the american Frank Frazetta (1928-2010) was the best fantasy illustrator ever, the most admired, the most influential and imitated, the most valued and the most spectacular. And you have the proof in The Fantastic Worlds of Frank Frazetta (Taschen)a huge book that collects, in large size, his best illustrations, covers, movie posters, comic pages, sketches, character studies…
One of the books of the yearwhich has only been possible thanks to the collaboration of the artist’s family and major collectors of his work, and which has been published a first edition of 6,000 numbered copies, to which a collector’s edition will soon be added.
Every single page of this 500 page volume exquisitely reproduces some unforgettable works by the artist, which makes us want to tear them off and use them as posters. And his chronological criteria allows us to verify the evolution of his art, from the sublime to the unsurpassed. The icing on the cake is a complete bibliography with which this fabulous volume is completed.
An artist whose fame and reputation have not stopped growing in the 12 months that have elapsed since his death, as evidenced by the fact that his paintings continue to break auction records. egyptian queen sold for $5.4 million in 2019.
That is why it is so important to have this complete monograph. The only drawback is that the edition is in French, English and German, but since most of the pages are full illustrations, it does not prevent us from enjoying his art.
Created the definitive image of Conan
Among Frazetta’s works the covers that he made for the reissue of the novels of Conanin the 60s, and who contributed powerfully to rescue from oblivion the character of Robert E Howard. in them created the ultimate image of that invincible muscular hero. Some illustrations that served as the basis for the version of john buscema in Marvel comics, the most famous of the character. Some illustrations that, at the time, represented a complete revolution, since no one had seen anything like it, without even Frazetta himself.
From that moment on, each book whose cover Frazetta illustrated automatically became a success.
The success of these covers was what led Frazetta to think that comics and illustration could go further. Thanks to that, he began to leave his mark on other characters such as Tarzan and in publications such as the mythical Warren horror magazines in the 70s, which powerfully influenced a whole generation of great artists such as Jeff Jones, Berni Wrightson, Michael Whelan, Don Maitz, Boris Vallejo… Everyone was fascinated by Frazetta’s dynamic and realistic style, with which he managed to their characters seem alive and in continuous movement.
They are also very famous their cover versions for the mythical EC Comics (that actually are being published by Diabolo in Spain), his version of Vampirellafor Warren magazines, and Death Dealer, a painting he made in 1973 and in which we see a sinister warrior on horseback, clad in armor with a horned helmet, holding an ax and a bloody shield.
The cinema did not take long to claim it: ‘Mad Max’, ‘Galactica’ ‘Tygra’
In 1964 Frazetta made a famous portrait of Ringo Starr for the back cover of the magazine MAD, which parodied a shampoo ad and was highly commented at the time. And that caused United Artist to order the poster for a new film by a first-time director: What’s up, Pussycat? (Woody Allen, 1965), which would be followed by his illustrations to on the trail of the fox either the vampire dance.
Clint Eastwood, fascinated by his art, commissioned him to create the poster for the wonderful The escape (1977), which ended in a long friendship between the two.
And in 1978 he designed a whole series of promotional illustrations for Galactic, battle star, the most famous of imitations of Star Wars.
Also created the iconic poster of Mad Max (1979), whose success helped to increase his legend. And for many other films that are only remembered for those Frazetta posters, like the Italian luana (1968).
But his biggest involvement with a movie was Fire and ice directed by Ralph Bakshi (author of the animated version of The Lord of the rings) in 1983. A film with a script by two great Marvel writers, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, for which Frazetta designed the main characters and the world in which they moved, based on his own illustrated universe. Although it was not a success at the time, Over time it has become a cult movie..
Frazetta himself ended up being the protagonist of a documentary, Frazetta: painting with firedirected by lance laspina in 2003, and which included appearances by the illustrator and also by stars such as Forrest J. Ackerman, Bo Derek, John Millius, Ralph Bakshi and Kevin Eastman.
