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Chapter 4: 1966

by Paul Vespignani



EERIE 3(1966)(oil painting)/EERIE 3(aka SEA MONSTER)(date unknown)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1966) 

EERIE 3(1966)(oil painting)

Frank's repainting of SEA MONSTER has a real formal perfection that is superior to the original cover painting. The only elements that were retained from the original were all in the foreground: the undersea diver, the treasure chest, a skull, and a few fish. The larger area of the background with the oversize monster and the surrounding underwater space were completely reimagined in the repainting and all given a beautiful dark menace.  

I still have a lot of fondness for the original EERIE 3 cover painting with its complex network of textures, bubbles, and fizzy colorations. Although the repainting is obviously better I still wish FF had spared the original version and did the repainting on a 2nd piece of canvas board.


EERIE 3(aka SEA MONSTER)(date unknown)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1966)
I bought the Frazetta Prints poster of the SM repainting in 1975. That poster was a true object of beauty. The repro in the 1st generation Frazetta art books was consistently good, but the reproduction quality of the Frazetta posters was the toppermost of the poppermost(to coin a phrase by the Beatles). Frank and Ellie had chosen a subtly textured paper stock for the posters which was ideal for Frank's painted images. At the time these posters only cost $3 apiece, which was a crazy good bargain even by mid-1970s monetary standards.
Of the 30 paintings that did double duty as the full color contents of THE FANTASTIC ART OF FRANK FRAZETTA(1975) and the first wave of Frazetta posters, 7 of these were repaintings(and 2 more WOULD be repainted in later years). Out of these 7 repaintings SM was the one that was the most conspicuous because it had a very drastic visual change in the repainting process. In a sense the Frazetta faithful were now being put on notice: none of your old favorites were safe anymore!

EERIE 5(1966)(oil painting)/EERIE 5(aka SWAMP GOD)(date unknown)(oil repainting)  

EERIE 5(1966)(oil painting)

The cover painting for EERIE 5 was relatively simple and effective: a classic T rex style dinosaur looming in the reddish background with a back view of 2 guys standing in a lake in the foreground. For the repainting Frank just painted the 2 guys out of the painting, which only served to prove how important they were to the original composition and the whole image really suffers without them. The fact that guy #1 was wearing a bright red jacket and guy #2 was wearing a bright green jacket might seem odd fashion wise, but it makes complete sense when you consider the red and the green were the absolutely perfect color accents for the overall compositional color scheme. For Frank everything was subordinate to color and design at all times.

                      EERIE 5(aka SWAMP GOD)(date unknown)(oil repainting)


CREEPY 11(1966)(oil painting)/KING KONG(1)(1976)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1976)/KING KONG(2)(1979)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1979)

                CREEPY 11(1966)(oil painting)
I actually love all 3 paintings in this intriguing chain of repaintings.
When I was a boy in the 1960s I thought Frank's cover painting for CREEPY 11 was one of his very best CREEPY covers(perhaps even THE best). It features a bizarre color combo that only Frazetta could think up and execute so well: brightly chromatic magenta, greens, blues, and purples are offset with an acidly desaturated purplish gray background color field. The rampaging figure of the Beastman was expertly designed, drawn, and painted by Frank.
In the mid-1970s Frazetta had entered an extended period of unproductivity and was doing very few new paintings. The appearance of his KING KONG painting for an Ace paperback tie-in to the then-new Kong movie remake was certainly a very pleasant surprise for me in late 1976. The blond woman from the foreground of the CREEPY 11 cover was the only element Frank retained from that painting...and even SHE was completely repainted, making this KING KONG painting a 100% repainting. This means that Frazetta completely obliterated his classic CREEPY 11 painting for absolutely no reason at all. The background colors of the KK painting were bright and appealing and Kong himself looks great here. When you think about it, Frank and Kong were the ideal combination of artist and character(ditto Frazetta and Conan).
KING KONG(1)(1976)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1976)
I bought FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FOUR when it was first released in 1980 and I was stunned to see that Frank had repainted the 1976 Kong painting yet again only 3 years later in 1979. The blond woman was the only part of the painting saved from the 1976 KK version, making her the lone through-line for all 3 paintings. This time Kong and the background were radically re-visualized with a greater emphasis on darkness and monochromatic cool colors. 
The 1976 KK painting is still my sentimental favorite, but the excellence of KK 1979 can not be denied. Frazetta must have been happy with this final Kong painting because he gave it a place of honor as the back cover of FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FOUR(where it received the extra special touch of a metallic gold border which perfectly complemented its bluish tonalities). It also was released as a poster from Frazetta prints, a consideration not bestowed on its 2 predecessors.


  This chain of paintings is also a painful reminder of how truly reckless Frank could sometimes be concerning the value of his own art. In 1976 he had no problem sacrificing one of his best CREEPY cover paintings to do an almost completely unrelated Kong painting. In 1979 he was perfectly on board with sacrificing THAT painting to facilitate another almost totally different Kong painting. For the very small amount of dollars it would have cost to buy 2 pieces of 16 x 20 canvas board in the mid to late 1970s he could have painted the 2 Kong variants on those boards AND preserved the CREEPY 11 cover painting. If he had done that we would have been left with 3 great pieces of original art instead of just one.


