No man has ever been more able to make pure bad-assery out of ink and canvas than Frank Frazetta. In fact, Rocks Off's initial attraction to his wife owes much to his obsession with Frazetta's pale, almond-eyed, raven-haired heroine in his painting "At the Earth's Core."
The 82-year-old artist who defined sword-and-sorcery illustration with his work on the covers of later editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter
died earlier today of a stroke, The New York Times
reported this afternoon on its ArtsBeat culture blog
. Frazetta had grown increasingly despondent over the last year after the death of his business partner and wife Ellie, and suffered dementia in his last months.
Frazetta rose to fame after a series of acclaimed comic book covers for Buck Rogers
in the 1950s. From there he turned down a recruitment offer from the New York Giants to continue his highly profitable line of work drawing movie posters, starting with What's New, Pussycat?
. Eventually he moved on to the adventure-novel covers for which he is most famous, including the Conan
series begun by Texan Robert E. Howard.
But Frazetta also left a mark on the world of music, and musicians have sought out his paintings since the 70s for use as album covers. The most famout of these was Molly Hatchet, who used three covers and made Frazetta's "Death Dealer" the most famous fantasy painting of all time when it graced their 1978 self-titled album. The 1970s also saw Frazetta's work grace albums by Nazareth and Dust.
As the epic metal of the 1970s faded into the glamtastic razzamatazz of the 1980s, Frazetta's work was used less and less, but 2000 would see a comeback as no less a personage as Yngwie Malmsteen used Deathdealer 5
as the cover of 2001's War to End All Wars
. Australian up-and-comers Wolfmother also brought Frazetta into the new millennia by using The Sea Witch
on their 2006 self-titled album.
Frazetta drew only one original album artwork in his life, that of horror-surf band The Dead Elvi's second album Buddy Bought the Farm
. Like the music he helped give an image too, Frazetta was occasionally derided as cheap, exploitive and sensationalistic, but for those of us who have stared transfixed at his gods, monsters, heroes and Amazons, his will be a vision sorely missed, whether drawn or alive onstage.