The Fantastic Flight of Frank Frazetta
Comic books have a rich history of being wrongfully treated as an underappreciated, trench-level art form that usually provide inspiration, and sometimes even unjustly so (in other words, being ripped off), for other artists and media. However, there are those unusual moments in comic book history when the tables turn and artists whose works outside of comics, or in some instances did not work directly in the medium, undeniably provide an endless amount of inspiration for other creators that follow them. Case in point: the inimitable art of Mr. Frank Frazetta.
For those of you who don’t know, Frank Frazetta is the artist best known for his elaborate and masterful fantasy illustrations and paintings, among them his very own Death Dealer and the hundreds of covers and drawings he did for Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. However, Frank Frazetta did work in comics. In fact, it is with the medium where he started out as a professional creative working during the industry’s golden age first as a clean-up artist (he was the guy who polished the rough figures drawn by a primary artist) and then as an inker. By the time the 1950’s came around, he had already made a name for himself as an established comic book illustrator, which opened up opportunities for him to handle solo art duties on a variety of books. But perhaps his most well-known direct contribution to the medium was his work for EC Comics and National Comics – this was at a time before DC Comics as we know it today was formed – along with his frequent collaborator, the equally legendary Al Williamson. During his stay within the comic book industry, he worked on characters like the Shining Knight and Buck Rogers until he was hired by Li’l Abner creator Al Capp to work on the same comic strip. At the same time, he was working on his own Johnny Comet strip during those days and providing art assists on flash Gordon. He would continue focusing on these dailies until 1961, at which point he returned to comic books.
It was during the 1960’s that Frank Frazetta will veer away from doing the funny books and start pouring his attention to the medium that he’ll be best remembered for: doing painted covers and posters for various companies and groups. One reason for his departure from the medium is compensation. According to him, he had earned as much as his yearly salary doing comics painting a single movie poster for the movie “What’s New Pussycat?” However, Frazetta was undoubtedly in his element when it came to providing painted covers and illustrations for characters like Conan, Tarzan, and the John Carter series, so much so that it is his works during this point in his career that future creators, not only in comics but throughout popular culture in general, often cite as a primary inspiration in their own respective careers. From there, he would go on to create numerous artworks for movies, books, and music albums.
Yes, we could say that what Jack Kirby did for the superhero genre, Frank Frazetta did for fantasy. The world would be a much blander place without him. So, thanks for everything Frank. We’re pretty sure that wherever you are right now, it’s as epic as the works you did.