Frazetta’s First Death Dealer Comics: An Interview
The interview with Frank Frazetta you are about to read was conducted by phone in 1994. It was done to provide quotes for an article on the upcoming Death Dealer comic book series published by Verotik that was done for Hero Illustrated (January, 1995), a now-defunct slick fanzine that was one of the best comic-book-oriented publications of its time. The entire transcript has never been published until now. Since the entire interview runs almost 6,000 words, it was decided to run it in two parts on the Frazetta Girls website. The interview was conducted by Steve Ringgenberg, the third and final interview he did with Frazetta. Ringgenberg also transcribed and edited the interview for publication.
FRANK FRAZETTA TRANSCRIPT III (8/27/94)
FRAZETTA: Well, I'm not doing anything but supervising, really. As you know Bisley is the guy (who's) going to do the artwork. And of course, I'll just check in on it and make sure he doesn't go crazy. (Laughs) And I guess I'll let them use my covers and stuff. As to why I'm doing it, I guess I was talked into it by Mr. Danzig. And it sounds like a good profitable idea, but I'm not actually doing comics. I mean I guess you read somewhere that Frazetta's back in comics, almost.
RINGGENBERG: Well, I knew you were just doing covers, which is sort of what I figured.
FRAZETTA: Well, I have a few covers haven't even been used, so I would guess at this point it would be more like a test run to see what happens. And I'm not about to really get involved. I want to just check out his work and make sure that he doesn't go crazy, and he keeps it in the tradition that I want.
RINGGENBERG: Are you going to be doing any new Death Dealer covers or just using the ones that you've already done?
FRAZETTA: Well, I don't know. I'm not sure. I've got at least one that has never been used for starters, and then of course, we could use the others. Nobody seems to get too tired of it. And if the interior is all new, what's the difference?
RINGGENBERG: What's the frequency of the comic going to be? Is it going to be a monthly, or a bi-monthly?
Frazetta with Glen Danzig at San Diego Comic Con 1995
FRAZETTA: I'm not sure about that. Like I say, they may just make, I don't know what they call it, a test run, just to see whether it takes off, you know? If it takes off, who knows?
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, so you might do a miniseries with a limited number of issues?
FRAZETTA: I'm not sure. You really ought to talk to Glen about that.
RINGGENBERG: We will. And was Glen the one who selected Simon Bisley as the artist?
FRAZETTA: Yeah, with my approval. I don't know who could really come close to what I do. But, you know, Bisley tends to go out in left field a lot, which is fine, but if it's going to look a little like Frazetta, it better look like Frazetta. And hopefully he can restrain himself. He certainly has a lot of talent. I already talked to him on the phone, and I want him to simply restrain himself.
RINGGENBERG: And do something a little more on the realistic end?
FRAZETTA: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. I'm not too high on the extreme distortion and the funny panels and all of that stuff. I want to keep it fairly traditional, but you know, Danzig argues that point with me, saying, and he may be right, I don't know what the new kids are enjoying these days, I frankly don't. And I'll let him do his thing and see what happens. If I don't like it, they're going to hear it from it me.
RINGGENBERG: So, you had said that Glen talked you into taking a stab at doing the comics stuff based on your characters. How did he approach you?
FRAZETTA: Oh, I know, Glen's been a friend for a couple of years, and a fan, and he's been to my house any number of times and he's the guy who got me to do the pencil book. Are you familiar with that?
RINGGENBERG: Oh, the Illustrations Arcanum? Yeah. That was beautiful.
FRAZETTA: Oh, you did see it then.
RINGGENBERG: Yes. I saw it at the San Diego Con. It was great stuff!
FRAZETTA: Yeah, well, that was Glen. Somehow, he got me excited, and got me to work. Mostly because I love doing pencils and they're relatively easy, and I just wanted to exploit that medium. Nobody's every really gotten to see pencil drawings done up quite like that. And I just thought it might be a wonderful new idea. Plus, the subject matter is what I like to do, and if the reaction was as positive as everybody's saying, why not? I may even go on and do another one. I mean, the next one might be based on Frazetta Girls, period. Done in probably as classy a manner as I can, a kind of different look. Not fantasy, you know? More real women. Do you have the book around? Have you looked at it closely?
FRAZETTA: You know the drawing of the girl standing in the water, for example, and the other girl standing next to an ape? More that style. A little more photographic, a little more real. Less crazy. A whole book devoted to that. And mostly to show off my skills and stuff, I guess.
RINGGENBERG: How long did it take you to do the illustrations that were in the book?
FRAZETTA: Those? Well, there's thirty of them and I don't think I took longer than a day for each one.
