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Early life

Frank Frazetta, the godfather of fantasy art, (February 9, 1928 - May 10, 2010) was born into a Sicilian family in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. His father, Alfonso Frazzetta, was a hard-working, first- generation Italian immigrant who married Mary, a New York native. In a modest Brooklyn home, they raised Frank Frazetta, the eldest, and his three sisters, Adele, Carol, and Jeanie. According to Frazetta and his immediate family, he became a paid artist as a toddler when his grandmother paid him a single penny in exchange for a crayon drawing. Once Alfonso and Mary realized their son’s undeniable talent, at a mere eight years old, Frank Frazetta was enrolled in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts where he would study under an award-winning Italian fine artist, Michele (Michael) Falanga. “I still
remember the professor, Michele Falanga, and his face filled with skepticism as I signed myself in. He sat me down and asked me to copy a postcard featuring a group of realistically rendered ducks. When he returned to see how I progressed, he snatched up my drawing exclaiming, “Mama mia!” and ran off waving it in the air for everyone to look at,” chuckled Frazetta. From the time Frazetta first enrolled in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts, Falanga was impressed by his ability. With three years under Frazetta’s belt, Falanga felt that it was time to make
arrangements for Frazetta to study abroad. Unfortunately, Falanga passed away that same year before Frank was able to accept the opportunity. When asked about his loss in later years, Frazetta philosophically commented, “I haven't the vaguest idea of whether it would have really affected my areas of interest. I don't  know, but I doubt it. You see, we never had any great conversations.                  He might look over your shoulder and say. Very nice, but perhaps if you did this or that..." He spoke very broken English and he kind of left you on your own. I think I learned more from my friends there, especially Albert Pucci.


Comics and Career

In December 1944, a character Frazetta created when he was eight

years old, “Snowman,” was published in Tally-Ho Comics #1, a

collaboration with John Guinta, an older, more experienced

cartoonist. Ambitious from an early age, Frazetta had accepted a job

at age 15, assisting John Giunta in Bernard Bailey’s studio doing

pencil clean-ups, ruling panel borders, and various odd jobs. Guinta

befriended young Frazetta and recognized his talent, so he

collaborated with him on the seven-page “Snowman” story. Frank

penciled it, Guinta polished the pencils and inked it. Because it was a

one-shot story in an obscure comic, it did not exactly set the

cartooning world on fire. 


Nevertheless, Frank Frazetta was now a

published cartoonist at the tender age of 15. Two months later, he

turned 16. At the same time, he found himself working in the bullpen 

at FictionHouse, doing similar chores. Because there wasn’t enough 

to do to keep his restless artistic urges occupied, he’d sit in the bullpen

working in his sketchbook, developing his own characters and



He was soon fired from Fiction House and struck out on his

own as a freelancer, but in the short time he was there, he made

friends with EC horror great Graham Ingels, who recognized Frank’s

talent even early on, and would later be his editor. By 1946, Frazetta

was doing some work for Standard Comics, at first, just inking or

drawing isolated panels on other artists’ stories, but then he

graduated to illustrating two stories for Treasure Comics #7. “Know

Your America”, a four-pager about William Penn is Frank’s first

published solo work, while the one-page “Captain Kidd Jr.” a

humorous strip, is his first signed story, featuring his initials, F.F. He

contributed a five-page “Know Your America” story to the next issue

of Treasure Comics, this one profiling Ben Church.


Frazetta continued working for Standard (also known as Nedor and

Better Publications), where from 1947 through 1950, he employed his

talent for humorous cartooning illustrating text stories and short (3-7

page) comics stories for titles like Coo-Coo, Supermouse, Barnyard,

and Happy Comics. At the same time he was working on funny animal

illos and stories for Standard, he was doing similar work for a lesser-

known company called Ace Periodicals/Junior Books. Young Frank

had a real knack for drawing cute funny animals, so much so that he

was offered a job in Walt Disney’s animation department, an

assignment he turned down, preferring to stay in his Brooklyn

neighborhood and continue drawing comic books. Still, it’s said that

he treasured the letter from Walt Disney his whole life. While at


Standard, he began to branch out from the funny animal material,

inking pages and panels here and there. Graham Ingels assigned him

his first jungle strip, “Judy of the Jungle” in Exciting # 59, done in a

style very much influenced by Terry and the Pirates creator Milton

Caniff. By 1949, Frazetta was branching out from the humor material

to do westerns for Magazine Enterprises (Trail Colt #1), where he

again worked with Graham Ingels as his editor. This story, and some

of his earliest funny animal work, was signed “Fritz”, an early

nickname bestowed on Frazetta by childhood friends.


