Beyond Fantasy: The Career of Frank Frazetta

Every true fantasy fan knows the name, Frazetta, but the prodigious artist is known for much more. From comic art to corporate logos, album covers to movie production, Frank Frazetta had his hand in all things illustration.

As soon as the Brooklyn native could walk he was drawing, and at the mere age of 16 Frank began his professional career as a comic artist. In 1944, the juvenile artist completed his first professional project by inking the eight-page story, “Snowman”, for Tally-Ho Comics. After three years of various penciling and inking gigs, Graham Ingels became aware of the young artist and put him to work at Standard Comics.

Frank Frazetta Johnny Comet Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 9-30-52 (McNaught Syndicate, 1952)

This recognition allowed Frazetta to be immersed in many different comic genres. He began working on Famous Funnies, Personal Love, and John Wayne Comics. Frank’s Buck Rodgers covers garnered a great deal of respect in the industry, which allowed him to make the transition to comic strips, such as Li’l Abner, and Johnny Comet. After nine years with Al Capp, Frazetta left to pursue comic books again. During this time he also lent a hand to Harvey Kurtzman to illustrate a couple stories in the risqué Playboy comic strip, Little Annie Fanny.

Frank Frazetta Johnny Comet Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 7-10-52 (McNaught Syndicate, 1952)

In 1964, United Artists took notice of Frank’s abilities after he completed a caricature of Ringo Starr for the back cover of MAD Magazine. They stepped in to offer the artist a prestigious gig to paint the movie poster for What’s New Pussycat. In one afternoon, Frazetta made an entire years salary, which was only roughly $4,000 at that time.

In addition to movie posters, Roy Krenkel, also a well known illustrator and friend, was working on new releases of Edger Rice Burroughs paperbacks. Needing help, he convinced Frank to create a few for him. The books were incredibly popular with the cover art luring a new generation of fans. In 1966, Frazetta took the fantasy genre by storm when he visually recreated the look of “Conan the Adventurer”, forever influencing the styles of future fantasy artists.

Fantasy illustration with new concepts came easy to Frazetta, and many of his most famous creations originated from the period of 1965 to 1973. Frazetta’s work gradually became more mainstream; he illustrated calendars, album covers, movie posters, book covers, and even the corporate logo for Svengali, John and Bo Derek’s movie production company.

By the 1980s, Frazetta had reached somewhat of a celebrity status, and everyone from George Lucas to Sylvester Stallone wanted to work with him. Movie studios began to employ the accomplished illustrator to work on animation movies. For example, Ralph Bakshi’s gave an extreme amount of visual control to Frazetta for the 1983 movie, Fire and Ice.

During the 80s, the popular artist began to work on his own museum, Frazetta’s Fantasy Corner in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Eventually, he relocated his museum to his estate in the Pocono mountains. He continued to paint for paperback book covers until the late 1990s, but a slew of health problems forced him to retire.  On May 10, 2010, Frazetta passed away at the age of 82.

Today, Frank Frazetta’s artwork is considered to be fine art and continues to influence multiple generations of enthusiasts.  Heritage Auctions has had the pleasure of furthering that tradition by auctioning off some of his most beloved works of art.

Frank Frazetta At The Earth’s Core Paperback Cover Painting Original Art (1974)
Sold for: $1,075,500.00


Frank Frazetta Death Dealer 6 Painting Original Art (1990)Frank Frazetta Death Dealer 6 Painting Original Art (1990)
Sold for: $1,792,500.00


Frank Frazetta Escape on Venus Painting Original Art (1972)Frank Frazetta Escape on VenusPainting Original Art (1972)
Sold for: $660,000.00


Frank Frazetta The Norseman Painting Original Art (1972)
Sold for: $454,100.00


Frank Frazetta Tree of Death Painting Original Art (1970)Frank Frazetta “Tree of Death” Painting Original Art (1970)
Sold for: $430,200


Frank Frazetta Red Planet, 1974Frank Frazetta (American, 1928-2010) Red Planet, 1974
Sold for: $346,000.00


Frank Frazetta Vampirella #5 Cover Painting Cornered Original Art (Warren Publishing, 1970)Frank Frazetta Vampirella #5 Cover Painting “Cornered” Original Art (Warren Publishing, 1970)
Sold for: $286,800.00

Visit our comic art department to view upcoming auctions and to browse our auction archives.

Posted by Nadia Mannarino

Senior Consignment Director, Comics

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