Men are manly beyond belief and women are impossibly sexy in Frank Frazetta’s genre-defining artwork for fantasy and science fiction books. You know the covers we’re talking about - heroes with rippling muscles and massive swords, and scantily-clad heroines with bodies that supermodels would envy.
Frazetta’s career spanned more than 50 years and his work went way beyond Conan the Barbarian, but he will always be remembered for those startling book covers. His influence can be measured by the huge number of parodies that exist.
Frank became one of the most renowned illustrators in the science fiction and fantasy genres, having won the Hugo Award for Best Artist (1966) and the Chesley Award in 1988, 1995, 1997 (presented by Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists) among other accolades.
He started as a comic book artist in the mid-1940s, drawing a variety of genres including western, fantasy, mystery, and historical drama. Frazetta’s comic book work can be found in the pages of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Vampirella, as well as his own creations, Thun’da King of the Congo and the Johnny Comet series.
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, and 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 business. He always insisted on retaining the rights to his paintings, even early in his career. This practice was entirely out of the ordinary but eventually became an accepted industry standard. It was a wise decision. When Frazetta entered his 60s, he suffered ill health and had a stroke in 1995. During this period, he sold various paintings as means of support, culminating in his sale of the Conan the Conqueror artwork for $1 million in 2009. Thankfully, lithograph prints of his work can be found for much less.