Frank Frazetta, 82
Obituary for Frank Frazetta, 82, celebrated comic artist and illustrator
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Frank Frazetta, 82, the celebrated comic artist and illustrator whose ax-wielding muscular warriors, scantily clad heroines and ferocious beasts of prey graced numerous science fiction and fantasy novels, died May 10 at a hospital in Fort Myers, Fla., after a stroke.
Mr. Frazetta, who started as a pencil-and-ink comic book artist, painted movie posters and rock album covers, but he was perhaps best known for the cover illustrations to the paperback reissues of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian series and Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan and Pellucidar series.
Mr. Frazetta's drawings were credited with renewing the popularity of the character, a mainstay of the 1930s pulp magazine Weird Tales. He helped define the illustration style for the fantasy sub-genre known as "sword and sorcery."
Describing Mr. Frazetta's bold, sexually charged style, the author Donald Newlove wrote in 1977, "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."
Mr. Frazetta was one of the first artists in paperbacks and comics to negotiate the ownership of his artwork -- a move that worked out well for him. The cover painting for a 1966 Lancer books edition of "Conan the Conqueror" sold for $1 million in a 2009 auction.
Although he left comics work in the 1960s, his later paintings influenced such artists as Richard Corben of Heavy Metal magazine and anticipated a trend toward painted graphic novels.
Inspired by Tarzan
Frank Frazzetta -- he later dropped the second "z" in his surname -- was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 9, 1928. As a child, he was inspired by the drawings of Hal Foster, whose work on the Tarzan comic strip would anticipate many of Mr. Frazetta's jungle scenes.
For DC Comics, he drew the Shining Knight and, for EC Comics, he illustrated a series of science fiction stories. He had his own short-lived racing car strip, Johnny Comet, in 1952. The same year, he joined cartoonist Al Capp as an uncredited artist on Lil' Abner, a position he held into the mid-1960s.
He painted a Mad magazine ad parody in 1964 -- featuring Beatles drummer Ringo Starr in an endorsement for Blecch Shampoo -- that caught the eye of United Artists films. The company hired Mr. Frazetta to do a painted poster for the film "What's New Pussycat?," a 1965 comedy written by Woody Allen.
His work also appeared on album covers for such hard rock acts as Molly Hatchet, Nazareth and Yngwie Malmsteen -- though he professed disdain for most rock music.
His illustrations inspired new interest in the Conan the Barbarian franchise. Marvel Comics launched an ongoing comic book series in 1970s, and there was a 1982 movie directed by John Milius with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role.