My Cart


Recycled Frazetta

Posted on

Recycled Frazetta

by S.C. Ringgenberg

Greetings, Frankophiles and welcome to another installment of the Frazetta Girls Blog Page. This time out, let’s consider the various ramifications of the term “Recycled Frazetta”. In Frank’s case this can mean the times when he took an existing piece (a section of the poster art for the film Luana for example) and transformed it into the cover art for Savage Pellucidar (Ace Books, 2 nd Series, 1973). To confuse matters even further, when Ace Books came out with their second series of Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks, most of them featured new Frazetta paintings, but the reprint of The Cave Girl used Frazetta’s original painting for Savage Pellucidar (The Huntress, 1964) for the cover. And then, of course, there are the times when publishers or other businesses reused one of his paintings for a different purpose than the original, such as recycling Frazetta’s Kane, Conan, and Death Dealer paintings as Molly Hatchet album covers, or when Frazetta revisited a composition, figure, or idea for a new painting.



  Examples of the latter include the time he reused the composition and character from a Tomahawk comics splash page (Star-Spangled Comics #113, Feb., 1951) to create the cover for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Rider (Ace Books, 2nd Series, 1974). In this case, Frazetta’s repurposing of the original image is a smashing success since the new painting perfectly matches the tone and the content of the novel it is illustrating.   


Tomahawk comics splash page (Star-Spangled Comics #113, Feb., 1951) 

  Cover for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Rider (Ace Books, 2nd Series, 1974)

Another example of Frazetta lifting a figure and composition from his comics work appears in the painting Invaders, used as the cover to the Lin Carter novel Time War (1977), and then subsequently repainted by Frazetta several times to first paint out the pants on the male figure, and then painting out the pistol he’s holding, though the position of his hand remained the same, and finally adding a typical Frazetta belt/loincloth to the female figure, partially obscuring what was originally a naked butt. The origin of the male figure’s posture and positioning on the right side of the image has its origin in a panel from Thun’da, the only comic where Frazetta did the cover and all of the original art. Frazetta copied his own figure from Page Five, Panel 1 of the Thun’da origin story, “Into the Lost Lands”. Finally, the reworked version of Invaders was repurposed as the cover of the black and white horror magazine The Creeps (#26, 2020).

He must have liked his own work on Thun’da, because he referenced another panel from the story for the painting, Chained (1967), which saw print as the cover for Conan the Usurper. Kalla, the giant snake worshipped by the primitive cavemen, suddenly appears on Page 10, panel 1, and the snake’s appearance and sinuous posture are very similar to the giant serpent menacing Conan in Chained.


Conan the Usurper

Lancer Books’ Conan series provided yet another example of “Recycled Frazetta” when the cover art to the upcoming Conan of Aquilonia featuring an older, white- haired Conan was stolen from the Lancer offices before the book could be published. Fortunately for posterity, some slides were taken of the artwork before it disappeared, though Lancer commissioned another artist to do a replacement cover. However, Sphere Books in Great Britain did use Frazetta’s artwork for that imprint’s Conan of Aquilonia cover, and it was also used forthe cover of a bootleg Frazetta fanzine, The Frazetta Treasury (1975). The original art has never resurfaced but Frazetta did a repaint of the same composition in 1996, transforming Conan back to his younger self and changing his opponents from a group of anonymous warriors to a large, scary-looking demon.


