The Other Conan

http://www.gwthomas.org/frank_frazetta_thedestroyer.jpg
 
What fantasy artist fueled the imaginative fires and raised the testosterone levels of many teenage boys in the late ’60s and ’70s? Why, it was Frank Frazetta (born February 9, 1928), godfather of the steroid-stuffed super-sized neo-pulp fantasy heroes. Sadly, on Sunday, Mother’s day, he died of a stroke. He was 82. He was a legend for his scantily armored and athletically buxom babes and otherworldly superannuated he-men. He created the visuals for Conan the Barbarian, and he was the favored artist among heavy metal artists (see “Flirtin’ With Disaster” by Molly Hatchet and “Hard Attack” by Dust, along with contemporary bands such as Wolfmother).
 
The Brooklyn born Frank Frazetta’s painting style, a cross between Caspar David Friedrich, Elihu Vedder, and Howard Pyle, defined the fantasy paperback look with his oil paintings of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. I became aware of his work, however, in MAD magazine, with the wonderful caricature of Ringo Starr in a parody advertisement for BLEECH (e.g. Breck) Shampoo. He predated the fantasy video game explosion, but his imprint is on most of what’s out there today. Let’s assume that he’s now in Valhalla (not New York).
 
 
 

 
 
 
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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the "Visuals" Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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