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Thread: The Frank Frazetta Appreciation Thread

  1. The Frank Frazetta Appreciation Thread

    Frank Frazetta was one of the greatest painters of our times. He died yesterday and this thread is a tribute. For those unaware Frazetta is most famous for his paintings of barbarians and their badass bitches. Famous figures he's painted include such bad motherfuckers as Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan the Apeman and John Carter of Mars. He's been up and down album covers, movie posters, paperback books and comic books for decades.

    Post here to tell us what's your favorite Frazetta painting or drawing. What's your favorite album that features a cover by Frazetta? What's your favorite character that he brought to life with his killer paintings.

    I'll have to think about most of it but my favorite character that he's famous for is Tarzan. I don't really have a favorite painting or drawing but here's a killerass one:

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  2. Before I start posting images, are we going to get scolded for PAINTINGS IE ART that has boobs in it?

    I remember a few years back when Danzig's comic company was supposed to start doing comics with Frazetta's various properties. I was so excited, but then they pretty much sucked.

    I first became aware of him after becoming a big Boris Vallejo fan, and then seeking out other fantasy artists. Frazetta was the name anyone who was into the stuff uttered. This was about the time that the first series of cards bearing his images came out (the intrawebs tell me 1991). I fell in love with those cards and decided fuck buying packs, I'll get a whole box!
    He has such an amazing talent of making otherworldly stuff look real. He's not as photo realistic as Vallejo, but the ethereal-ness of his color choices make for far more striking images.

  3. Quote Originally Posted by Some Stupid Japanese Name View Post
    Before I start posting images, are we going to get scolded for PAINTINGS IE ART that has boobs in it?
    Let's give it a try!

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  4. #4
    Shit, he died? (He was still alive?)

  5. Here is part one of an interview conducted by Russ Cochran:

    In 1962, having completed all the course work for my doctorate in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Missouri at Rolla, Missouri, I was spending most of my time working on and thinking about my dissertation, a mathematical problem in the physics of liquid structure theory. One day I walked into Scott’s Drug Store in Rolla, and there, staring at me from the paperback book rack, was Frank Frazetta’s cover for Tarzan and the Lost Empire. Pow! I plunged into a program of avidly devouring every Burroughs book I could find, and ended up reading the entire Tarzan and Mars series plus most of the other books. It also gave me my first touch with “fandom” by introducing me to Camille Cazedessus, Jr., and his “fanzine” ERB-dom.

    I was so impressed with Frazetta’s artwork on the Ace covers that I wanted to find out more about him. I started seeing his covers for Creepy and Eerie magazines, and finally I wrote to him and told him that I was coming to New York for a meeting of physics professors and asked him if I could pay him a visit. He responded, we met at a diner in Merrick, Long Island (one of those little all-aluminum Eastern diners that looks like a crossbreeding of an old streetcar and an Airstream trailer). About all I remember about that first meeting was that we went to his house in Merrick, where I met his wife Ellie and their four children, Frank Jr., Billy, Holly and Heidi. Frank sat me down in front of his easel in the corner of the living room and proceeded to pull out the original paintings that I had seen on book and magazine covers. He also showed me paintings that I had never seen before, many of which he had done “for his own amazement.” I spent three or four hours there, looking at Frazetta originals and talking to Frank about his art, then he drove me back to the train station and I went back to Manhattan. It was the beginning of a long friendship, I thought.

    The mysterious Frazetta was really not mysterious at all. He was, in most ways, an ordinary man with an extraordinary gift. A family man, fiercely proud and independent, he was sensitive and articulate, and seemed to pick up on everything.

    By now I had received my Ph.D. and was chairman of the physics department at Drake University, and I realized that just as I had wanted to see Frazetta and find out more about him, he probably consented to my visit because he had some curiosity about my interest in him as well. One time I phoned and asked to speak to Frank. It was Billy who answered the phone, then I overheard Billy saying, “It’s for you, dad. It’s the nutty professor.” So I think that initially, Frank and his wife Ellie were interested in meeting me (the nutty professor) because I had shown such a strong interest in his work.

