Nathan Young looks back on his first favorite painter, American fantasy artist Frank Frazetta
As a child, fantasy was my go to genre in film, books, and art. Before I could read a novel myself, my parents would read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to me before bed. My father was especially dorky, being the man who introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons (Using the 1977 ‘advanced’ rule system), real-time strategy games, and science fiction books. I was always captivated by the cover art on the hundreds of Scifi and fantasy pulp novels he owned, including some illustrated by the great Frank Frazetta.
Anyone reading with an interest in genre fiction should look at Frazetta’s art to see what I mean, the characters, costumes, and monsters he painted appear again and again in reinvented form in video games, trading cards, and films sti
Frazetta was an American fantasy artist whose work appeared in comic books, novel covers, metal albums, and the silver screen. The aesthetic of fantasy films and games were and are defined by his style. Anyone reading with an interest in genre fiction should look at Frazetta’s art to see what I mean, the characters, costumes, and monsters he painted appear again and again in reinvented form in video games, trading cards, and films still.
Frazetta’s work was often erotic, featuring beautiful, scantily clad women. These women were usually portrayed as powerful, commanding hordes of foul monsters or riding great beasts into battle, and yet their attire often covered little more than their groins and breasts, if that. Some of Frazetta’s women were less heroic, filling the role of the damsel in distress or hanging from the arm of a mighty male hero. Leia’s gold bikini from Star Wars takes its cues from paintings of Frazetta’s such as his cover of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, and Ghoul Queen. Several covers of the Vampirella comics were also Frazetta’s work, as were some comics less celebrated by fantasy nerds for Playboy magazine.
the men of Frazetta’s worlds were often as scantily clad as the women, and always jacked
That said, he is better remembered by me for his depictions of the male form. Although usually posed far less seductively than their female counterparts, the men of Frazetta’s worlds were often as scantily clad as the women, and always jacked. The attention to detail in the muscles of men wearing naught more than a loincloth is incredible. Frazetta’s style for his barbarian warriors and wild men, Conan and Tarzan among them, are where He-Man and almost every barbarian in fiction since have gotten their design from.
Frazetta’s art confronted and excited me then, as it does now
For me, and I’m sure many young boys like myself, Frazetta’s warriors were what his maidens were meant to be. Before I was old enough to know who Tom of Finland was, or even fully accept why I liked the near-naked men so much, Frazetta’s art was alluring.
Aside from helping to awaken my love of the male form, which is not my primary reason for loving Frazetta, I always found the foreboding, scary worlds gripping. Much of the fantasy I was used to was whimsical and filled with fun adventure. Frazetta portrayed a darker world, where death is at one’s proverbial door and the ‘good’ guys aren’t always good. Frazetta’s art confronted and excited me then, as it does now.