1928 (Brooklyn, New York)
2010 (Fort Myers, Florida)
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fantasy paperback illustration, cartoons, comics
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
Frazetta, an internationally known illustrator of fantasy art and
comics, was born on February 9, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. It has been
reported that his art career began at age three and that some of his
works were sold by age eight, to his grandmother, for one cent. Her
interest encouraged him to pursue his interest in art. Frank was the
oldest of four children, and when he was only in kindergarten his
teacher was impressed that his drawing abilities were better than 10
year olds. Frazetta created comic books throughout elementary school,
with a "Snowman" and "The Red Devil and Goldy" as the main characters.
These characters still exist and exhibit a high level of
sophistication, especially considering his age. |
When he was
eight, Frazetta was enrolled into the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts.
One of thirty students at the time, the youngest pupil was asked by his
teacher to draw something complex. Frazetta thought he was in trouble
when the teacher, Michael Falanga, returned to view the results and an
excited exclamation of "Mama Mia!" was heard. The Italian teacher, well
known in his home country, was impressed with Frank's natural ability
and thought highly of his potential. Falanga thought Frazetta's
potential was great enough that he was soon to send Frank to Italy to
study art. Falanga felt Frazetta was wasting his time with comics, and
that his talents should be directed towards higher levels of art.
the age of sixteen, Tally Ho comics displayed Frazetta's first
professional comic work. This exposure provided the stepping-stone for
him to go on to do illustrations of funny animals for text stories seen
in Coo Coo and Happy comics. He also created stories for "Heroic
Comics" and eight highly acclaimed illustrations for "Shining Knight"
stories for DC (formerly National). Two of Comic's greatest talents, Al
Williamson and Roy Krenkel, inspired and influenced Frazetta, and led
him to employment for companies such as Standard, Lev Gleason, and at
Toby with Williamson, and later at M.E., where he drew "White Indian"
and "Thun'da", his only complete comic book. "Thun'da" was derived from
Edgar Rice Burrough's "Tarzan", and was considered to be a great
One of his greatest stories, "50 Girls 50",
resulted from involvement with Bill Gaines at EC Comics, together with
collaboration with Williamson and Krenkel. Another story included
"Squeeze Play". He contributed to some of the most respected comic book
covers ever created, including seven covers for the Famous Funnies
(Buck Rogers) comic in the early fifties. These covers later
overwhelmed George Lucas, who has claimed they were the inspiration for
the Star Wars Saga.
Frazetta's famous "Johnny Comet" and "Ace
McCoy" comics were created in 1952, but lasted less than two years.
Beginning at this time Frank also began assisting Al Capp for about ten
years on the "Lil Abner" comic strip. He then worked for paperback
publishers doing interior illustrations before landing at Warren
Publications. There many EC artists would gather to work on Creey,
Eerie, Blazing Combat and Vampirella. Some of the most memorable pieces
for members of the baby boomer generation would include "Egyption
Princess" (Eerie #23), "Sorcerer" (Eerie #2), "Wolfman" (Creepy #5),
"Sea Monster" (Eerie #3), and others. While at Warren, he also drew a
"Creepy's Loathsome Lore" page and another famous story, which some
regard as his best comic story, "Werewolf", the story of a crazed
wolf-hunter who is himself the hunted. These five pages by Frazetta are
considered a pinnacle of achievement for the comic medium.
Press and Doubleday Books commissioned Frazetta for E.R. Burrough's
stories, including Tarzan and the Mars series. The response from the
public was overwhelming. Other paperback companies started noticing.
United Artist's Film Studios, had Frazetta do the poster for 'What's
New Pussycat'. Also highly noted is his incarnation of Lancer Book's
"Conan the Barbarian". Frank's single greatest achievement is
considered to be his painting for the cover of the first book in that
series, "Conan the Barbarian". It became one of the greatest selling
series in history, more than 10 million copies.
