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Chapter 6: 1969

by Paul Vespignani


OUTLAW WORLD(1969)(oil painting)/OUTLAW WORLD(aka WHITE GORILLAS)(date unknown)(oil repainting)

This is Frank's most minimal repainting: the tiny figure of the guy climbing the mountain is given longer, wavy hair compared to his short haircut in the cover painting for OUTLAW WORLD.
I'm not sure if Frank and Ellie came up with the alternate title of WHITE GORILLAS or if that title was created by Arnie and Cathy Fenner for their book ICON(1998/revised edition 2003) where this repainting made its public debut. In any case they all would have been better off sticking with the original OUTLAW WORLD title.
As George Harrison once put it: THAT IS ALL.

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)
The classical painting technique of using raw umber or burnt umber paint to provide a ground color to darken a light canvas so the artist can paint white highlights over the ground color is as old and respected as Rembrandt himself. Frank just freshened up this technique with a modern twist by using the natural wood surface color of masonite as a predominant ground color for KAVIN'S WORLD and the later cover painting for MONSTER FROM OUT OF TIME(1970). In both of these paintings Frazetta smartly lets the masonite do a lot of the work for him. If these paintings are using masonite as an artistic short cut it is a very pleasing one visually, so masonite was a win/win for Frank and the Frazetta faithful.
The thing that most impressed me about the cover painting for KW when I first saw it in the early 1970s was how Frazetta used cool tones for the skin color on the figures contrasted with the warm background. This seems almost counter intuitive to how most artists would do it. Of course as a young teen I knew zero about masonite or ground colors.
I also really like the full color repainting of KW which made its first public appearance in the Frazetta 1982 calendar(hence the 1981 copyright date). Did Frank also do this repainting in 1981? Definitely maybe.

KAVIN'S WORLD(date unknown)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1981)
The only elements that were saved from the original painting were the flying dragon and the ethereal seagoing vessel. Everything else was painted over and made much lighter and brighter. The beautifully modulated light pastel colors of the background are absolutely unique to this repainting. Frazetta never did a color scheme even remotely like this one before or since.
It is interesting that Frank never signed this painting in paint, but for its appearance in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FIVE(1985) there IS a somewhat shaky Frazetta signature and the 1981 copyright scrawled in black ink and superimposed on the bottom of the repainting during the book's repro process. The caption in this book identifies this repainting like so:(unfinished painting). You could make a legitimate argument that this actually IS a finished painting. Frazetta never did any additional painting on this after its appearance in the 1982 calendar so it is quite possible that HE considered it to be a finished painting. Or to express it another way: HE was finished with IT.

CREEPY 27(1967 or 1969)(oil painting)(1st version)/CREEPY 27(aka MONGOL TYRANT)(1969)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1967)(published version)


CREEPY 27 was the first cover painting that Frank did for Warren after an almost 2 year hiatus from the horror mag company.

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)

Frank's all time classic EGYPTIAN QUEEN painting is one of the few times he has gone completely on record about the painting and repainting process of a particular piece of art. According to Frazetta he painted EQ in only 1 day(which is pretty amazing if you think about it). He considered it finished but was bothered by her face. He repainted the face. And then he spent 3 more days repeatedly repainting the face and was unhappy with every face he repainted. He gave up on repainting the face and submitted the painting to Warren for reproduction even though he was still displeased about her face. He got the painting back sometime later, immediately repainted the face in 5 minutes and was happy with it.

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)
The repainting made its debut in the mid 1970s in the very high profile as the cover of Frank's 1st art book THE FANTASTIC ART OF FRANK FRAZETTA(1975) which confirms this painting's importance to the Frazetta legacy both then and now. It was also included on the inside of the book and became an early poster for Frazetta Prints.
About this same time Warren did their own variant EQ poster(with the original face) as a sort of quasi-facsimile enlargement of the EERIE 23 cover with the EERIE logo and the story headline fully contained in its own top rectangle(totally isolated from the image), minus the .50 cent retail price and the upper corner box with the Cousin Eerie cartoon head.

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.

As it turned out, VAMPIRELLA magazine's combo of sex appeal and horror was a big hit with young people in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Hammer films explored similar creative territory with their Karnstein trilogy consisting of THE VAMPIRE LOVERS(1970), LUST FOR A VAMPIRE(aka TO LOVE A VAMPIRE)(1971), and TWINS OF EVIL(1971).
Frank's cover painting for VAMPIRELLA 1 along with his multiple beautifully rendered ink wash prototype drawings of Vampirella set a solid foundation and a strong visual template for subsequent artists who worked on the magazine.
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).

At some point after selling the repainting Frank indulged in some boastful trash talking saying the character of Vampirella was "pretty silly" and that her costume was "so corny." Them's fightin' words for old timey Warren fans such as myself.
Personally I think that the "doughnut hole" design for Vampirella's costume/bathing suit was beautifully realized by co-creators Jim Warren and Trina Robbins. I would put it right up there with the great comic book costumes of Batman's cowl and cape and Steve Ditko's brilliant red and blue Spider-Man costume. In the world of comics costume design is no joke. It is all important and can make or break a character.
 VAMPIRELLA 1(1991)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1991)
Frazetta also made the specious claim that everyone loved his nude Vampirella repainting more than the 1969 original cover painting. Being a Frazetta fan in good standing for the past 55 years I will here and now publicly testify that I never loved the nude Vampirella repainting and in fact have always hated it with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. When I first saw a small repro of this repainting in the deluxe edition of ICON in 1998 I was literally outraged.
Frank's excellent sequel painting VAMPIRELLA 2(aka VAMPIRELLA 1996) did not appear in Frank and Ellie's self published FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK ONE(1996) and they never made a poster out of it either. This sequel painting was included in ICON a few years later. Frazetta very clearly put the 1996 date next to his signature, but there is no copyright symbol. This painting was commissioned for an ostensible VAMPIRELLA 25th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL which simple math revealed to have been running a full 2 years late. 
Arnie Fenner has confirmed that VAMPIRELLA 2 was Frank's final start-to-finish right handed painting. Shortly after this painting was completed Frazetta suffered multiple strokes which forced him to paint and draw with his left hand for the rest of his life. In this final left handed era Frank mostly limited his painting to repainting pre-existing paintings(although there are at least 2 known exceptions to this particular rule).


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