Frazetta was inducted into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999.
MothmanFrank Frazetta created a particular piece of art that would be used in a later edition of John Keel ’s book, The Mothman Prophecies. Former New York City literary agent Sandra Martin once told Loren Coleman : “John [Keel] attributed the success of that book to the cover.”
Frazetta imagined the Mothman much differently than how the creature was originally described, which was as a giant bird man, more avian than moth-like.
He seems to have been overly influenced by the name, which was an Ohio copy editor’s invention that had little to do with the actual appearance of the Mothman seen in 1966-1967.
There is no doubt that once drawn, Frazetta’s impact was great. His Mothman art is very well-known and his influence can be seen in much Mothman art including The Mothman Statue by Bob Roach.
Earlier than the Mothman cover, Frazetta also did the cover for Keel's book Strange Creatures From Time and Space.
Born Frank Frazzetta in Brooklyn, New York City, he removed one "z" from his last name early in his career to make his name seem less "clumsy". The only boy among four children, he spent much time with his grandmother, who began encouraging him in art when he was two years old, he recalled in 2010, a month before his death.
At age eight, Frazetta attended the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts, a small art school run by instructor Michel Falanga. "[H]e didn't teach me anything, really," Frazetta said in 1994. "He'd come and see where I was working, and he might say, 'Very nice, very nice. But perhaps if you did this or that.' But that's about it. We never had any great conversations. He spoke very broken English. He kind of left you on your own. I learned more from my friends there."
Early workIn 1944, at age 16, Frazetta, who had "always had this urge to be doing comic books", began working in comics artist Bernard Baily's studio doing pencil clean-ups. His first comic-book work was inking the eight-page story "Snowman", penciled by John Giunta, in the one-shot Tally-Ho Comics (Dec. 1944), published by Swappers Quarterly and Almanac/Baily Publishing Company. It was not standard practice in comic books during this period to provide complete credits, so a comprehensive listing of Frazetta's work is difficult to ascertain. His next confirmed comics works are two signed penciled-and-inked pieces in Prize Comics' Treasure Comics #7 (July 1946): the four-page "To William Penn founder of Philadelphia..." and the single page "Ahoy! Enemy Ship!", featuring his character Capt. Kidd Jr. In a 1991 interview in The Comics Journal, Frazetta credited Graham Ingels as the first one in the comic book industry to recognize his talent, and to give him jobs at Standard Comics in
1947. These included stints on Louie Lazybones, a series which was a blatant rip-off of the successful newspaper strip Li'l Abner, which Frazetta would be ghosting later in his career.
Frazetta was soon drawing comic books in many genres, including Westerns, fantasy, mystery, and historical drama. Some of his earliest work was in funny animal comics, which he signed as "Fritz". For Dell's subsidiary company, Famous Funnies, Frazetta did war and human interest stories for Heroic Comics. In comics like Personal Love and Movie Love, he did romance and celebrity stories, including a biography of Burt Lancaster.
In the early 1950s, he worked for EC Comics, National Comics (including the superhero feature "Shining Knight"), Avon Comics, and several other comic book companies. Much of his work in comic books was done in collaboration with friend Al Williamson and occasionally his mentor Roy G. Krenkel.
Noticed because of his work on the Buck Rogers covers for Famous Funnies, Frazetta started working with Al Capp on Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner. Frazetta was also producing his own strip, Johnny Comet at this time, as well as assisting Dan Barry on the Flash Gordon daily strip.
He married Massachusetts native Eleanor Kelly in New York City in November 1956. The two would have four children: Frank Jr., Billy, Holly and Heidi. In 1961, after nine years with Capp, Frazetta returned to comic books.
Hollywood and book coversIn 1964, Frazetta's painting of Beatle Ringo Starr for a Mad magazine ad parody caught the eye of United Artists studios. He was approached to do the movie poster for What's New Pussycat?, and earned the equivalent of his yearly salary in one afternoon. He did several other movie posters.
Frazetta also produced paintings for paperback editions of adventure books. His interpretation of Conan visually redefined the genre of sword and sorcery, and had an enormous influence on succeeding generations of artists. From this point on, Frazetta's work was in great demand. His covers were used for other paperback editions of classic Edgar Rice Burroughs books, such as those from the Tarzan and Barsoom (John Carter of Mars) series. He also did several pen and ink illustrations for many of these books. His cover art only coincidentally matched the story lines inside the books, as Frazetta once explained: "I didn't read any of it... I drew him my way. It was really rugged. And it caught on. I didn't care about what people thought. People who bought the books never complained about it. They probably didn't read them."
