Monday, May 17, 2010
FRANK FRAZETTA RIP
When I was a kid my grandfather used to work in a distribution house. Essentially that means that when publishers sent off their products they went to where my Grandfather worked and from there he got them to newsstands, grocery stores, etc. Having that kind of first run access is what introduced me to the world of comic books and fantasy magazines. I remember being about 14 or 15 and coming across a few books about Conan The Barbarian. I wasn't a big Conan fan but the covers caught my eye instantly. They were unlike anything I'd ever seen before, these larger than life figures with swords, tigers, dragons and pretty girls scantily clothed. I loved the covers so much I took the books home and became a life long fan of Conan.
The artist that brought me into that world was Frank Frazetta, a man who is one of the few that is actually in a league of his own. Nobody painted the way Frazetta did and though many have attempted his style none came close. It wasn't enough for Frazetta to be a master of the human form he was also a master of elevating that into something superhuman. Without becoming cheesy or laughable Frazetta's heroes were always the perfect specimen of what a hero should look like. When you viewed one of his paintings on the cover of a book you instantly had to know what was happening on the inside. Many times the paintings that Frazetta presented on the covers were infinitely more interesting than the books themselves.
The thing that truly separated Frazetta from the rest was how his art rose from simply paintings to an institution, a genre all unto itself. I remember being young and trying to describe movies like Sword And The Sorcerer or Dragonslayer and telling my friends it had a real "Frank Frazetta feel to it". Instantly my friends knew what I meant though each of their interpretations of his work were different. For my generation he was fantasy, he was what mythological worlds looked like, he took all of us to places we wanted to go to have adventures we dreamed about.
When I was surly teenager traveling around with graffiti kids bombing trains and tagging I kept my love of fantasy and sci-fi to myself. That was until I saw a documentary on graffiti titled Style Wars where one of the artists profiled was looking at a movie poster and said loudly "You know who that is right? Frank Frazettaaaaaaa". Seeing a kid steeped in the urban world give props to the man I knew his reach was far beyond just fantasy and sci-fi. I even began to notice other artists using Frazetta style work on their pieces. As I got older I began to really understand that art like his was something that comes along very, very rarely.
With Frazetta's passing we've not only lost a giant in the art world but also one of the few remaining true legends of the craft. It's too bad his shitty kids turned the last years of his life into a circus but greed usually fucks everything up. I can only hope that Frank Frazetta knew how much he was adored by his fans and how many young artists and writers he inspired to do what they do. I like to think of it this way, most other artist are but shadows while Frank Frazetta was the sun.
For an awesome documentary about the man check out Frank Frazetta: Painting With Fire