At the moment, Frazetta’s work continues to inspire great directors like Peter Jackson (The Lord of the rings).
Juvenile delinquent and baseball player
Born into a family of Sicilian immigrants in Brooklyn, in 1928, Frazetta played minor league baseball and was a petty juvenile delinquent, as well as a seducer, thanks to his great physical attractiveness. He even said that he only drew when he had nothing better to do, since he preferred to play baseball (Luckily he didn’t achieve his dream of being a professional gamer, which would have deprived us of his art.)
But his teachers saw his enormous potential with drawing and, at only 8 years old, they managed to get his parents to enroll him in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts. At only 16 years old, he published his first stories in comic books..
It was so good that Al Cappthe great comic book star of the time, soon hired him as an assistant for his series Li’l AbnerWhat do you know?It would become the best field of learning for the young draftsman. A series in which she would work for 9 years. This same week we recommended the fantastic edition of that mythical series that has just been published by Diábolo ediciones.
Also worked as an assistant to Dan Barry in one of the most remembered stages of the mythical press strips of the character.
The book also includes samples of Johnny Comet, the strip written by Earl Baldwin and drawn by Frazetta, which lasted one year (1952-53) and which was his longest (credited) work for newspapers. It was a story set in the world of automobile racing.
Later he did work for EC Comics or the covers of Buck Rogers… covers of men’s magazines, erotic books and a series for Playboy. But the success of his covers for Tarzan and Conan launched him to stardom. “I put a lot of emphasis on the physical. In Brooklyn, I met Conan. I met guys like him.”explained in the 70s.
His knowledge of the human physiognomy helped him to draw those muscular fantasy heroes and also the exuberant women who used to accompany them on the covers. Very sensual females who used to appear as naked as censorship allowed, with rotund and powerful but very realistic bodies. When he placed those almost perfect gods and goddesses in fantastic worlds full of monsters or spaceships, I got some really fascinating images. We are very much afraid that the eroticism of his illustrations, both masculine and feminine, would not be to the liking of today’s cynical society.
Frank Frazetta was also a visionary when it came to delivering his works. By contract, he kept all his original oil paintings., and once he became a star illustrator, he calmly and intelligently sold them. In 2009, kirk hammetMetallica guitarist, paid a million dollars for the original of conan the conqueror Painted in the 60’s.
By the way, many hard rock bands, such as Molly Hatchet, or Nazareththey also turned to Frazetta to create impressive covers for their records.
Of course, Frazetta. won the most important awards in the world of illustrationsuch as the Chesley Award (1988, 1995, 1997), Hugo Award (1966), Spectrum Grand Master of Fantastic Art Award (1995) or the Eisner Award (1995).
The authors of the book
Those in charge of compiling the illustrations and writing the articles have been Dan Nadel and Zak Smith. Nadel is a curator of the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California at Davis and a contributor to the New York Review of Books and Artforum. Nadel’s books and exhibits include Peter Saul: Professional Artist Correspondence 1945–1976 (2020), Chicago Comics, 1960s to Now at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2021), and a biography of Robert Crumb to be published shortly (Scribner, 2024). He lives and works in Brooklyn (New York).
Zak Smith He is an artist whose works are included in various public collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art in New York; The Saatchi Gallery, in London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is the author of several books and writes a column for the magazine Artillery. She lives and works in Los Angeles.
Without forget the essential work of editor Dian Hansonwhich produced various men’s magazines between 1976 and 2001, including Juggs, Outlaw Biker, and Leg Show, before becoming editor of the collection Sexy Books from TASCHEN. Among his titles is the series dedicated to parts of the body, The Art of Pin-up, Masterpieces of Fantasy Art Y ren hang.
A book worth its weight in gold (and weighs more than five kilos) and that will be revalued with the passage of timelike the great works it contains.
Frank Frazetta, the king of fantasy who left his mark on Conan or Mad Max