy.
The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, Rufus Publications (New York, NY), 1975.
Frank Frazetta: Book Two, edited by Betty Ballantine, Bantam (New York, NY), 1977.
Frank Frazetta: Book Three, edited by Betty Ballantine, Bantam (New York, NY), 1978.
Frank Frazetta, edited by Betty Ballantine, Pan Books (London, England), 1978.
Frank Frazetta: Book Four, Bantam (New York, NY), 1980.
(With wife, Eleanor Frazetta) Frank Frazetta: The Living Legend, Sun Litho-Print (Marshall Creek, PA), 1980.
Frank Frazetta: Book Five, edited by Betty Ballantine, Bantam (New York, NY), 1985.
(With James Silke) Death Dealer, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Death Dealer: Book Two, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Small Wonders: The Funny Animal Art of Frank Frazetta, Kitchen Sink (Amherst, MA), 1991.
Frazetta Pillow Book, Kitchen Sink (Amherst, MA), 1993.
Frank Frazetta, edited by Ellie Frazetta, introduction by David Winiewicz, Frazetta Prints (East Stroudsburg, PA), 1996
(With Al Capp) Li'l Abner: Dailies, Kitchen Sink (Amherst, MA), 1997.
(With Arnie Fenner and Cathy Fenner) Icon: A Retrospective by the Grand Master of Fantastic Art, Underwood Books (Grass Valley, CA), 1998.
Frank Frazetta: Master of Fantasy Art, Taschen (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Arnie Fenner and Cathy Fenner) Legacy: Selected Drawings & Paintings by Frank Frazetta, Underwood (Grass Valley, CA), 1999.
(With Robert Ervin Howard) The Ultimate Triumph: The Heroic Fantasy of Robert E. Howard, Wandering Star (London, England), 1999.
(With Arnie Fenner and Cathy Fenner) Testament: The Life and Work of Frank Frazetta, Underwood (Grass Valley, CA), 2001.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the Castaways, Canaveral (Santa Monica, CA), 1965.
Burroughs, The Master Mind of Mars, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1973.
Also illustrator of cover art for books, including the paperback Conan books, by Robert E. Howard, and Writers of the Future, by L. Ron Hubbard, Volume 3, 1987, Volume 4, 1988; illustrator of numerous movie publicity posters and record album jackets; illustrator of comic book Thun'da King of the Congo, written by Gardner Fox, Magazine Enterprises, 1952.
(With Bill Black; also illustrator, with others) Best of the West: The History of the Western Comics Published by Magazine Enterprises, AC Comic (Longwood, FL), 1996.
Contributor to E. C. Horror Library, Nostalgia Press (Franklin Square, NY), 1972; also contributor of graphics, and coproducer with Ralph Bakshi, of animated film Fire and Ice, Twentieth Century-Fox/Producers Sales Organization, 1983.
SIDELIGHTS: Frank Frazetta's renditions of fantastic demons, bloodied warriors, and shapely females adorn hundreds of book covers and posters. As the illustrator of paperback copies of Robert E. Howard's mythic warrior Conan, he helped spark a revived interest in the late Texas storyteller's work. His recreations of the fantastic worlds and characters of Edgar Rice Burroughs in paintings and book covers have lured countless readers to the worlds of Tarzan, the jungle warrior; David Innes, explorer of the Earth's inner world, Pellucidar; and John Carter, Prince of Mars. Yet Frazetta's distinctive contributions to the world of comic book and illustrative art nearly lost out to his other love—baseball. As a youngster, Frazetta possessed natural talents in both art and ball playing, and in his mid-teens had to make a career choice. He had begun studies at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Art at the age of eight, and while still in high school he was offered a contract with the New York Giants (later relocated to San Francisco). Despite his passion for baseball, his love of art and illustration triumphed, and Frazetta launched his professional career as an artist and illustrator while still a teenager.
During his early years at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Art, Frazetta studied with Italian artist Michael Falanga. After Falanga's death in 1944, Frazetta embarked upon his illustration career in earnest, working as an assistant to science-fiction cartoonist John Giunta. While Frazetta's responsibilities included fill-in work on comic books, he also produced some of his own material during this time (signed as "Fritz," his childhood nickname)—including his first commercial artwork in comic-strip form, "Snowman," based on a character he had created years earlier. The comic appeared in the December 1944 issue of Baily Comics' Tally-Ho #1, now a classic collector piece. His first major assignment involved drawing the illustrations for National's Adventure Comics "Shining Knight" in 1949. Frazetta subsequently turned down an offer of employment with Walt Disney Studios, primarily because he chose not to relocate to California, yet he appreciated the commercial recognition of his talent that the job offer represented.