    The following interview was recorded September 18, 1978, at Frank’s farm home in eastern Pennsylvania.

    Q: When did you first encounter the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs?

    Frazetta: As a matter of fact, it was some of the first reading I ever did. One of my uncles, who lived downstairs in the same house with my family, had some Tarzan books, and I discovered them in the cellar when I was about four years old. I couldn’t read them, but the pictures intrigued me. They hung around, gathering moss, and as I got older, I started to read them. They really stimulated my imagination. I never dreamed that I’d be illustrating them one day!

    Q: Do you remember which books you read?

    Frazetta: I remember Tarzan of the Apes, Return of Tarzan, Beasts of Tarzan…the early ones. There were about six or seven of them, and I read them over and over. I don’t remember reading any of the Mars or Venus stories, but the Tarzan stories, and the gorgeous St. John illustrations, really inspired me. I remember copying or imitating some of those drawing in the actual book itself…there was no such thing as a collector’s item in those days…I just scrawled over the whole book. Those books might be real collector’s items now! Also, right about that same time, I discovered Foster’s Tarzan too. I discovered it as a child, not really understanding what made it so good, or why it impressed me so much, just knowing that I believed it. It was alive!

    Q: How did Tarzan influence your life when you were a youngster running around in the jungles of Brooklyn?

    Frazetta: It wasn’t only me…all my friends thought they were Tarzan. We were always competing for Tarzan-of-the-Month, climbing billboards and running along the top of them, leaping from high places, and all that stuff. And me, being more imaginative, I guess I imagined that I did it better. Really, I don’t know if I imitated Tarzan as much as his leopards. I climbed trees very well.

    Q: This early exposure to St. John and Foster seems to have influenced you greatly in your work today. Were there other early influences?

    Frazetta: I had a thousand influences…Dick Tracy, Smilin’ Jack, and all the rest…inferior art, comparatively speaking, but it helped make my imagination very fertile. Like every kid who grew up in that period, I was influenced by movies, radio serials, comics, and we often got sidetracked. I got sidetracked at the age of eight when I started art school (Ed. Note: Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts), and then re-discovered Foster as a teenager when the Single Series #20 appeared. That comic book was, to me, the Encyclopedia Britannica…fantastic!

    Even before that, I was sidetracked by what Walt Disney was doing in his animated cartoons, and by Popeye…I just loved Popeye to death. I could draw Popeye like crazy. And I was a big Caniff fan in the thirties…but when I discovered the Tarzan Single Series #20 by Foster, it put me back on the path to good art. Not to knock Caniff at all, but compared to Foster, we’re talking about comics versus fine art. Foster reminded me just how good art could be! I was thinking about being a fine artist, or maybe a cartoonist.

    Q: You went to the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts from the age of eight through your teens?

    Frazetta: My professor was Michael Falanga, and he was really a marvelous artist. When I was twelve, he died. Just as he was about to send me off to Italy to study fine art. I haven’t the vaguest idea of whether or not it would have really affected my style…. I don’t know, I doubt it. But when he died, I never went to Italy, and the students tried to keep the old school rolling…it became more like a club. I did life drawings and still lifes...we would go out in the field and paint some old church or whatever. Something totally different from what I do now, yet it taught me a lot about style. That’s where my early style developed…my brush technique. But when I went into comics I had to develop a line technique…which I learned absolutely nothing about in art school! It was very difficult and very slow for me to understand how to work with a pen and a brush. It was a shock to me when I found out that comics were done with a brush…I just assumed it was done with a pen. It took me a while before I really got into it and really began to master it.

    Q: How did you get your very first job in the comics?

    Frazetta: I was about sixteen, and through someone in the family I was introduced to a professional artist named John Guinta. He was working for Bernard Bailey’s comic house. He was not a very personable guy, very aloof and self-conscious and hard to talk to. But he was very skillful…he was really very talented…a natural, but his own head ruined him. He had an exceptional ability, but it was coupled with a total lack of confidence in himself and a total inability to communicate with people. A very strange duck. But because he was so good, it was lucky for me that I met him first. It was overwhelming, because he was that good! Like most kids, I didn’t appreciate what a professional really is. You always think you could be as good until you come face to face with a real pro in any profession. It was a shocking experience to find out that people could actually draw or ink quite that well. He had a very interesting style…a good sense of spotting, his blacks worked well…a very strange, zippy technique. You can see a lot of his influence even today in my work…at least in my inking, until it just blossomed and I went off into left field and started doing things just for the sake of being different.

