Rob Pistella

The Art and Life of Frank Frazetta

The Godfather of Fantasy Art

Frank Frazetta is considered one of the most influential comic artists of all time, known for his epic ink and pencil drawings, oil paintings, and watercolor illustrations. He has also broken world records for sales at auction houses. For example, in the June 2023 comic auction on Heritage, his piece 'Dark Kingdom' sold for a record-breaking $6 million.

This article explores Frazetta's life, career, worldwide influence, and showcases some of his most prestigious artworks.

A brief history of the works of Frank Frazetta

Early Years and Artistic Beginnings

Born in 1928 to Sicilian parents in Brooklyn, Frank Frazetta showed remarkable artistic talent from an early age. Self-taught with minimal formal instruction, he began creating his own comics with astonishing skill. At the age of 16, Frazetta delved into professional comic art, garnering recognition for his work on Famous Funnies Comics and EC Comics. The cover art he produced for Weird Science Fantasy #29 is still considered one of the greatest in the history of comic books. Frazetta's unique style caught the attention of Hollywood studios when he painted a caricature of Beatle Ringo Starr for Mad Magazine's back cover in 1964. This pivotal moment led to a transition from comics to lucrative film poster art.

Pioneering Book Covers and Paperback Art

During the 1960s, Frazetta became the cover artist for Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian books, bringing a new level of excitement, action, and vibrant colors to the genre. His cover artworks became a driving force in the sales of millions of paperbacks sold annually. Frazetta's dynamic images often surpassed the popularity of the stories they adorned. Publishers quickly realized the immense appeal of Frazetta's covers, resulting in high demand for his work. Although imitators emerged, none could replicate Frazetta's success.

Venturing into Magazine Comics

In addition to his book cover art, Frazetta briefly returned to comics in the early 1970s when he collaborated with magazine publisher James Warren. His captivating covers for magazines like Vampirella, Creepy, Eerie, and Blazing Combat contributed to their widespread success. Frazetta's insistence on retaining ownership of his art set him apart from other artists of the time.

Appreciation and Legacy

Frazetta's art garnered high prices even during his lifetime, with his original works selling at auctions and direct sales for unheard-of sums. Despite lucrative offers from prominent figures like Sylvester Stallone and George Lucas, Frazetta remained dedicated to his craft, preserving his iconic works. He and his wife Ellie ventured into the poster business, selling millions of Frazetta art posters throughout the 1970s and 80s. Frazetta's influence extended to numerous art-related projects and licensing deals, all eagerly embraced by his dedicated fan base.

The Egyptian Queen

This masterpiece showcases Frazetta's ability to capture the beauty and power of his subjects, with rich details and vibrant colors that bring the scene to life.

The Egyptian Queen

The Death Dealer

This menacing figure, clad in intimidating armor and wielding a wicked weapon, has become an enduring symbol of Frazetta's mastery in capturing the essence of raw power and danger.

Death Dealer

Carson of Venus

Frazetta's artwork for the Carson of Venus series captures the otherworldly landscapes, exotic creatures, and thrilling escapades that have made this series a beloved classic among fans of science fiction and fantasy.

Carson of Venus

Dark Kingdom

This mesmerizing artwork blends ethereal beauty, fantastical creatures, and intricate details, creating a visual feast for the imagination. Frazetta's ability to evoke a sense of wonder and enchantment through his art is showcased brilliantly in this captivating piece.

Dark Kingdom

Challenges and Continuation of Frazetta's Legacy

In the 1990s, Frazetta faced health setbacks, but he persisted in creating art, adapting his techniques even in the face of strokes. Tragically, his wife Ellie passed away in 2009, leaving Frank to continue working without his beloved partner. Within ten months, Frazetta himself succumbed to a final fatal stroke in 2010. Immediately after his death, the value of his art skyrocketed, setting new world record prices with each sale.