Frazetta's comic book work encompassed much of the 1950s and 1960s and included a nine-year stint with cartoonist Al Capp, creator of the "Li'l Abner" comic strip. His early work included illustrations for Ghost Rider and Dan Brand. In 1952, Frazetta's first and only completely illustrated comic book, Thun'da Kingof the Congo (written by Gardner Fox), was published by Magazine Enterprises. The now-classic first issue deals with the adventures of a Tarzan-type hero whose airplane crashes in a land of prehistoric men and beasts. Following Thun'da, Frazetta branched out into cover illustrations for true crime stories and horror magazines, including James Warren's Eerie, Creepy, and Vampirella in the 1960s. Warren admired Frazetta's work so much that he created a corporate award in the artist's name, honoring him as the recipient several times.
Frazetta's move into the more lucrative world of book cover and movie poster artwork established him as a leader in the field of fantasy illustration. Regarding his career move away from comic books, he once commented: "Unlike some artists, my goal was to captivate a larger audience without any sacrifice in artistic quality." Some of his paintings have appeared on posters for such films as After the Fox, The Fearless Vampire Killers, and Clint Eastwood's The Gauntlet. He also did some promotional artwork for the American Broadcasting Co. series Battlestar Galactica. In 1983, Frazetta helped to animate the film Fire and Ice, released by Twentieth Century-Fox, a sword and sorcery movie for adults as well as children which a contributor to HBO's Guide to the Movies found to be "dazzling," and one to "stretch the confines of animation."
Donald Newlove commented in Esquire that Frazetta's paperback book covers, including those drawn for the Burroughs and Howard books, "gripped the fancy" and were appealing "not just [for] their eroticism but often their compelling sense of composition, of a picture that delivered fantasy with a looming hammerblow." He added, "There is never anything ghoulish in [Frazetta's] work, no bleeding cuts, only a bit of blood on the swords; there's no love of decay and fetidness—his swamps and jungles are soft green, lush, aswirl and gently vivid, germinal . . ., a perfect setting for the erotic."
Frazetta credits numerous artists as influences in his work. "I love the Old Masters for their unquestionable abilities in composition and draftsmanship," Frazetta explained to Nick Miglin in American Artist, "but they were reserved, restrained by their time. I love the Impressionists for their color and daring. They were obviously less restrained. Today there's no restraint, and I'd be a fool to restrict myself in any way to please fans, critics, or peers. I'm an artist of my time; that's the only thing I can be."
In her introduction to Frank Frazetta: Book Three, editor Betty Ballantine noted the ingredients that make Frazetta's work special: "Aside from the obvious answer of sheer talent, and the infinitely more complex one of who is Frazetta, it seems to me that he has one quality that permeates all of his work, and that quality is joy. Frazetta, finally,. . . does really take joy in what he does." Reviewers and legions of fans agree with this assessment. Mary K. Chelton, for example, reviewing Frank Frazetta: Book Five, noted that the bulk of his books are in fact collections of his paintings for covers and other illustration projects. Chelton praised the "evocative grandeur" of Frazetta's work. And Gordon Flagg, writing in Booklist, noted that it is not only Frazetta's later work that displays his "masterly technique." According to Flagg, even his early comics display drawings of "moody forests, lush jungles, and some decidedly unfunny animals."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 14, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995, pp. 107-113.
Frazetta, Frank, Frank Frazetta: Book Two, edited by Betty Ballantine, Bantam (New York, NY), 1977.
Frazetta, Frank, Frank Frazetta: Book Three, edited by Ballantine, Bantam (New York, NY), 1978.
Gifford, Denis, The International Book of Comics, Crescent Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Goulart, Ron, The Great Comic Book Artists, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1986.
Horn, Maurice, editor, The World Encyclopedia of Comics, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.
HBO's Guide to the Movies, Harper (New York, NY), 1991, p. 256.
Reed, Walt, and Roger Reed, The Illustrator in America 1880-1980: A Century of Illustration, Madison Square Press (Seneca, SC), 1984.
Sullivan, Jack, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and Supernatural, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.
American Artist, May, 1976, Nick Miglin, "Frank Frazetta at Bat."
Booklist, February 1, 1992, Gordon Flagg, review of Small Wonders: The Funny Animal Art of Frank Frazetta, p. 1001.
Cinefantastique, December, 1981; July/August, 1982.
Comics Scene, May, 1963.
Esquire, June, 1977, Donald Newlove, "The Incredible Paintings of Frank Frazetta."
Fanfare, winter, 1978.
New York Daily News, November 23, 1983.
New York Times, November 24, 1983, p. 18.
Philadelphia Inquirer, May 26, 1985.
Questar, October, 1980.
Starlog, November, 1985.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1986, Mary K. Chelton, review of Frank Frazetta: Book Five, p. 93.
Frank Frazetta Art Gallery/Paintings,http://www.frankfrazetta.com/ (March 11, 2002).*