Born February 9, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the oldest of 4 children and the only son of the family. He sold his first drawing (a crayon drawing, to his grandma)at the age of 3. Her interest and support encouraged him in his early years. When he enrolled in kindergarten he amazed his teachers with his artistic abilities. Throughout his elementary schooling he amused himself with creating his own comics. One of his sisters traded his homemade works for 'storebought' comics. At the age of 8 his parents enrolled him in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts, an academy with a name much more grandiose than its actuality. It was a one story, 3 room affair with an enrollment of about 30 students. His instructor, (Professor Michele Falanga), was initially unimpressed. He gave the young Frazetta a pencil, paper, and instructions to copy a postcard. When he returned to see how his new pupil was doing, he siezed the paper and ran off to show the others. Falanga, an artist of some repute in his native Italy, felt Frazetta had tremendous potential. He was arranging at his own expense for Frazetta to go to Italy to study fine arts, but died in 1942 before arrangements were completed. The students were so close that they couldn't bear to see the Academy close, so they each contributed to paying the rent on the building and continued to hold classes for another year. Frazetta continued to draw but was distracted as many teenaged boys are by sports and girls. He excelled at baseball and was offered a spot on the farm team of the New York Giants professional baseball team. He passed up the offer.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work we go
At about age 15 Frazetta met an artist named John Giunta. Giunta was a man of few social skills, being non-communicative and lacking confidence. As an artist, he had style. He worked for Bernard Bailey's comic company. Frazetta credits Giunta with being a major influence on his own style. Giunta got Frazetta his first break when he convinced Bailey to do a feature of one of Frazetta's characters. It appeared in 1944 when Frazetta was 16. Frazetta went to work for Fiction House Comics, cleaning panels and removing underlying pencil drawings. He was fired after 6 months, basically due to there not being enough work to keep him busy. He went to work for Standard, where Graham Ingels was the new art director. Frazetta had done cleanup work for Ingels at Fiction House, and Ingels liked his work. Ingels got Frazetta his first feature, (Judy of the Jungle), but the owners weren't impressed. They pronounced Frazetta as being 'not ready', a judgement to which Frazetta agrees. Ingels eventually lost his job as art director. His replacement was Ralph Mayo. Mayo, seeing Frazetta's work, pulled him aside and told him he had great stuff, but he needed to study anatomy to hone his skills. Mayo gave him an anatomy book to take home and use. Frazetta copied the entire book that first night.
Making his mark
Frazetta worked through the rest of the 40's and early 50's as more publishers became aware of him. He was given much more opportunity with various characters and story lines. It was the most prolific period of his career. His work evolved from doing 'funnies' to western and action-adventure formats. He worked on many different comics for several publishers. His Buck Rogers covers were so dynamic that then kid George Lucas claimed they were the inspiration for his future 'Star Wars' saga.
There's more to life than work
He enjoyed working, but he didn't neglect having fun. He still enjoyed playing baseball, friends, and the ladies. He had grown into a handsome, charismatic man. He met a pretty young lady named Eleanor Kelly in 1952, and his wandering days were through. They were married November 17, 1956.
Taking the easy way out
In 1953 Al Capp hired Frazetta to ghost on Capp's popular strip 'L'il Abner'. Frazetta subordinated his own style to ghost Capp's, and continued to do so for 8 years, though he did freelance work on the side. The comic industry took a hit in the mid 50's when Congressional hearings determined comics promoted juvenile delinquency. Frazetta gave his full attention to 'L'il Abner' after the comic industry dried up. In 1961 Capp tried to cut Frazetta's salary in half. Frazetta quit angrily, and tried to resume his former career, but found his style muddled after so long adopting another artist's style.
Down but not out
He eventually landed a job working for Playboy Magazine on a series entitled "Lil Annie Fanny". Frazetta had hit a wall. He found some publishers labeled his work as too 'old style'. He felt that Capp had also blackballed him due to their acrimonious parting in 1961. He didn't have steady employment and that predictably created stress for the young artist. He did receive some work doing covers for 'spicy' novels.
Back in the saddle again
His drought ended in 1963 with his introduction to Ace Paperbacks by his best friend Roy Krekel. He did a series of covers for anEdgar Rice Borroughs' character "Tarzan of the Apes", a dream of his since childhood. Between 1963-1965 he produced 25 covers and 22 interior illustrations for Ace. Other publishers took notice. In 1964 Frazetta did a back cover for "Mad Magazine", a caricature of Ringo Starr. When United Artists saw it, they commissioned him to do a poster for 'What's New, Pussycat?'. He received $4,000 for the poster, a year's salary for an afternoon's work. His craft was finally starting to pay off.
Frazetta began a series of paintings for Jim Warren's Publishing Company. Frazetta did art for the comic "Creepy' where he had complete freedom. He explored the horror genre, producing many memorable works, including his famous 'Sea Witch'. When he submitted the painting, publisher Warren had an explosive reaction to Frazetta's mixture of horror and eroticism. He didn't know how he could publish such a work. Frazetta told him 'don't touch it', and it was published as painted to tremendous response. About the same time Lancer Paperbacks commissioned Frazetta to do a series of author Robert E Howard's character 'Conan the Barbarian". When they were published they became one of the best selling series in history, selling over 10 million copies. Many people bought them for the cover art. About this time he also did a number of covers for an edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs "Barsoom' series.