Among his other early assignments was the story, “Why They Call Them

Mavericks” for Western Fighters #11, one of many westerns Frank would

illustrate over the years, but significant because it was the first time he

collaborated with a very young Al Williamson, with whom he would do some of

his best and most fondly-remembered comic book stories, particularly for EC

Comics from 1952-1953. Frazetta and Williamson would go on to draw around

90 pages of material for John Wayne Adventure Comics and Billy the Kid for

Toby Press, a comic book company run by Elliot Caplan, the brother of Li’l

Abner creator Al Capp. Remember that last name, because Al Capp was to

figure prominently in Frank Frazetta’s future career.


While still freelancing for Standard, Frank was given the assignment to draw

stories featuring “Looie Lazybones”, a character who was practically a carbon

copy of Capp’s Li’l Abner physically, although the stories themselves were 

pure hillbilly humor, lacking the sometimes savage social and political satire

Capp employed. Starting with a single text illustration of the character in

Thrilling Comics #66, Frazetta went on to do a total of seven “Looie

Lazybones” stories up through issue #73. In two of those issues, the hard-

working Frazetta also contributed a pair of teenage humor stories, including

one done in collaboration with artist Ralph Mayo, who was one his artistic

mentors and lent young Frank a George Bridgeman book on anatomy, which

Frazetta copied overnight, thereby improving his grasp of anatomy almost

immediately. It was, however, Frazetta’s dead-on pastiche of Capp’s Li’l

Abner style that led Capp to offer Frazetta work as one of his ghosts in 1954,

a job Frazetta would hold until 1962 when he broke off his relationship with

Capp after Capp tried to cut his salary, but more on this later.

The period from 1949 through 1952 is when Frazetta’s career as a cartoonist

really exploded. During this time, Frazetta was working for a number of

different comic book companies, both by himself and in collaboration with

friends Al Williamson and Roy Krenkel. He worked for Avon, ACG, Magazine

Enterprises, EC Comics (almost always with Williamson, with a couple of

exceptions), and DC Comics (Then known as National Periodical

Publications). For DC, he did one of the few continuing characters he ever

drew, “The Shining Knight”, which was probably the closest he ever came to

doing a superhero comic. He also did a single science fiction story for the first


issue of Mystery in Space, as well as stories for Tomahawk, Jimmy Wakely,

Gang Busters, All-Star Comics, All-Star Western, and Star-Spangled Comics.

Almost all of his DC stories, except for the “Shining Knight” series and “Spores

From Space” in Mystery in Space, were westerns. It’s safe to say that the bulk

of Frazetta’s comic book output was westerns, including the covers he did for

Magazine Enterprises for titles like Bobby Benson’s B-Bar-B Riders, Tim Holt,

Ghost Rider, and Straight Arrow. Frank did some of his best work in comics

for Magazine Enterprises, including 16 installments of the “Dan Brand/White

Indian” back-up strip for the first 16 issues of The Durango Kid comic, and the

cover and entire first issue of Thun’da King of the Congo, the only comic book

entirely drawn by Frazetta. The cover and four stories contained therein were

Frazetta’s attempt to get the attention of United Features syndicate, which

handled the Tarzan comic strip. Despite producing a magnificently drawn

jungle adventure, Frazetta was not picked to follow in the footsteps of his

hero, Hal Foster. However, his comic was good enough to inspire a serial

version also titled Thun’da King of the Congo, and starring Buster Crabbe, an

actor Frazetta would depict many times during his comics career. The poster

for the serial even included Frazetta’s cover for the first issue, a foretaste of

his career as a movie poster artist, but Magazine Enterprises did not see fit to

share any of the profits from the sale of the comic with Frazetta, so the first

issue was the only one he worked on.


To Frank, getting his own syndicated strip was a holy grail; if it were

successful, he could become very wealthy, as cartoonists like Hal Foster, Alex

Raymond, George McManus, and others had. During this period, after Johnny

Comet ran its course, he took another stab at creating a Tarzan-like strip,

Tiga, which featured a long-haired strongman and his beautiful, exotic

sidekick adventuring through a post-apocalyptic science fiction landscape. It

didn’t sell, but Frazetta’s sample strips were re-dialogued, retitled “Last

Chance” and ran in the third issue of Wally Wood’s Witzend prozine. Another

failed strip sample, Nina, about a female Tarzan-like air crash survivor trapped

in a world of monsters and savage beast-men, was published in the eighth

issue of Witzend with the panels broken up to illustrate an Edgar Allen Poe

poem, “The City in the Sea”. It was one of the most magnificently drawn

pieces in Frazetta’s entire career, and the title topper art showing Nina sitting

on a characteristic Frazetta mossy log while being watched by a beast-man

was later recycled as a limited-edition print.