              KING KONG(2)(1979)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1979)

EERIE 7(1966)(oil painting)/EERIE 7(aka SEA WITCH)(date unknown)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1966)

                            EERIE 7(1966)(oil painting)
The cover painting for EERIE 7 was a stone cold masterpiece when Frank submitted it to Warren in 1966. This painting certainly never needed to be repainted or changed in any way. Frank and Ellie must have agreed with me on this at least through the mid-1970s where the original version received a place of prominence as the last image in THE FANTASTIC ART OF FRANK FRAZETTA(1975) and became a popular poster. 

There are 2 questions that need to be asked here: WHEN did Frazetta become disenchanted with the original figure of the sea witch? And: WHY did he become so disenchanted with her? 

The somewhat more pretty repainted sea witch looks perfectly fine, although she has lost much of the wonderful malevolent quality of the first sea witch. We should count ourselves lucky that Frank never repainted the superb raging seascape that makes up the overwhelming majority of the total composition.  

Frazetta has stated publicly in an interview that he struggled with the repainting of the sea witch figure. That in and of itself should have told him(and us) that he would have been much better off to let it be with this painting and he should have just left it alone.

At this point it seems logical to point out the fact that repainting a masterpiece under any circumstances is always risky business. The creative chain lightning of inspiration and improvisation that results in a particular masterwork may only strike once in a lifetime(if an artist is lucky enough to have it happen at all). To expect that same magic to occur a decade later(or 2 decades later) during a revision painting session is sheer folly. I think Frank was really pushing his luck with this repainting.

I remember reading an interview with Bob Dylan back in the 1990s where he was moaning about how effortless it was for him to write and record songs back in the 1960s compared to his long creative dry spell in the 1990s. He said something along these lines(and I am paraphrasing here): What once came easy now comes hard. As it turns out Dylan's creative dilemma was pretty similar to Frazetta's own. Back in 1966 Bob and Frank were at the top of their games and could literally do no wrong. Decades later it was a totally different story for these 2 esteemed gents and unfortunate circumstances sometimes made any creativity at all extremely difficult.

EERIE 7(aka SEA WITCH)(oil repainting)(date unknown)(copyright date 1966)


MONSTER MANIA 2(1966)(oil painting)/MONSTER MANIA 2(aka YOUNG WORLD)(oil repainting)(1981)(copyright date 1981)

MONSTER MANIA 2(1966)(oil painting)

Frazetta had temporarily moved himself and his family to California in the early 1980s in order to work with Ralph Bakshi on their co-produced animated movie FIRE AND ICE(1983). As a sort of recreational sideline in 1981 Frank worked on repainting his caveman epic landscape YOUNG WORLD which was originally a wraparound cover for MONSTER MANIA 2(cover date January 1967, released late 1966). 

 Another 1981 side project was the 1982 Frazetta calendar. Granted I am relying on a 42 year old memory here, but my impression at the time was that the repro of YOUNG WORLD that appeared in the calendar was an in-progress state of the repainting before it was totally finished. The finished repainting of YW appeared in FRANK FRAZETTA:BOOK FIVE(1985) 4 years later. If my memory is correct, that 1982 calendar is even more of a collectible oddity than most people realize: an in-progress shot of a FF repainting is a real rarity.
MONSTER MANIA 2(aka YOUNG WORLD)(oil repainting)(1981)(copyright date 1981)
As for the painting itself, the repainting of the parade of primitive people is a big improvement over the original, although I wish Frazetta had fully retained the 1966 painted landscape with its bright colors and funky impasto textures. However the repainted landscape is also mighty terrific, but far more subtle than the original.

Like CONAN THE ADVENTURER(1966) this is a really large size original for Frank measuring in at 22.5 x 35. Also like CTA it was painted on a stretched canvas. Since the wraparound cover for MM 2 was double the size of a regular magazine cover the bigger original makes practical good sense. 

As was the same case for EERIE 3(aka SEA MONSTER) from earlier in 1966, the original version of YOUNG WORLD was far more fun while the repainting was quite a bit more respectable. Does that sum up the difference between "illustration" and "fine art"?


MONSTER MANIA 2(oil painting)

 EERIE 8(1966)(oil painting)/EERIE 8(aka THE BRAIN)(oil repainting)(date unknown)(copyright date 1967)


Frazetta's repainting of THE BRAIN was pretty concise: for the back view of the lower warrior holding his sword in a horizontal position Frank repainted his right shoulder area. It is unlikely any viewers noticed the difference.

FF gave this painting a 1967 copyright date in the mid-1970s. GCD says that EERIE 8 went on sale at newsstands, etc. the last day of 1966. If you figure 3 to 5 months are needed to pre-produce a horror comics mag like EERIE this means for sure Frazetta painted THE BRAIN in 1966.

EERIE 8(aka THE BRAIN)(date unknown)(copyright date 1967)


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