One striking example of Frazetta recycling an idea is the two separate covers Frazetta did for the covers of Carson of Venus (Ace, 1964) and the later edition, published in 1974. The scene Frazetta chose to paint is identical, but his execution is very different. The first version is bright with a beautiful clear sky and rocky coast rising out of the turbulent sea, with a giant sea monster rearing up out of the water; the second version is dominated by the menacing black sky brooding overhead, with no land visible and a similar monster breaching. Interestingly, although the compositions are similar, Frazetta flopped the monster’s position. In the original, it’s on the right of the image, in the second version, the monster is rising up on the left side of the image, and in both cases the hero figure’s small boat dominates the foreground though in both cases it is dwarfed by the monster. In case you were wondering why Frazetta repainted the same scene, when he had the chance to do something totally new, it was his own dissatisfaction with the original painting. “The first version was too busy and a little stiff. I had a lot of detail in there that was unnecessary. When I got the chance to paint it again, I corrected the whole design. I took a lot out. The second version is far superior… artistically."
Carson of Venus (Ace, 1964)
Another aspect of the two works that was recycled is the sea monster he used, apparently inspired by the giant fire lizard seen at the end of Irwin Allen’s remake of The Lost World (1960). Check out still frames from the film if you don’t believe me.
 Another Burroughs painting that Frazetta “recycled” was the original cover for The Mad King (1964). Frazetta borrowed the original painting from Ace Books, which owned the artwork outright because of Frazetta’s deal with the publisher and decided that he liked the painting too much to part with it, so he quickly copied it and returned that copy to Ace Books. That was the version that was used for the cover of the reprinted novel in 1970. A close study of the two published versions shows that the second one, while a good copy of the original, is executed in a somewhat “rougher” style, indicating that Frazetta probably bashed out the copy quickly. However, no one at Ace Books seemed to notice the substitution, though sharp-eyed Frazetta fans did.
There is another painting from the first Ace series that Frazetta revisited, his gorgeous watercolor for The Lost Continent (1963), which the artist himself acknowledged as one of the best paintings he did for Ace. Because he liked it so much, it always annoyed him that his deal required him to give the artwork to the publisher. So, Frazetta, being Frazetta, did something about it. In 1992, he simply recreated the watercolor original in oils. It wasn’t done for any publisher; he simply wanted that image in his personal collection. While the first painting is excellent, with a strong composition and vigorous figures, the repaint is even better. He duplicated his original composition, but then reworked the background ruins somewhat, and added some mountains in the far background. His addition of the bluish-purple and green tones in the background gives the painting more depth and perfectly complements the human figures in the foreground and the pride of lions in the midground. It’s a vast improvement over an already impressive original version. Amazingly, given the bold scene he depicts, Frazetta’s original is only 10” by 15”, much smaller than the size he typically worked in (16” by 20”).
Really, it’s sometimes mind-blowing how small some of Frazetta’s paintings are, considering how much action and storytelling power he crams into each one. When it came to his Ace work, there are still more examples of “Recycled Frazetta”. His repainting of the cover for Tarzan at the Earth’s Core came about because of Frazetta’s cheapness when it came to art supplies. After completing the first version of the painting, Frazetta decided to speed along the drying process by putting the artwork in the oven. Unfortunately, the cheap art board he used curled during its trip to the oven and cracked in half when he tried to flatten it out. Faced with a looming deadline, Frazetta decided it would be faster to simply do a new painting rather than trying to repair the damaged first one. Frazetta was always a fast artist, especially when time was short, and so he simply bashed out a new version of the same scene. The two paintings are virtually identical, although for the repaint, he used a slightly richer color palette, resulting in a final result that was superior to his first attempt. So, what happened to Frazetta’s damaged first painting? He simply gave it away to old friend Bob Barrett, who put it in a frame behind glass and hung it on the wall, along with the other Frazetta originals he had acquired over the years.