    As a kid in school, I used to draw little stories on note pads, mostly in pencil. I did them for years to entertain the kids at school. I had this little “Snowman” character that I created as a kid, and I showed it to John Guinta, who loved it and took it to Bernard Bailey, who immediately wanted to make a feature of it. Somewhere along the line, someone told my father to copyright the character, and he did. Had it not been for that, they’d have ripped it off completely. I wasn’t really a professional yet…at least I couldn’t ink like a professional, so I did the drawing and Guinta did the inking for that very first “Snowman” story. It was not pure Frazetta…they slicked it up to look like the comics of the day. That was not the way to handle it…it had to have a very quaint, wholesome quality, and it didn’t. They tried to make it sophisticated with the inking style, and it didn’t work. I dropped out of it because I felt that they were not paying me what I deserved. I just hung around for a while and didn’t do anything until I went up to Fiction House comics looking for work. They hired me to hang around and erase pencils and things like that. I met Graham Ingels, Bob Lubbers and George Evans there. I was only there for about six months or so, and they canned me. There was nothing for me to do. They told me that I had great potential, but they canned me. So I made the rounds again and went to all the comic publishers, showing them my wares, and none of them thought I was really ready. Then I went to Standard and, lo and behold, there was Graham Ingels, who had just quit Fiction House and was working as Art Director at Standard. He had always touted me and encouraged me, and he went out on a limb and gave me a feature start with…”Judy of the Jungle.” I did this feature once or twice and it was really awful. Graham felt that it would be a big shot in the arm to get me going, but the top brass didn’t see the potential, and said, “The kid’s not ready.”…which was probably true. So they had me doing backgrounds from time to time. Then Graham Ingels left, and this new fellow, Ralph Mayo, came in. During this time I was developing very fast.

    Even though I started drawing at the age of three, I was not technically well-developed in the drawing department. Let me explain that… My drawing was very stylized, a combination of every cartoonist I’d ever seen. It had a lot of character, a lot of action, a lot of emotion, but the drawings were kinda distorted…the anatomy was all pure guesswork. But, they were fun. So, when Ralph Mayo took over he said, “Frank, your stuff is great, but if you could learn some anatomy…” I didn’t even understand what anatomy was, I hadn’t the vaguest idea of why it was important. So, he handed me a book on anatomy. I went home that night and decided to learn anatomy. I just started with page one and copied the entire book…everything, in one night, from the skeleton up. I came back the next day like a dumb kid and said, “Thank you very much, I just learned my anatomy.” Of course, he fell over and roared: “Frankie, you silly bastard! I’ve been studying for ten years and I still don’t know anatomy, and you went home and learned it last night?!” But the odd part is that I had learned and awful lot. I had the ability to absorb, and he saw the improvement instantly in my work. I was drawing anatomy! It was a thousand percent better than it had been the day before. He was amazed. That meant a lot to me, and from that point on my development was really very rapid. I started to do things with figures that made sense. I worked for Mayo at Standard for a few years doing things like “Louie Lazybones,” and some of those little animated characters, and a few features here and there. Then I went to M.E. where they gave me the Dan Brand feature, “White Indian” in their new DURANGO KID comic book. My style had changed primarily because the drawing had changed. I suddenly learned to draw figures that were more believable, simply because the anatomy was more accurate. Dan Brand fan mail started to come in and they gave me a whole book to do…that was THUN’DA, of course. When that came out, everybody called me!

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  6. #6
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  7. The rest:

    Q: I have read that when you drew THUN’DA you wanted to get the job of doing the artwork for the Sunday TARZAN page.

