Permit Me To Be Frank: A Private Disclosure
Frazetta! Frazetta! Frazetta! 'Who?' you may ask. Allow me to elaborate.
Art is a process of communication. It started when the first caveman tried to brag about his kill on the hunt. With no spoken language, he resorted to painting his story on a cave wall, and stood proudly by his work. The first comicbook was born!
Now, Art 'speaks' to us all. How we 'hear' it is up to us. a piece of artwork that may appear meaningless to you, may scream volumes to me. It is all in how it makes us feel the first time we see it. Which brings me back to that word, 'Frazetta'.
You won't find it in any type of dictionary. But that word is part of MY everyday vocabulary. I learned that three syllable word when I was a young boy around nine years old. I walked into a local bookstore. I thumbed through the stacks of science-fiction novels. That stuff fed my imagination during my youth. As a fledgling artist I was always amused by the crappy, horribly-forgettable cover-art on those books. Cover after cover passed before my eyes until I found a particular book. It was a novel by John Silke. Seeing the cover at a glance, my heart leaped into my throat. There, staring back at me with red, piercing eyes from beneath a horned-helmet, was the medieval equivalent of Darth Vader. It was the 'Death Dealer'! My eyes sought to literally consume the image. This dark figure was formidably seated upon his hell-horse that was snorting steam. The Death Dealer carried a shield painted with a raven emblem: a medieval symbol of death. he held upright an imposing single-bladed axe of cold steel. Hanging from his belt was a sword that's hilt was capped with a metal raven's head. A dark cape hung from well-muscled shoulders, and a skirt of chain-mail girded the Dealer's loins. three vultures circled above him in the sky. They weren't waiting for him to die. But they knew wherever he went, Death was soon to follow, and they would be well-fed!
My eyes darted about the cover to find the name of the skilled artisan that had drafted this timeless masterpiece. The name I found was, "Frazetta". Upon learning that name I spent the rest of my twenty-five additional years hungrily searching for more of this man's artistic expressions.
That man turned out to be the legendary Frank Frazetta: the undisputed master of fantasy-art! As I learned more about this grand illustrator from New York, (who resides in Pennsylvania now), I secretly wished that I WAS Frank Frazetta! His artworks were marvels to behold. The majority of them depicted exaggerated action. The main characters were usually victims of some larger predator presence. The action sequence was normally either about to happen, or it had already happened; leaving the viewer to helplessly peruse the startling aftermath.
Over the years I acquired more Frazetta lore and books full of his paintings and renderings. I soon became aware that this extraordinary man had his artistic beginnings in comics! (Isn't everything comics related?). Frank had, at a young age, been hired by newspaper Illustrator Al Capp to ink, and eventually darw the strip 'Lil Abner'. Frazetta graduated to doing comicbook work under his OWN name on cowboy and various sci-fi titles. In his later years he would be hired to illustrate movie posters, book covers, and even modern album covers (pre-compact-disc).
Frazetta has inspired countless artists to imitate his fantasy stylings of warriors with chisled muscles, voluptuous women, and fantastical creatures of every kind. The late Burne Hogarth, 'Tarzan' strip illustrator, long-time Frazetta friend, and former professor at the School of Visual Arts in Chicago Illinois, had witnessed Frazetta's influence in his very own classes! One day while viewing his students painting final assignments, he noticed each one had an uncanny resemblance to Frazetta's unique work! Hogarth was quoted as saying, "Godammit! You guys quit trying to paint like Frazetta! There can be only one Frazetta, and he's it!" To his credit Frazetta almost never uses models, his characters are usually in action, and his knowledge of anatomy at various angles is astounding.
Comics veteran inker, Gary Martin, (who's work includes many volumes of Steve Rude's 'Nexus’ comicbook), in his book on comic inking pays Frazetta the ultimate tribute. On one of the last pages Martin lists other inker names of folks that he considers to be 'the best of the best'. Frazetta's name is curiously absent from the list. But if you follow the page down a little further, Martin has the fortitude to mention that, for Frazetta's skilled brush strokes and masterfully rendered textures, Martin believes Frazetta to be the best inker of all time; high praise indeed.
I hope my article compels you to look for his work on your own. You won't be sorry. I kid you not about his renowned status or infamy. There is a planned documentary movie that will give light to the details of his fifty-plus years in Art. A museum was built in Pennsylvania near his home to strictly house Frazetta original paintings. He has a grand website full of original drawings and painting prints for sale at
In my own personal art collection I have four soft-cover volumes of his art, two recent hardcover collections titled "Legacy" and "Icon". Plus, I own four painting-size prints of the Death Dealer (ordered from his son) hanging in my art studio. My most prize Frazetta piece, however; is my videotape of the animated movie "Fire and Ice", which is based on Frazetta designed characters. Yes, now I am a freelance illustrator with a degree in commercial art, due to Frazetta's inspiring influence. All in my quest to be Frank; Frank Frazetta.
Article courtesy of Paul Dale Robert's and Jazma online. Visit Paul at Jazma Online
Got a comment or question about this Soapbox?
Leave at message at the Silver Soapboxes Message Board.