1970s, Frank and his wife, Ellie, concentrated on raising their four
children on Long Island. However, they later decided to move back to
Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, to be closer to family. Ellie began a small
business called Frazetta Prints. She worked with distributors on five
of her husband's prints, attempting to place Frank's work in the
public's eye. Years later, this business would pertain to all aspects
of Frank's art, including over 150 different prints, books, and
lithographs. After a year and a half in Sheepshead Bay, and desiring
privacy and open space, the Frazettas began looking for the proverbial
old farmhouse with lots of acreage. They found a run down farmhouse
with nearly 70 acres of land outside Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Now a
beautiful estate, this site has became 'home' to their children and
grandchildren, as well as the Frazetta Art Museum.
Frazetta's works made it to auction at Sotheby's and Christie's in the
1990s, resulting in high five-figure numbers. With this renewed
interest came new projects and ideas. Frank was convinced to assist
Randy Bowen co-create a bronze sculpture of Frazetta's signature oil,
'The Death Dealer'. Frank was also commissioned to produce a book of
pencil drawings for Glenn Danzig. This volume was entitled,
'Illustrations Arcanum', and immediately became a hit, re-energizing
Frazetta's name in the art world. A series of Death Dealer comics
followed, as well as other fantasy-supernatural theme productions such
as a series of sculptures based on Frank's 'Fire and Ice' models, and a
new character called Jaguar God.
documentary of the life and art of Frank Frazetta entitled, "Frazetta:
Painting with Fire" was directed by Lance Laspina and produced by
Dr. David Winiewicz, "Frank Frazetta: The Creative Moment", Illustration magazine, July 2003, p. 52
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Following is the obituary of the artist from The New York Times, May 11, 2010|
Frank Frazetta, Illustrator, Dies at 82; Helped Define Comic Book Heroes
By Bruce Weber and Dave Itzkoff
Frank Frazetta, an illustrator of comic books, movie posters and
paperback book covers whose visions of musclebound men fighting with
swords and axes to defend scantily dressed women helped define fantasy
heroes like Conan, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, died on Monday in
Fort Myers, Fla. He was 82.
The cause was complications from a stroke, said Rob Pistella and Stephen Ferzoco, Mr. Frazetta’s business managers.
Mr. Frazetta was a versatile and prolific comic book artist who, in the
1940s and ’50s, drew for comic strips like Al Capp’s “Lil’ Abner” and
comic books like “Famous Funnies,” for which he contributed a series of
covers depicting the futuristic adventurer Buck Rogers.
A satirical advertisement Mr. Frazetta drew for Mad earned him his
first Hollywood job, the movie poster for “What’s New Pussycat?”
(1965), a sex farce written by Woody Allen that starred Peter Sellers.
In 1983 he collaborated with the director Ralph Bakshi to produce the
animated film “Fire and Ice.”
His most prominent work, however, was on the cover of book jackets,
where his signature images were of strikingly fierce, hard-bodied
heroes and bosomy, callipygian damsels in distress. In 1966, his cover
of “Conan the Adventurer,” a collection of four fantasy short stories
written by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, depicted a brawny
long-haired warrior standing in repose on top of a pile of skeletons
and other detritus, his sword thrust downward into the mound, an
apparently naked young woman lying at his feet, hugging his ankle.
The cover created a new look for fantasy adventure novels and
established Mr. Frazetta as an artist who could sell books. He
illustrated many more Conan books (including “Conan the Conqueror,”
“Conan the Usurper” and “Conan the Avenger”) and works by Edgar Rice
Burroughs (including “John Carter and the Savage Apes of Mars” and
“Tarzan and the Antmen”).
“Paperback publishers have been known to buy one of his paintings for
use as a cover, then commission a writer to turn out a novel to go with
it,” The New York Times reported in 1977, the same year that a
collection of his drawings, “The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta,” sold
more than 300,000 copies.
Frank Frazzetta was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 9, 1928, and as a boy
studied painting at a local art school. (Early in his career, he
excised one z from his last name because “with one z it just looked
better,” Mr. Pistella said. “He said the two z’s and two t’s was too
Mr. Frazetta began drawing for comic books of all stripes — westerns,
mysteries, fantasies — when he was still a teenager. He was also a good
enough baseball player to try out for the New York Giants.
