Frazetta's "Famous Funnies"
written by Sara Frazetta
After creating cover artwork for a series of Ghost Rider, Bobby Benson’s B-Bar-B Riders and Buster Crabbe comics, Frazetta began working on the covers for Famous Funnies. Famous Funnies was the brainchild of Maxwell C. Gaines. Gaines, a true innovator who essentially created a new business model for comics by offering them through newsstand distribution, published Famous Funnies #1 in May 1934 (Eastern Color Printing.) Famous Funnies became the first comic book to be published monthly. In the early 1950s, Frazetta created eight covers for the Famous Funnies.
Frazetta’s first cover for Famous Funnies was issue #209, released in December 1953. Soon after this issue was released, Frazetta took a full time job working as a ghost artist for Al Capp’s L’l Abner. Some sources speculate Capp pursued Frazetta because of his incredible work for Famous Funnies issue #209. Created with ink on bristol board, Frazetta’s cover artwork embodied the 1950s retro style and featured Buck Rogers, and a stunning full-body image of Wilma Deering.
(Famous Funnies #213, original artwork)
These same covers also caught the eye of Star Wars creator, George Lucas, who remains a Frazetta fan to this day. Lucas has admitted the influence those covers had during the early development of Star Wars. Here's how Frazetta recalled one conversation with Lucas: “When George Lucasc came out to visit my estate he told me that my Famous Funnies Covers had been one of his inspirations for Star Wars, which I thought was a pretty sweet thing to say.”
Frazetta’s run with Famous Funnies cover artwork ended with issue #216, published March 1955. “Frazetta’s final covers depicted an Earth- shattering explosion, causing both Buck Rogers and another spaceman to reel from the impact. Most of the fore and background projectiles are relegated to simple boulder-like shapes. This in turn brings more focus to the masterfully detailed figures. The left-handed figure is thrown off balance while Buck, only slightly maintains his ground. Frazetta literally ended his run with a bang rather than a whimper.” (Pencilink.BlogSpot.com)
(Famous Funnies #216, original artwork)
(Famous Funnies #214, original artwork)