    Frazetta: Yes, I always had that in the back of my mind. It was my dream to do the TARZAN strip. THUN’DA was a Tarzan-like character in a setting more like Pellucidar. I really have a thing about prehistoric worlds…I love dinosaurs and really primitive peoples…and saber-tooth cats. It gives an artist more room to dream, I think.

    Q: Did you ever go to the Syndicate and try out for the strip?

    Frazetta: I didn’t go myself. I talked to someone who said, “Boy, you should be doing TARZAN!”, and he went up there, and they just didn’t seem to be interested. I would have done a super job, but nothing ever came of it. I’m not the kind of guy who would pursue it, I was too proud. If they even hesitated a little, I’d tell them to go to hell. But it would have made no difference in my career, cause I’m basically a lazy guy and would have soon discovered that doing a strip…any strip…requires a hell of a lot of work. Even though I loved Tarzan, I would have had to get someone to do backgrounds. As a kid with lots of energy, a strip sounds great…until you try it. I just couldn’t see hacking the work out just for the sake of making deadlines. I’m sure I would have gotten tired of it.

    Q: I have read that Hal Foster put at least sixty hours a week into his PRINCE VALIANT page, and he had very little assistance.

    Frazetta: I’ll never understand that as long as I live. I admire him for it, and I’m astounded at him at the same time. Maybe Foster didn’t like to play stickball and chase girls and goof off. I know that many artists are totally devoted…they’d rather work than eat or sleep. But my art was something that I “snuck in” from time to time, between living. I never really thought in terms of just sitting there and devoting my life to it…never. I did it to tickle my fancy from time to time, usually when there was nothing else to do, or if it was raining. That’s my life style. People wonder, “How the hell could you do such good work without really being into it that much?” I think perhaps that’s the secret. I had this outlet, so when I did finally sit down to work, I was completely satisfied with life and there was no frustration…it just poured out. It’s easy for me to say that…others try it and it doesn’t work. But, that’s me. Maybe I’m basically lazy, but I like to take time to live a little, too. I don’t consider that living, just sitting there and grinding it out. I can’t understand Foster or any other artist who spends one hundred percent of his waking hours at the drawing board! I’m sure the fans are irked at me for it…those who’d like to see tons of the stuff pouring out. But, I’m me, and I’ll never be anything else!

    Q: Were you also thinking that Foster had already done such a beautiful job on his TARZAN Sunday pages that it would be hard to top him?

    Frazetta: Sure. Unquestionable. An artist has to prove something every time he does a job…even if it’s a job he loves to do, he must prove something to himself. I didn’t have to prove that I could do it as well as Foster, and certainly had no intention of proving that I could do it any better. I don’t think you can do better than perfection. I would have been influenced so totally that it would be just a rip off, and I couldn’t do that. If I felt for a moment that Foster fell short…that he might have done this or he might have done that…then I’d say there’s something for me to prove here…I’m going to show him how it might have been done. But I love the man too much and I respect him too much to even kid myself about it. He did it, he did it his way, and he did it better than anybody who’s ever lived, and I don’t think anybody in the future will ever match it. I feel the same way about a Sinatra original…you know, the greatest of their time, doing their thing, their way, better than anybody else. You simply don’t sit there and emulate them. There’s things for you to say in another area, so say it. You just have to forget it, and start fresh, and put your heart and soul into a totally different character and try to make him live and breathe. Foster did this for Tarzan, and I think I did it for Conan.

    Q: You did the artwork for a newspaper strip, both daily and Sunday, called JOHNNY COMET. How did that come about?

    Frazetta: Once again, it was on the strength of THUN’DA. McNaught Syndicate called and said they had a strip for me. I was excited…”Oh, boy! My own comic strip!” Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the subject matter…automobile racing…it was my own comic strip. I remember thinking, “Jeez, I’ll have a steady job, I’ll make a lot of money,” and so on.

    Q: And were you thinking that after a year or so of internship with JOHNNY COMET, you might move up to doing the TARZAN Sunday page?