After this time, most of Frazetta's work was commercial in nature, including paintings and illustrations for movie posters, book jackets, and calendars. Primarily, these were in oil, but he also worked with watercolor, ink, and pencil alone. Frazetta's work in comics during this time were cover paintings and a few comic stories in black and white for the Warren Publishing horror and war magazines Creepy, Eerie, Blazing Combat and Vampirella.
Once Frazetta secured a reputation, movie studios lured him to work on animated movies. Most, however, would give him participation in name only, with creative control held by others. An advertisement based on his work was animated by Richard Williams in grease pencil and paint and shown in 1978. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with producer Ralph Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice, released in 1983. The realism of the animation and design replicated Frazetta's artwork. Bakshi and Frazetta were heavily involved in the production of the live-action sequences used for the film's rotoscopedanimation, 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.
Frazetta's paintings have been used by a number of recording artists as cover art for their albums. Molly Hatchet's first three albums feature "The Death Dealer", "Dark Kingdom", and "Berserker", respectively. Dust's second album, Hard Attack, features "Snow Giants". Nazareth used "The Brain" for its 1977 album Expect No Mercy. Frazetta also created new cover artwork for Buddy Bought the Farm, the second CD of the surf horror band "The Dead Elvi". The U.S. Army III Corps adopted "The Death Dealer" as its mascot.
Frazetta retained the original Conan paintings, and long refused to part with them. Many were displayed at the Frazetta Museum in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. In 2009, Frazetta's "Conan the Conqueror" painting, the first to be offered for sale, was purchased for $1 million.
Later life and career
In the early 1980s, Frazetta created a gallery, Frazetta's Fantasy Corner, on the upper floors of a former Masonic building at the corner of South Courtland and Washington streets in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The building also housed a Frazetta art museum that displayed both his own work and, in a separate gallery, that of other artists. From 1998 to 1999, Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated magazine was published by Quantum Cat Entertainment; with cover art & some illustrations by Frazetta. In his later life, Frazetta was plagued by a variety of health problems, including a thyroid condition that went untreated for many years. A series of strokes left his right arm almost completely paralyzed. He taught himself to paint and draw with his left hand. He was the subject of the 2003 feature documentary Frank Frazetta: Painting With Fire.
By 2009, Frazetta was living on a 67-acre estate in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, with a small museum that is open to the public. On July 17, 2009, his wife and business partner, Eleanor "Ellie" Frazetta, died after a year-long battle with cancer. He then hired Rob Pistella and Steve Ferzoco to handle his business affairs.
On December 9, 2009, Frazetta's son, Alfonso Frank Frazetta, 52, known as Frank Jr., was arrested for attempting to steal approximately 90 paintings from the Frazetta museum. He was accompanied by Frank Bush, 49, and Kevin Clement, 54. His wife, Lori Frazetta, told state police that Frank Jr. and Ellie had run the family business until Ellie's death, when infighting over the paintings began. The son maintains he was trying to prevent the paintings from being sold, per the wishes of his father, who he says had given him power of attorney over his estate. After siblings Billy Frazetta, Holly Frazetta Taylor, and Heidi Grabin filed a lawsuit against Frank Jr. in March 2010, claiming misappropriation of their father's work, which they said the artist had transferred to a company controlled by those three, the family issued a statement on April 23, 2010, that said, "all of the litigation surrounding his family and his art has been resolved. All of Frank's children will now be working together as a team to promote his ... collection of images...." The Monroe County district attorney later that day said he would drop theft and burglary charges against Frazetta Jr. at the request of family members.
Frazetta died of a stroke on May 10, 2010, in a hospital near his residence in Florida.
LegacyFrazetta's granddaughters (l-r) Brittney Frazetta, Daniele Frazetta and Sara Frazetta Taylor at the Frazetta booth at the 2015 East Coast Comiconin Secaucus, New Jersey
Frazetta has influenced many artists within the genres of fantasy and science fiction. Yusuke Nakano, a lead artist for Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series, cites Frazetta as an influence. Fantasy artist and musician Joseph Vargo cites Frazetta as a primary influence, and his art calendars since 1998 mark Frazetta's birthday. Chris Perna, art director at Epic Games, stated in an interview in 2011 that Frazetta was one of his influences. Other artists influenced by Frazetta include comics artist such as Marc Silvestri and Shelby Robertson.
The face and body paint of professional wrestler Kamala was copied, by artist and wrestler Jerry Lawler, from a character in a Frazetta painting.
In early 2012, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez announced plans to remake Bakshi and Frazetta's film Fire and Ice. Sony Pictures acquired the project in late 2014, with Rodriguez set to direct.
Rodriguez is working closely with the family and hopes to open a museum with Holly Frazetta's collection. The museum would be located in Austin, Texas. Currently, Holly Frazetta's collection is traveling throughout the U.S. with public showings at various comic conventions.
List of works