The final example of “Recycled Frazetta” from the original Ace run is a painting that was never even used as a book cover. In 1962, at the urging of his friend Roy Krenkel, whom he had helped on several of Krenkel’s own Ace paintings, Frazetta painted a watercolor rough of a cover for Tarzan and the Ant Men as a tryout. It was good enough to win over Ace editor Don Wolheim, who had initially been dubious about hiring Frazetta. Because it was never purchased by Ace, Frazetta retained the watercolor painting, and as was his wont, continued to tinker with it. Long-time friend and avid Frazetta collector Bob Barrett had acquired the painting Winged Terror, which had been used as the cover for Creepy #9 (1966) for a paltry $300. Frank and his wife Ellie realized that Winged Terror was a fan favorite and wanted to get the painting back. Barrett had printed the original TATAM watercolor on the back cover his Frazetta #2 fanzine (A/K/A The Burroughs Bulletin #29; 1973) and clearly liked that illustration a lot.
(A/K/A The Burroughs Bulletin #29; 1973)
So, when the Frazettas inquired about getting Winged Terror back, Barrett suggested that Frank repaint the TATAM watercolor in oils. Since Frank had already partially done that, he readily agreed, and made the trade with Barrett. This painting is another case where Frazetta radically improved upon his original, and is unique in that it’s the only painting where he used oils on top of watercolors. It’s a shame the final oil painting has never been used as a book cover, as it’s one of the finest depictions of Tarzan ever done.
While Frazetta occasionally did artwork specifically designed for advertising, such as his painting The Disagreement (1986), done for a Carlsberg Beer ad that ran in Rolling Stone magazine, and Flying Alligator (1983), which was featured in a brochure advertising an amusement park ride in South Carolina, most of his recycled paintings were existing artworks that were reused for another purpose, typically record album jackets.
However, in one case an advertising painting is actual “Recycled Frazetta” in that it took on a life of its own in several media. The painting in question is Against the Gods, which was originally used as the cover for the book Thongor Against the Gods (1967).
The image proved so popular it was later licensed for use as an animated TV advertisement for Jovan Sex Appeal perfume in 1978. It also inspired the creation of a limited-edition (of 500 copies) pewter statue War Against the Gods (sculpted by Frazetta himself) that was issued in 1991 in a package that included a small stained-glass reproduction of the original painting. But the story of this painting doesn’t end here. While Lin Carter’s Thongor is considered a lesser Conan the Barbarian imitator, Against the Gods has proven to be one of Frazetta’s most durable and popular images, as evidenced by its frequent reuse in different media. Frazetta was also commissioned to revisit and reimagine this idea for a computer software ad. The resulting painting, The Tempest (1988), took the same basic composition of Against the Gods and reversed it with a larger barbarian figure and more finely rendered anatomy. After being used in the original magazine ad, the painting was printed on the cover of the All-Star Auctions catalog that offered the artwork for sale in 2003. That’s quite an odyssey for a painting originally commissioned as the cover of a paperback chronicling the adventures of a lesser Conan wannabe.
The most widely seen examples of “Recycled Frazetta” came in the form of record album jackets that reused paintings originally intended for paperback book covers, such as the Molly Hatchet covers that featured Conan, Kane, and Death Dealer artwork, thereby exposing Frazetta’s work to a whole new audience and irrevocably associating Frazetta’s barbaric images with heavy metal music.
Of course, this association had already begun when the band Dust (featuring future Ramone Marc Bell on drums) repurposed the Conan painting Snow Giants as the front cover to the album Hard Attack (1972), which also featured a detail from the painting on the back cover, and as a poster included with the album. The next use of a Frazetta image on a rock album cover came in 1978 when Nazareth used The Brain (originally printed on the cover of Eerie #8, 1967) as the cover for Expect No Mercy (1977) and also included a square cardboard poster inside the album. But what really opened the heavy metal floodgates was the Molly Hatchet albums featuring Frazetta artwork, starting with Bounty Hunter (1979), which reprinted The Death Dealer (1974), Flirtin’ with Disaster (1979), which reprinted the Kane painting Dark Kingdom (1976), and finally, Beatin’ the Odds (1980), which used the Conan painting The Berserker (1968).
 Even after Molly Hatchet stopped using Frazetta paintings for album covers, other groups and performers continued to feature “Recycled Frazetta” paintings for their covers, including Swedish Guitar Hero Yngwie Malmstein’s Rising Force, and Australian rockers Wolfmother. Malmstein reused a later Death Dealer image as the cover to his 2000 album War to End All Wars. Wolfmother reprinted artwork from the book Phoenix Prime, Eerie #7, ad artwork commissioned by Sony, and The Moon’s Rapture (1994), a personal work that repainted Frazetta’s cover for the second edition Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure so it’s an example of “Recycled Frazetta” in more ways than one. 
This concludes the latest installment of the Frazetta Girls blog, but it’s not the end of the story. If you’d like to read about other examples of “Recycled Frazetta”, then please leave a comment with the administrators. As always, it’s been a pleasure to dive into the depths of Frazetta’s incomparable oeuvre.


Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing