FRAZETTA: KING OF PAINT
Chapter 6: 1969
by Paul Vespignani
OUTLAW WORLD(1969)(oil painting)/OUTLAW WORLD(aka WHITE GORILLAS)(date unknown)(oil repainting)
OUTLAW WORLD(aka WHITE GORILLAS)(date unknown)(oil repainting)
KAVIN'S WORLD(1969)(oil painting)/KAVIN'S WORLD(date unknown)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1981)
KAVIN'S WORLD Paperback Cover Art (1969)(oil painting)
KAVIN'S WORLD(date unknown)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1981)
CREEPY 27(1967 or 1969)(oil painting)(1st version)/CREEPY 27(aka MONGOL TYRANT)(1969)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1967)(published version)
CREEPY 27(aka MONGOL TYRANT)
Around mid-1967 lack of magazine sales created a financial crisis for Warren which meant the company could no longer afford to pay their top 3 creators(Frazetta, editor/writer Archie Goodwin, and artist Steve Ditko(who in 1966 had split from Marvel, Stan Lee, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange)). Goodwin got a writing job with Marvel which included a long run on IRON MAN. Ditko eventually gravitated toward DC where he created the character of the Creeper(CREEPY...the Creeper, get it?). Frank had plenty of work with his book cover and movie poster assignments. If he missed his creative freedom from Warren during those 2 years, the super-high paychecks he was earning from movie poster art meant he was crying all the way to the bank.
Warren economized by making the interior pages of CREEPY and EERIE either all reprinted stories or a mix of some new material and reprints. Jim Warren's initial gambit was to feature CREEPY reprints in EERIE and EERIE reprints in CREEPY as if he was daft enough to think that CREEPY readers never read EERIE or EERIE readers never read CREEPY. Warren didn't reprint the covers due to that being understandably confusing to the readers("Is this a new issue I just bought or an old issue I already own?"). However the new covers were of lower quality by lesser artists getting paid smaller rates than Frazetta(not that Frank EVER got any decent pay from Warren even back in the so called "good ol' days").
By early 1969 Warren's financial situation had improved enough so the company could afford to buy some new covers by Frazetta. Frank's slight return to Warren produced 2 cover paintings for CREEPY, 1 cover painting for EERIE, and 4 cover paintings for VAMPIRELLA(plus a handful of ink wash prototype drawings for the character of Vampirella) over the next 2 years.
Since the timing of Frazetta's breakup with Warren in 1971 perfectly coincides with he and his family moving to the Poconos, the Sherlock Holmes in me is tempted to see these 2 events as being causally connected(although I don't have a clue how). It is also quite likely that Frank's divorce from Warren was purely financial in nature. By 1971 book cover jobs were paying more than Warren and movie poster art jobs were paying a LOT more than Warren.
I have 2 theories about the CREEPY 27 cover(and I definitely favor Theory #1). Theory #1: Frazetta later gave the painting a 1967 copyright date which suggests he painted the 1st version in 1967. When he went to submit it to Warren he got the bad news they could no longer afford to pay him his usual rate. He held onto the painting for a year or so. Reportedly Ellie was so repulsed by the hideous face of the oversized monster in this painting that Frank made a point of always facing the painting toward the wall so Ellie wouldn't see it even by accident.
In early 1969 Frazetta got the green light to do more paintings for Warren. He already had this one in hand so it was the 1st painting out of the gate. Frank repainted the monster head to make it decidedly less frightening in deference to Ellie's feelings. Why he decided to make the 2nd head look like a fanged dead ringer for Genghis Khan is anyone's guess.
Theory #2 is that both versions of the painting were done in close time proximity to each other in early 1969 and that Frank got the 1967 copyright date wrong when he added it a decade later. I'm going with Theory #1 because I think it has more factual support from the evidence at hand.
CREEPY 27(1967 or 1969)(oil painting)(1st version)
Comparing the 2 paintings I really do prefer the 1st version. I have been a lifelong enthusiast of horror movies, horror novels/short stories, horror comics, and monsters so I find the hideous monster from the original painting quite endearing. I have a feeling Frazetta liked this 1st version too because he took the time and effort to shoot a good quality photo of it before repainting the monster head. This type of photography was something he usually didn't bother with whenever he did a repainting.
MONGOL TYRANT showed up in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FOUR(1980) and became a poster for Frazetta Prints. The much lesser known 1st version made its first and only appearance in TESTAMENT(2001).
EERIE 23(1969)(oil painting)/EERIE 23(aka EGYPTIAN QUEEN)(1969)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1969)
I believe the veracity of Frank's account, but my POV on this painting is somewhat different than his. First of all, I actually LIKE the face on the EERIE 23 cover painting much more than I like the repainted face(which is also perfectly fine). While Frazetta thought his 3 day ordeal in repainting the face ended in failure, I think it ended in success. The somewhat anxious expression on the first face tells the story beautifully: EQ is frightened by the big cat approaching her so she is shrinking back in fear against the big pillar. So what does the tranquil and emotionless facial expression of the 2nd face tell us? That the big cat is her domesticated pet so she is not worried about its approach? Is that even a believable scenario?
I have a feeling that the repainted face is an early strategy in Frazetta's long game of repositioning himself from being an illustrator to being a fine artist. Maybe he felt the anxious face was too connected to storytelling, and in his way of thinking that made it an illustration. However the emotionless face completely divorces the image from storytelling altogether and the viewer is invited to view it as just a beautiful picture with no specific storytelling meaning. And, of course, it IS a beautiful picture.
EERIE 23(aka EGYPTIAN QUEEN)(1969)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1969)
VAMPIRELLA 1(1969)(oil painting)/VAMPIRELLA 1(1991)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1991)
Frazetta's now-classic cover paintings for EERIE 23 and VAMPIRELLA 1(both magazines were cover dated September 1969) were a powerful one-two punch that sold a lot of magazines for Warren at a time when they really NEEDED to sell a lot of magazines to be fully pulled out of the financial funk that had largely crippled the company over the previous 2 years. VAMPIRELLA was an all new concept and had all new contents. CREEPY and EERIE would continue to limp along for the rest of 1969 with partial reprints. By the start of 1970 all of the Warren mags had all new stories and art.
VAMPIRELLA 1(1969)(oil painting)
Considering the popularity of Vampirella in general and the popularity of Frazetta's cover painting for VAMPIRELLA 1 in particular, it has always seemed very VERY strange to me that Frank and Ellie never included this painting in any of their 1st generation FF art books or produced it as a poster for Frazetta Prints.
While it is probably impossible for me to pick out my favorite Frazetta repainting, it is super easy for me to identify my LEAST favorite of Frank's repaintings: it is nude Vampirella.
In 1991 Frazetta made the decision to paint out Vampirella's red bathing suit costume and black boots, make her completely nude, and soon after sell off the repainting at auction. The problem here was that the 1969 original had a very simple composition which worked great for that painting but it also means that every element of the design is of key importance. The red and black colors were not incidental; they were actually very crucial to the painting's visual success. When Frank painted out the red costume and the black boots the composition pretty much imploded into near-nothingness. What we are left with is an anonymous naked brunette woman standing in a spotlight...which looks REALLY stupid(and I'm being polite here).
VAMPIRELLA 1(1991)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1991)
VAMPIRELLA 2(aka VAMPIRELLA 1996)