Higher and higher
Because of the renewed demand for his talents, he could now afford to be more selective in the projects he accepted. His work sold books, and both he and publishers knew it. He started to retain ownership of his original art and permitted only first printing rights.
Man with a plan
Frazetta may have given his paintings many weeks of thought beforehand, but when he painted it was fast. Most of his works took only a single day. He painted with an obsessive fury, totally focused on the work at hand. His covers for the 'Conan the Barbarian' series showed a much more graphic style than previous illustrator's works. His creations were raw, forceful, and sensual. He continued work through the 1970's, one project being a series of covers for Ace, who was doing a re-issue of some of the Burroughs novels. This time Frazetta, older and wiser, retained his original art. He slowed his output through this period, down to about 4 covers a year. It wasn't due to lack of demand. His work was as sought after as ever.
Frank branches out
During this period he did a cover for Warner Books which eventually found its way to become an album cover for rock band Molly Hatchet. Frazetta produced his first book of his art, "Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta". He had discovered the wonderful world of merchandising. Behind the scenes Frank's wife Ellie had been working tirelessly to promote her husband's work. Her first project had been a small offering of 5 of Frazetta's early works. Over the ensuing 28 years it had become an empire of its own with over 150 prints, books, lithographs, etc. A dream was realized in 1982 when the Frazetta Art Museum opened in East Stroudsburg, Pa. Previously his originals had only been displayed at conventions, but this had become an increasingly risky proposal. The museum allowed fans to enjoy his original works. It suffered a fire on its lower floor in 1995, but no artworks were damaged. Plans were to relocate to Boca Grande, Florida. Frazetta felt the new museum, though a very nice facility, limited his fans access to his work. Plans were made to return to Pennsylvania where a new museum was to be located on the Frazetta estate.
In 1983 Frazetta collaborated with famed animator Ralph Bakshi to produce a movie, 'Fire and Ice'. Frazetta worked like a madman on the project but due to poor marketing and distrubution problems the film wasn't a success. Frazetta had always been a vigorous man, but exposure to chemical fumes in 1986 affected his health. Over the next 8 years he began to suffer dizzyness and pain. He lost from 180 pounds down to 128 pounds. All diagnoses, including those at the famed Mayo Clinic, returned inconclusive results. He came back to his Pennsylvania home expecting to die. A local doctor ran a standard thyroid test and found him to have a severely malfunctioning thyroid gland. With appropriate treatment, he began to recover. Over the course of his illness, he had his personal Waterloo. He found he had lost his drive, his ability to bring fantastic imagery to life on his canvas. He thought it was just because he was getting old, that it was a normal occurrance. After he was diagnosed and started receiving treatment, he found his abilities restored in full. Not only himself but his talent had been debilitated by his malady.
New day dawning
After recovering from his health problems, he was commissioned to do a number of covers for many of L. Ron Hubbard's novels. In the 1990's Frazetta experienced a renewed demand for his work. Glenn Danzig, who was an emerging rock star, convinced Frazetta to produce a volume of pencil drawings based on monsters and demons. It was published by Danzig's own publishing company named Verotik. The volume, entitled 'Illustrations Arcanum" was a huge hit. Danzig followed up with a number of other Frazetta projects. Frazetta was still working his magic, this time to a new generation of appreciative fans. In 1993 New York art dealer and entreprenuer Alex Avecedo experienced a renewed interest in Frazetta's art. He bought up every good piece he could get. His exhibition of Frazetta art opened on Halloween, 1994. Frazetta attended the opening with his family and had a great time. In 1995 he attended the San Diego Comic Convention where he was accorded star treatment, complete with bodyguards. He met with his fans, some of whom he had influenced in their own careers. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the show. Exposure at the convention led to a number of private commissions.
Coming home after the show he suffered a series of debilitating strokes. he came back from each one, considering them just another challenge. Part of that challenge has been to train himself to paint lefthanded due to effects from the strokes. He continues to sculpt as well as paint in oils, watercolors, and pen and pencil.
Frank Frazetta, along the way to a career where he almost singlehandedly brought fantasy art to public attention, produced with his wife 4 children. Their names are Heidi, Holly, Bill, and Frank Jr. Frazetta is a plainspoken, no bull kind of guy who grew up in a tough neighborhood. He can come across as brash, but he is self deprecating concerning his work and awards. He has carved his own personal niche in American art as well the hearts of his fans everywhere. He has hung out with movie stars and presidents, the rich and the famous. Through it all he remains the same as always, 'The Master'.
- Chesley Award- 1988, 1995, 1997
- Hugo Award- 1966
- Spectrum Grand Master of Fantastic Art- 1995
- San Diego Comic Convention's Lifetime Achievement Award- 1995