Action Guy #001: “What/who is Frazetta?”

In Vic Milan: Action Guy! by Victor Milan17 Comments

OK, kids. I wasn’t going to start with this. And then a friend on Facebook asked a question that rocked my world: “What/who is Frazetta?”

Who is Frazetta? You – you might as well ask, “Who is Superman?”

Who is Frazetta? Consider Exhibit A, O my children:

Now check out Exhibit B:

Frazetta's Conan

So what do we see? To me two things are clear:

  1. The poster above is clearly influenced by the painting below.
  2. Exhibit B kicks all kinds of Exhibit’s A’s ass.

Let us leave aside the awesome grasp of the human anatomy Frazetta displays, not just in the titular Barbarian, but in the babe clinging to his leg (sadly and inexplicably omitted from the movie poster.) Let us rather go to sheer visual impact.

That second Conan, dear friends, is the plain and simple epitome of badassery. He looks, to be candid, as if he could grab the movie Conan, take a bite out of his head, and eat him like a freakin’ ice cream cone. And if he saw the movie poster (or, I gather, the movie), he might.

Now, Jason Momoa is beyond doubt a studly dude. No disrespect to the man. Especially considering there’re like two degrees of separation between me and him, and if sufficiently-motivated (i.e., pissed) he could find me, and I do not want him appearing on my doorstep and punching me boneless.

I am Action Guy, but I’m not delusional.

But facts are facts. Advantage: Frazetta.

“Who/what is Frazetta?” Only the man who did for our visual conception of fantasy – especially its heroes (and heroines!) – what J. R. R. Tolkien (the English one) did for our modern conception of fantasy fiction: to all intents and purposes, invented it.

Through his long and awesome career, Frazetta – hereinafter referred to as The Master – created many iconic images. Not just in the covers of the Sixties and Seventies paperback versions of Robert E. Howard‘s original Conan yarns, but other fantasy subjects as well:

The Death Dealer I

The Death Dealer I

And also in science fiction, as with The Master’s covers for the Edgar Rice Burroughs paperback reissues of the early Sixties, especially for Tarzan, and of course –

John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars

What to me makes Frazetta The Master is what I consider the unparallelled expressiveness of his images. Fair warning: I’m not an art critic, which is no doubt abundantly obvious already to those of you who are. I don’t pretend to understand his or any illustrator’s work from a visual artist’s perspective. All I can offer is what I see as a professional writer of this stuff – and a lifelong fan. Please adjust expectations accordingly, yes.

So perhaps key element of Frazetta’s style I admire is what I term soft focus (not pictured: authentic art critic terminology! As you were warned.) Contrast the sharply delineated, more nearly photorealistic style of Boris Vallejo

Boris Vallejo: CONAN THE WANDERER, 1977

Boris Vallejo: CONAN THE WANDERER, 1977

– whose work I like, well enough. But whom I think my good friend and fellow Cheese Magneteer John Jos. Miller summed up quite pithily, as is his wont, just last weekend, as “the poor man’s Frank Frazetta.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Conan cover above. But to me it’s just a tad … static.

But cast your eyes back up at Exhibit B – The Barbarian, there. To me the way his muscles flow organically into one another suggests his potential to explode into action even in repose. And when The Master swings into action –

CONAN THE CONQUEROR, 1967

CONAN THE CONQUEROR, 1967

– oh, lordy mama.

As we see so clearly above, The Master’s visual dynamism wasn’t restricted to his portrayals of the human form.

And in Frank’s world, chicks kicked ass too –

SAVAGE PELLUCIDAR, 1964 (He did other versions, apparently.)

SAVAGE PELLUCIDAR, 1964 (He did other versions, apparently.)

And, in two separate veins, to be true to myself I also have to observe: for my money The Master portrayed the most perfect human female asses ever to grace our eyes.

THE MOON MAID, 1978

THE MOON MAID, 1978

YMMV, of course. And that’s a beautiful thing, my friends.

Now, I know the lady who asked the above question on my Facebook Wall to be a good person – and a longtime SF fan. So I forgive her – and will refrain from naming her.

Besides, she did me the great favor of spawning my very first Cheese Magnet column! And may I thank Scott Phillips for inviting me, and John, the Other Scott, Don Adams, and The Mysterious Tanzi for welcoming me aboard! ‘Tis an honor.

And – whoa. That’s enough for me; got to get back to the enormous backlog of the kinda writing that pays the bills. In case you haven’t had enough of Frazetta yet, here’re links to The UNOFFICIAL Frank Frazetta Fantasy Art Gallery and Frank Frazetta: The Art History Archive – Fantasy Art.*

“What/who is Frazetta?”

That, my friends. That is Frank Frazetta.

Hope you liked my opening shot in the War on Crappy Action Entertainment, see you kids soon, and please – remember to always live the adventure!

*See what I did there? HA HA HA HA! Is funny joke. There’s no such thing as too much Frazetta!

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