Frazetta’s collaborations with Al Williamson for EC produced some of the

best-drawn science fiction stories ever done in comics, particularly stories like

“I, Rocket”, “The One Who Waits”, “Fired!” (the most beautiful western story

the duo produced) “Two’s Company”, “Fifty Girls Fifty”, “A New Beginning”,

and the cover to Weird Fantasy #21. Frazetta’s only solo story for EC,

“Squeeze Play” (Shock SuspenStories #13) came about only because Al


Williamson was given the assignment but didn’t want to draw the roller coaster

that figured prominently in the script, so he handed the job off to his friend

Frazetta. However, when Frazetta was facing a deadline crunch, he asked

Williamson to help out, and he wound up drawing the roller coaster anyway.

Frazetta’s only solo cover for EC (Weird Science-Fantasy #29) came about by

accident, too. Frazetta bashed out this acknowledged masterpiece overnight

while working in Al Capp’s studio. It was intended to the ninth of his Buck

Rogers covers for Famous Funnies #217. But, when he brought in the art, his

longtime editor, Steve Douglas, thought it was too violent and wouldn’t use it,

which ended his professional relationship with Frazetta forever. Disgusted,

Frazetta went over to EC Comics and offered it EC publisher Bill Gaines.

Gaines, and everyone else, loved the cover and thought it was an absolute

masterpiece. There was only one problem with selling it to EC; Gaines always

bought the original art outright. Frazetta, knowing what a gem he had created,

didn’t want to part with the art at any price, so the canny Gaines made a

counter-offer, Frazetta could keep the art, but would only get paid half the

usual rate for covers (which was $60).


 Frazetta was happy to take the lower

sum just so long as he could see his work get published and hang on to his

baby. It was a wise choice, as it has since gone on to become one of the most

famous and highly praised pieces of comic art ever produced. In the ‘70s

publisher Russ Cochran used differently colored versions of the image for the

front and back covers of his EC Portfolio #2, and also issued signed,

unsigned, and hand-colored and remarqued prints of it. Years later, Frazetta

also produced a series of signed and numbered hand-colored prints of the

image. That one image made money for the Frazetta family for decades.

The year 1952 was a banner year for Frank Frazetta because he was offered

his own daily strip, long the dream of many comic book artists, and Frank was

only 24 at the time. The strip was Johnny Comet, and it chronicled the

adventures of an itinerate race-car driver. It was ostensibly written by Peter

DePaolo, the winner of the 1925 Indy 500, but was actually written by Earl

Baldwin. Although gorgeously drawn and bursting with action, the strip was

not a success. Debuting on January 28 th , 1952, the strip ran until January 31 st ,

1953, undergoing a name change to Ace McCoy midway through its run, and

a change in emphasis from straight-on action to a more humorous tone,

especially in the Sunday strips. Frazetta drew both the daily and Sunday strips

at the same time he was juggling comic book work for Heroic Comics, and

other accounts, so he sometimes enlisted friends to help him out, including Al

Williamson, Larry Woromay, Jack Hearne, and EC great Wally Wood, who did

most of the art for the last three Sunday pages, with Frazetta drawing the

characters’ heads to ensure continuity of the likenesses. 


Doing a daily and a Sunday strip is a grueling grind, and sometimes the deadlines

were very, very tight. Al Williamson recalled a day when he and Frazetta

Completed Six Comet dailies in about four hours. After the syndicate pulled the plug

on Johnny Comet/Ace McCoy, on February 1 st , 1953, Frazetta was out of work.

However, Frazetta was not unemployed for very long. Flash Gordon artist Dan

Barry tapped Frank to ghost the pencils for ten days of dailies from February

18 th through February 28 th . But after that, Frank Frazetta did not have any

more paying comic strip work. However, he used that downtime to draw some

comic book pages and generate samples for a series of ultimately

unsuccessful newspaper strips, including Amby Dexter, Nina, and Sweet

Adeline, even a sample page for a proposed Buster Crabbe Sunday strip.

Amby Dexter was a baseball-themed strip in the vein of Ray Gotto’s Ozark

Ike, and concerned the adventures of an ambidextrous pitcher in the big

leagues. (It was an ironic title, considering that Frank himself was

ambidextrous, an ability that would allow him to continue drawing after a

series of strokes in his 70s left him partially paralyzed on his right side.)

Despite Frazetta’s strong draftsmanship, and an appealing cast of characters,

this project never went anywhere. Another aborted strip project was Sweet

Adeline, a humor strip written by Al Capp’s brother, Eliot Caplan. On the one

hand, it’s a shame neither one sold, for the art Frazetta created for both

projects is light and charming. Still, if Frazetta had managed to create a

successful newspaper strip, he might never have gotten into painting the

paperback book covers that are the source of his enduring fame.