RINGGENBERG: When did you do them?
FRAZETTA: When? I started them last year, and I think I finished them last year, then we finally got around to printing it.
RINGGENBERG: Was this something you were just initially doing for yourself, or did you intend to publish them?
FRAZETTA: No, I found, I'm sure you're familiar with the remarques that I've been doing with The Egyptian Queen? A little drawing under each print?
FRAZETTA: And I had such fun doing them in pencil that I said, `Gee, I forgot how good I was with that medium.' And I just got excited about pencil, period. And the reactions from people everywhere was really very exciting. And Glen came out; we talked about doing this, that, and the other thing. I said, `How do you feel about pencils?' Glen immediately commissioned me to do him personally three or four or five or more pencils. And he flipped out. He said, `Why don't we do a book on this stuff?' I said, `Yeah, man! That sounds great.' And so, it went from there. I drew rather easily, quickly. You know, I don't feel inhibited. And unlike when you say pencils, most people think in terms of sketches, you know? Like pencils are generally a preliminary to a painting or something, or at least for inking. And I said, `Why can't the pencils just speak for themselves?' And so, you see what I got.
RINGGENBERG: The reproduction was wonderful.
FRAZETTA: Oh, it was. Well, I supervised it at this end. I wasn't going to ship the pencils all over the place, so I had my guy do it down here, and made perfect reproductions.
RINGGENBERG: I know a lot of people were talking about that book in San Diego.
FRAZETTA: Yeah. I know the question is: Did Frazetta do this many years ago? Were they sitting around the house? No. They're brand new.
RINGGENBERG: I was talking to Glen about the book and I asked him how new the stuff was, and he told me. It's nice to see you working in a different medium because everybody is so used to seeing you do the oil paintings.
FRAZETTA: Yeah, well even that gets boring. I've got nothing against oils but it's so nice. An artist should change around and do different stuff. But the fact is I haven't been awfully productive in many years and it's amazing how many skeptical people feel that, wow, Frazetta couldn't have just done this stuff. He must have done this stuff in his prime, back in the sixties or whatever. Didn't you get that impression?
RINGGENBERG: Well, people were wondering how old the drawings were.
FRAZETTA: Well, that's the reason. Because they're looking at stuff I've done in the last ten years or so and they feel it wasn't up to the old Frazetta, right? Pretty much?
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, some of the oil paintings. I think that's some of what I heard.
FRAZETTA: Yeah, well I got the scam all over the place that they felt I was, I'd seen my best days and that sort of crap, and they couldn't believe the quality of the drawings. They can't believe I just did them. They're sure these are drawings that were just laying around forever.
RINGGENBERG: One thing that really struck me in looking over those drawings is just the freshness and the vitality. Those things just leaped off the page.
FRAZETTA: Yeah. Well, even Berni Wrightson, I know, made a comment. He looked at it, and the scam out there was that, Frank's over the hill, blah, blah, blah. And judging from the work I put out in recent years, I could understand that attitude. And when they saw this, they were skeptical. `He couldn't have just done these. I thought he was finished. I thought he was sick. I thought he was washed up,' all that kind of nonsense, right?
Simon Bisley, Frank Frazetta and Glen Danzig in 1995
FRAZETTA: I'm sure you heard it.
RINGGENBERG: Oh, sure.
FRAZETTA: And suddenly they see this stuff. And then Berni said, `He just did these? My God, he hasn't lost a stroke.' Which I thought was really nice.
RINGGENBERG: I was talking with Berni, Bill Stout, Kaluta, various people. They were all excited about the book.
FRAZETTA: Yeah. Pretty good for an old guy, huh?
RINGGENBERG: Very good. I also liked that painting. Glen had a poster of a new painting of yours. I think it was a re-paint of one of the Jongor paintings showing a kind of Tarzan-like superhero fighting a bunch of monkeymen.
FRAZETTA: Oh, yeah, yeah. A leopard-type outfit?
FRAZETTA: Yeah, well Glen wants to do a whole bunch of comics and wants me to do the covers and wants me to create characters and so I re-did that because I thought it was a pretty hopeless piece of work in the first place and so I re-did it, very quickly. And you saw it, you saw it unfinished. He wanted me to shoot it up, just to show it around.
RINGGENBERG: That wasn't finished?
RINGGENBERG: It looked great.
FRAZETTA: Oh, it looks great now.
RINGGENBERG: Do you have a name for that character, or are you still playing with it?
FRAZETTA: I think Glen's kicking around names and stuff, you know.
RINGGENBERG: And if you did a book with that character, would you do a couple of new paintings?
FRAZETTA: Probably, sure.
Part II to follow