Saturday, May 22, 2010

Frank Frazetta (Feb 9th, 1928 - May 10th, 2010)

self-portrait - 1962

When I was eighteen I made tentative plans to travel to East Stroudsburg PA to visit The Frank Frazetta museum. There was a guy who ran a comic store in my cozy suburb who told me about the place. He sold me a handful of prints by Frazetta I had dutifully pinned to the walls in my bedroom. 

There was something special about his paintings - it was as if the classical masters had returned and taken inspiration from comics and pulp novels. His work was alive, a celebration of heightened reality populated by barbarians, dinosaurs, and creatures of the night. His compositions always captured a moment of desperation or violence at its apex of motion. Whether a deathblow from a battle axe, a wolf ready to tear into its prey, or a reanimated corpse crawling from a grave, each portrayal was vital.

Frank's work was so good it transcended the medium it sprang from. His enormous talent was readily apparent to anyone who saw his art, no matter what avenue it may have taken. He gradually moved up the ladder - from comics into ad work, from ad work into paperback covers, from pulps into movie posters, and eventually into his own endeavors  of filmmaking, print sales, and the museum that houses his stunning array of paintings. Toward the end of his life one of his vivid depictions of Conan sold to Lars Ulrich of Metallica for a million dollars.

I never did take that trip to East Stroudsberg -- long before Frank succumbed to one of the many ailments he suffered through in his last years. Going to Frank's museum was one of those things I had years to do. At age eighteen I thought, "What's the rush?" Well, all these years later I still haven't made it. Frank and his beloved wife Ellie are both gone now. I know I could still go - but something about that pilgrimage isn't quite a lustrous as before. The paintings would still be awe-inspiring, but I have a feeling a sense of mourning would be ever present. 

Frank, we hardly knew you --  

"Cat Girl" - 1967


Various cover paintings for James Warren publications

"Frankenstein and Dracula" - 1967

Several of the paperback cover paintings that made Frazetta famous

Poster art for George Miller's classic "Mad Max"

Painting of Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke for "The Gauntlet"

Advertisement for Battlestar Galactica

Poster art for William Friedkin's "The Night They Raided Minsky's"

Bakshi/Frazetta collaboration "Fire and Ice"

Molly Hatchet album covers featuring "Dark Kingdom" and "The Death Dealer"

"Bucking Broncho" - 1975 -  an example of the stunning sense of motion Frazetta is known for.

"Return of the Mucker"

"Thuvia Maid of Mars" - 1974

Frazetta documentary "Painting with Fire"

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