The popularity of Mr. Frazetta’s work coincided with the rise of heavy
metal in the early 1970s, and his otherworldly imagery showed up on a
number of album covers, including Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ With
Disaster” and Nazareth’s “Expect No Mercy.” Last year, Kirk Hammett,
the lead guitarist for Metallica, bought Mr. Frazetta’s cover artwork
for the paperback reissue of Robert E. Howard’s “Conan the Conqueror”
for $1 million.
Mr. Frazetta married Eleanor Kelly, known as Ellie, in 1956. She served
as his occasional model and as his business partner; in 2000 she
started a small museum of her husband’s work on their property in East
Stroudsburg, Pa. She died last year.
Mr. Frazetta is survived by three sisters, Carol, Adel and Jeanie; two
sons, Alfonso Frank Frazetta, known as Frank Jr., and William Frazetta,
both of East Stroudsburg; two daughters, Heidi Grabin, of Englewood,
Fla., and Holly Frazetta, of Boca Grande, Fla.; and 11 grandchildren.
After Ellie Frazetta’s death, her children became embroiled in a
custodial dispute over their father’s work, and in December, Frank Jr.
was arrested on charges of breaking into the family museum and
attempting to remove 90 paintings that had been insured for $20
million. In April, the family said the dispute over the paintings had
been resolved, and the Monroe County, Pa., district attorney said he
would drop the charges.
In July 2010, two months after the artist's death, a private collector bought the painting Conan the Destroyer for $1.5 million from a family trust.
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born in l928 in Brooklyn, New York, Frank Frazetta was an artistic and
physically gifted child. At the age of six he began drawing his own
comic books. He was to become an internationally known illustrator of
fantasy art and comics.|
At the urging of his teachers, Frank was
enrolled at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts when he was eight years
old. Under the tutelage of Michael Fulanga, he learned brush technique
During his teen years, he excelled at baseball
and drawing. The New York Giants farm squad offered Frank a position
but he had no desire to leave Brooklyn for Texas. He made the decision
at this time that a career as an artist would last longer than a ball
player's. At the age of sixteen, the comic artist John Quinta hired
Frank to draw comics.
By l952, he had his own comic strip, Johnny Comet at the Mc Naught Syndicate. When that comic strip was
canceled, Al Capp hired Frank as a ghost artist for the popular Li'l
Abner comic; a job he had from l955 to l961. During this time he
worked for various comics publishers including Mad Magazine and Playboy, drawing animals, westerns, mysteries, and fantasy.
career took a new direction in l964 when he was hired to paint book
covers for the "Tarzan" stories. His big break came when Lancer books
approached him in l965 with a commission for Conan the Adventurer
covers. These covers have his trademark erotic tension and dramatic
composition, exploring the theme "Beauty and the Beast". The cover art
Frank did during the sixties has influenced the whole school of fantasy
In l965, Frank was offered a very lucrative commission
from United Artists. He was to create poster art for the comedy, What's New Pussycat. He made a year's salary from this painting.
Other poster commissions followed: After the Fox, Hotel Paradiso, The Busy Body, and Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers.
that time on Frank did not have to scramble for clients, he could pick
and choose assignments. Art work he had already done was often matched
to an appropriate book, story, or project by art directors.
a reclusive nature, Frank moved with his wife and four children from
Long Island to a remote house on sixty-seven acres in the Pocono
Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania in l971. In l985, the family opened
the Frazetta Museum in East Shroudsburg, Pennsylvania, showing
originals of Frazetta's work.
A thyroid malfunction afflicted
Frank during the years l986 to l994. His recovery sparked a creative
renewal. He allowed a few of his originals to be sold at Christie's and
Sotheby's for high five figure sums. In l994 he had his first New York
Frank has said of his work. " An enormous
influence in my life, which I think you can see in my work is the film King Kong. The total work of art, the hazy, misty wonderful quality
of it is something I always shoot for. That mystery, that sense of
wonder that's what I try to capture."
Frank Frazetta is the winner of the Spectrum Grand Master Awards and the Hugo Award for best artist.
William Stout, "Frank Frazetta: Power and Vision", California Art Club Newsletter, February 2004, p. 6
Ron Goulart, American Comics, p. 142
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