    Frazetta: In those years I always had TARZAN in the back of my mind. Tarzan was my favorite character, forever and a day. And there were guys out there like Vern Coriell, trying to wangle for me. That’s what got me discouraged…I knew that Vern was showing them my stuff and saying, “You’ve got to get this guy Frazetta to do TARZAN!”, and he couldn’t get anywhere with them. Who could show more enthusiasm than him?

    No one seemed to give a damn until it was too late. Until I found other channels and started making a different way for myself, and got totally disenchanted with the idea of doing a strip. Not with Tarzan, but with the idea of grinding out a strip. After it was too late, Burroughs called me to do TARZAN, the Syndicate called me to do TARZAN; everybody wanted me to do TARZAN. But by then I knew from JOHNNY COMET and from working for nine years with Al Capp on LI’L ABNER that there was a lot of work involved, and it’s not fun. Whether you love it or not, it was just plain hard work. And I had discovered that it was much more satisfying to do one picture. Doing a continuity was no longer satisfying…I thought that you couldn’t put out a hundred percent and stay sane. But doing paintings, one picture at a time, I could put out a hundred percent.

    Q: How would you compare two artists like St. John and Foster?

    Frazetta: Hmmm. Each was great in his own right. Perhaps, if you could say that one artist is better I some sense, I’d have to say that Foster was perhaps a greater artist in that his characters were more believable. This is, of course, a personal attitude…it’s the way I feel about it. Obviously, St. John was the greater painter…only because, as far as I know, Foster didn’t paint much, if at all. St. John’s drawing was somewhat more romantic, superbly done, rich and luscious. I was totally amazed at his skill with color. You’re asking me to compare two greats, each in his own right…you can’t say that one is really better. It’s just that Foster appealed to me a little more totally…his art excited me more. I believed every bit of it. His characters, his actions, were totally believable. The mood he created, his layouts and design, and his drawing…just sheer perfection! For a sense of action and continuity, Hal foster was the best. There’s never been anyone like him and probably never will be. The simplicity of it…the deceptive simplicity of it…just superb! If I had to pick one major influence it would be Foster. He was there when I was ripe for it and he really, really “said it”. You can still see the Foster influence in my work, especially in the attitudes of the figures.

    Another major 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. So the major influences were: Tarzan, Hal Foster and KING KONG. Not St. John. Even though I had seen his art at a very early age, when I entered art school I completely forgot about St. John until Roy Krenkel introduced me to his work much later…. I was in my thirties when Roy helped me re-discover St. John. But during my formative years, it was Hal Foster. In art school I was exposed to the works of all the great masters…at home I was looking at the illustrations of Norman Rockwell…I was carried away by the artwork in FANTASIA, especially the “Bald Mountain” part! You can see all these influences in my work if you know where to look.

    Q: Exactly what did you do on LI’L ABNER?

    Frazetta: Originally, Capp’s idea was to have me do most of it. I would do the realistic figures like Li’l Abner and the beautiful gals. He even said that he wanted to see my style creep in, because he really liked my stuff. But when my style crept in, the Syndicate got upset. They weren’t being critical of my work, but it didn’t look like Al Capp…so we had to go back to keeping it “straight Capp”. They said, “Frazetta is good in his own right, but it’s not Al Capp anymore.” And, Al Capp was what they were paying for. So, I was forced to do it just like Capp, in his own style. You couldn’t tell us apart after a while. It was dull, boring stuff, but I didn’t care, because uppermost in my mind was the fact that I’m making big plans for me…I know what I’m going to do. Any day now, I’m going to quit this stuff and take the world by storm. But, it never happened…nine years just slipped by…nine damn years.

    Q: I read somewhere in an interview that Capp said you only worked for him for six months or so.

    Frazetta: Is he kidding? Six months? Nine years! I had a good life, a better than average income, and all the goof-off time I wanted. Life was easy. I kept telling myself, “This job allows me the time to sit and make great plans…to be a great painter.” I met Roy Krenkel, through Al Williamson, and he helped convince me that I could do great things. I didn’t really need convincing, but he twisted my arm and pushed me a little. He called me a time-waster and a goof-off, and made me feel guilty about it. He introduced me to all kinds of great art through his collection…it was really inspiring! He’s been an inspiration through the years in as much as he would be very critical…not always right, of course,…and I enjoyed hearing his opinions.

