The great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta (1928-2010) died yesterday at the age of 82. Surely the most influential artists within his genre and a significant comics illustrator and cartoonist too, his legacy is apparent everywhere. Basically, fantasy illustration as we know it would be much different if it weren’t for him.
His pen and ink work in, say the EC comics or even Li’l Abner, had a beautiful rendered, but also slightly stiff illustrative quality, not just in comparison with the latter’s creator Al Capp, but also paragons of comics illustration like Alex Raymond or Hal Foster, or even direct peers such as Wally Wood. But when working non-sequentially, he was without peer. Yes, his grasp of anatomy was far from perfect and he never had a great sense of space, but his work is possessed of a physicality and an energy rarely seen in illustration and his work coheres beautifully, making one forget its inaccuracies and immerse oneself in his imaginary worlds.
His is a strongly masculine idiom, and powerfully sexy, but never seems exploitative — it has a streetwise depression era integrity to it that finds virtue in action.
Above: the image that wet the pants of every adolescent metalhead, the 1972 Death Dealer (slightly cropped). UPDATE: Tom Spurgeon now has a full obit up. For galleries of Frazetta art, check Golden Age Comic Book Stories here, here and here, and this gallery is pretty decent too. And Gary Groth’s great feature-length interview with the man from The Comics Journal #174 is highly recommended.