Over on his Drums of Nyumbani blog, Charles R. Saunders has posted an entry entitled, “In Memoriam: Frank Frazetta.” Mr. Saunders reminisces about his discovery of Frazetta’s work, depictions of blacks in Frank’s art and also speculates about what a Frazetta cover for an Imaro novel might have looked like. CRS does an admirable job covering the latter two topics, but I have few more factoids and opinions to add. Feel free to click the link above, read the post and click back here.
I was happy to see Saunders make mention of Fritz’s Edgar Rice Burroughs covers for Ace in the early ’60s. Frank was still honing his painting chops at that point, but several pieces, especially some of the Tarzan covers, are bonafide classics in my book. I find it strange that nobody has tried to claim that Frazetta “made” ERB’s career as they have in regard to Robert E. Howard’s. I know I’ll never think of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core without Frank’s savage and dynamic cover painting springing to mind. J. Allen St. John, for all his unquestioned talent, never matched that particular painting.
CRS then looks at sub-Saharan Africans that feature in Frazetta’s art. He brings up Frank’s “Masai Warrior,” a piece I’ve loved since I first saw it about ten years ago. Saunders also mentions “Lion Hunt,” which, like “Masai Warrior,” was featured in the Frazetta art books published by Underwood a few years ago. Charles couldn’t find a scan and my scanner’s down, so take our word for it that the painting is off the chain.
Saunders cites “Swamp Demon” as an example of Frank depicting a black woman in his art. Fritz painted that for John Jakes’ Witch of the Dark Gate. Reportedly, Jakes’ publisher sent Frank the title, Frazetta did the painting and then Jakes wrote the rest of the book to match it. I’d do the same thing to get a Frazetta cover on my book.
One Frazetta painting that CRS seems unaware of is a piece that Frank did for a Mandingo-style novel published around 1970 called Black Emperor. The protagonist on the cover looks much like how I have always envisioned Saunders’ iconic hero, Imaro: massive, brooding and unmistakeably black (as opposed to the silly first cover for Imaro). The painting by Frazetta (see a cropped version below), despite being rendered for a sub-standard piece of hack-work, still retains that trademark Frazetta power. Frank Frazetta, like Robert E. Howard, always gave one hundred percent, no matter what the job was.