    Q: What happened that made you finally leave Capp and LI’L ABNER?

    Frazetta: We had a bit of a disagreement. He was insisting that I come to Boston one particular week, and I had just moved into a house and we were in a mess. One of his assistants was under the weather and he needed me. I said, “Gee, I appreciate that, but my wife needs me here.” We’d just moved in, were in the middle of unpacking, and had a thousand things to do. He said, “Well, you gotta come up!” So I said I’d talk it over with Ellie and see if she could hack it without me for a week. We discussed it and said we guessed we owed it to him, so I called him back and said okay and just added in passing that the price would be the usual hundred bucks a day. “Oh, no,” he said, “Things have been tough…” Well, to make a long story short, he just decided that he would cut my salary in half, and at that point I decided he could go hang himself. I said, “Goodbye, it’s been nice knowing you.” Not only didn’t I get a raise, not a nickel in nine years, mind you, I didn’t even complain about it. He was ready to cut it back.

    After I quit and went out, ready to show everyone that Frazetta’s back, I couldn’t get any work. It was tough sledding there for a while. A guy named Mort Dugger, not to be confused with Mort Drucker, took a liking to me. He reminded me, physically, in every way, of Ralph Mayo. He was smitten by my work and had to convince his boss that he should give me a shot at doing some girlie illustrations for his magazines. They did, and they started getting favorable reaction, and I did those crazy girlie things for a while. Then I did the first of the Canaveral Press Burroughs stuff, which came very hard. I had been working for Capp for so long that I had forgotten how to draw in my own style. I’d forgotten how to ink, and had to relearn all over again. I did a few books for them and proceeded to get screwed beautifully by those bandits. I started to meet all the thieves and pirates and louses in the business about that time. I am not shy to say it…you know who you are out there, you bastards! I was getting ripped off right and left. If I got angry, they’d threaten to have me arrested. I didn’t know about copyright laws…and I didn’t know the world was so full of thieves. Then, of course, everybody knows the story of Ace and the Burroughs paperbacks.

    Q: Donald Wollheim, editor at Ace Books, was reissuing some of the Burroughs titles which he thought were in the public domain.

    Frazetta: He thought. Wollheim knew of Krenkel’s work. Roy had been doing a lot of pen and ink work, which Wollheim had seen, but he had never done any painting. They were giving him a lot of covers to do, and he didn’t have confidence that he could handle it all, so he split it with me. He brought me to Wollheim and said, “He’s the guy that can do it.” And they were more than reluctant to give me a shot. I showed them originals of some of my early paintings, including “Golden Girl” and my big lion painting in the living room. They said, “Interesting…but can you do Tarzan?” So I went home and painted “Tarzan and the Ant Men” as a sample. When I showed them that, they said, “Well, okay…maybe.” They finally gave me a cover to do. That’s the first paperback cover I did, and it really wasn’t very good. I was running scared, not sure of myself anymore, and they didn’t help give me any confidence. Plus, they were telling me to do it a la St. John. Because of their attitude, I didn’t take these early Burroughs covers that I did for Ace all that seriously. It was a time of re-learning all the things I had forgotten while I was working for Capp.

    They didn’t seem to like me, and didn’t take me seriously. Their reaction to a painting was more like a snicker than an approval. I’m a very proud guy, and I’m very sensitive, too! I just did not like the treatment I got. Because of that, plus the fact that they kept my original artwork, and they paid very little money…it made me bitter, to say the least. I refused to go out on a limb and give them a really superior piece of work and put my heart into it. Just look at what happened the minute I discovered some other outfit. Lancer Books called me on the strength of these Ace covers. When I walked in, they said, “We love your work, we pay more money, and you keep the original art.” They showed me their books and the reproduction quality of their covers was a vast improvement over Ace. I discovered a whole new world…my spirit was really lifted. I said, “My God, now I can sit and really paint with my heart.” I felt reborn!
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  9. I haven't watched that since I was a teenager. I remember it being awesome looking but nothing of the plot.

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