In 1954, Al Capp, recalling Frazetta’s run on “Looie Lazybones” and aware of

the beautiful recent artwork on Johnny Comet, offered him a job as one of his

ghosts on Li’l Abner. Capp was at the peak of his success in the 1950s, with

Abner running in hundreds of newspaper all over the world, plus deals for

product endorsements with Cream of Wheat cereal, Wildroot Cream-Oil, and

hundreds of licensed products like hand puppets, wind-up toys, and an entire

galaxy of products featuring Capp’s Shmoos. Eventually, the strip generated

two feature films, animated cartoons, and a wildly successful Broadway

musical based on the strip. Needless to say, Capp didn’t just need help

drawing his daily and Sunday strip, he also needed assistants to generate

artwork for all the product packaging, print ads, and incidental illustrations that

were coming down the pike. When Capp first brought Frazetta in, he had him

draw and ink three weeks of daily strips. The results were gorgeous, but the

syndicate worried that readers wouldn’t like the drastic change in styles, so

Capp had Frazetta shift over to penciling the Sunday page once Capp had

roughed out the layouts and inked the characters’ heads. It took Frazetta

about a day and a half to draw the Sunday strip and Capp paid him $150 a

week, pretty good money in the mid-50s. Plus, it gave the fun-loving young

artist plenty of time to pick and choose his other cartooning assignments, play

baseball, go bowling, goof off (according to old friend Nick Meglin, Frazetta

always goofed off “with gusto”.).


 It was during this period, early on in his association with Capp, that Frank did

 some of his most attractive comic book stories, a series of five romance jobs, 

including “Untamed Love”, which is widely acclaimed as one of the most beautiful

comic book stories ever drawn. At the same time, he was also doing his legendary

run of Buck Rogers covers for Famous Funnies (issue #s 209-216), now among the

most expensive and widely sought-out comic books from the 1950s.


Frazetta in Love

Handsome, muscular, and quite charming, Frazetta was popular with women and had a string of intense romances. In 1952, at the age of 24, Frazetta met petite seventeen-year-old Eleanor Kelly and his playboy days came to an end. "I sensed that she would be forever loyal and I never ever had that feeling about any other girl. I'd been involved with, " Frazetta says. "Sure, she had most of the physical attributes I looked for in a women, she was beautiful and athletic. But beyond that she was very sharp and alert and pert and she knew a lot of things I didn't know." After four years of dating they were married on November 17th 1956. Later Ellie Kelly led Frank’s career by taking over the financial and property rights components by ensuring his art would be returned upon completion of the project and that he would be compensated accordingly. Ellie also handled all merchandising and solely curated Frank’s three galleries.

Freelance Career

By the 1960s, Frazetta went freelance and picked up work designing covers for ‘adult’ paperbacks, men’s magazines and many notable paperbacks. His Edgar Rice Burroughs covers, including a number of Tarzan titles, cover art for Molly Hatchet’s first three albums featuring “Death Dealer,” “Dark Kingdom” and “Berserker” and of course, his definitive interpretation of Conan the Barbarian are extremely famous.

    Although much of his work during this period was fantasy, he also garnered attention for a parody painting of Ringo Starr in Mad Magazine . He designed the movie poster for What’s New Pussycat? and more cinema work followed, including poster art for Roman Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers, Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet and a 1976 comedy The Busy Body. Frazetta was also a trailblazer in the art world. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with producer Ralph Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice , released in 1983. The realis m of the animation and design replicated Frazetta's artwork. Bakshi and Frazetta were heavily involved in the production of the live-action

Death Dealer I 

Appeared as "Molly Hatchet" album artwork 1978

Conan The Destroyer

The Destroyer (1971)

sequences used for the film's rotoscoped animation, from casting sessions to the final shoot. Following the release of the film, Frazetta returned to his roots in painting and pen-and-ink illustrations. In 2001, Frank Frazetta was awarded with the World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement for artwork such as Conan The Destroyer and Death Dealer. In 2003, Frazetta was subject to a documentary, “Painting with Fire,” All of Frazetta’s works embody a quality that make you feel as if you are stepping into an imaginative world your wildest dreams wouldn’t dare to explore. For over 50 years, Frank Frazetta dominated the art world with his images of fierce warriors, helpless princesses, and fantastical creatures set in the most lavish landscapes. His impact upon the worlds of fantasy art and film was unparalleled, and it can be seen to this day in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Amazingly, he managed to do this while nearly dying because of an undiagnosed thyroid condition. Even more astonishing was his ability to survive six strokes, which forced him to switch from drawing with his right hand to drawing with his left hand. Frazetta is the godfather of fantasy artwork.