May 8th marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of illustrator Frank Frazetta, who created some of the most iconic commercial images of the twentieth century. Best known for his painted covers featuring the likes of Conan, Buck Rogers and Tarzan, Brooklyn born Frazzetta dropped the extra “z” early on, and began his career at the precocious age of 16 in the burgeoning field of comic books in 1944.
Signing his name “Fritz”, some of his earliest work was in funny animal comics, and he went on to work across all genres: fantasy, historical drama, mystery, romance and Westerns included. He worked for a myriad of comic companies, Avon, EC, National (today DC) and others and in 1952 began assisting (and sometimes ghosting for) cartoonist Al Capp on the popular comic strip Li’l Abner. In 1964, he illustrated the movie poster for “What’s New Pussycat?” and went on to do several other movie posters.
His best known work, however, were his paperback and magazine covers within the sword and sorcery and adventure genres. He worked mainly in oil, but also in watercolor, pencil and ink. His moody atmospheric environs, heroic muscular men and curvy sexy women, both usually scantily clad, led the way for many other artists to follow and emulate. His influence extends to today’s CGI cinema.
Apparently an avid golfer, what is little known about him is that Frazetta held at least half a dozen patents for golf club heads.
In the 1980’s he founded the Frazetta Museum in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania where he lived, which displayed both his own work as well as that of other artists. Later in life he suffered a series of strokes, which paralyzed his right hand. As a result he taught himself to paint with his left. Sadly, following his death, his children had a highly publicized dispute regarding ownership of his paintings and estate, which has since been resolved.