It is with great sadness that I report the passing of legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, who died in Florida on Monday from a stroke. He was 82.
Surely no one remotely interested in fantasy, either in comics or any other creative media can fail to have heard of him. In the 1960s he redefined the field of heroic fantasy illustration with the superb covers for the paperback editions of Conan the Barbarian, his magnificent paintings providing the perfect compliment to Robert E. Howard’s epic tales of swords and sorcery.
Frazetta went on to create fantastic covers for the horror comic magazines Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, and many beautiful comic strips. He was a great inspiration to me as a child; his creatures always reminded me of Ray Harryhausen’s creations, and his anatomical drawings were more like sculptures. I could waffle on endlessly, praising Frazetta’s work, but these images will do the job far better than I ever could.
Now, I’m not the most politically correct person in the world, believe me, but I would certainly hesitate before posting images of naked women on this site. But on this occasion, I’m sure that I can be forgiven.
Well, simply because Frazetta’s women are no more sex objects than his barbarians are bodybuilders. Frazetta’s people are beings in a primeval world, where both sex and death are part of the battle for survival. Frazetta’s men are prehistoric warriors, bound with sinews developed not in a gymnasium, but on the blood-spattered decks of pirate ships, corpse-strewn battlefields, and in deadly confrontations with both flesh-and-blood and supernatural monsters.
Frazetta’s women have a purity to their sexuality. Their frequent nakedness portrays them as beautiful animals, full of primal energy and fire. Yes, they’re sexy but in the context of Frazetta’s interpretation of primitive life force, as seen through the human figure, even the most provocative of Frazetta’s women appear as almost innocent. Well, almost….
So thank you, Frank, for helping my childhood to be full of magic and monsters, wonder and weirdness. You’ll be sadly missed.