Frank Frazetta has reigned as the undisputed lord of fantasy art for 50 years, his fame only growing in the 12 years since his death. With his paintings now breaking auction records (Egyptian Queen sold for $ 5.4 million in 2019) he’s long overdue for this ultimate monograph.
Born to a Sicilian immigrant family in Brooklyn, 1928, Frazetta was a minor league athlete, petty criminal and serial seducer with movie star looks and phenomenal talent. He claimed to only make art when there was nothing better to do – he preferred playing baseball – yet began his professional career in comics at age 16. Strip work led him to the infamous EC Comics, then to oils for Tarzan and Conan pulp covers. Both characters were interpreted by many before him, but as he explained in the 1970s, “I’m very physical minded. In Brooklyn, I knew Conan, I knew guys just like him,” and he used this first-hand knowledge of muscle and macho to redefine fantasy heroes as more massive, more menacing, more testosterone-fueled than anything seen before. As counterbalance he created a new breed of women, nude as censorship allowed, with pixie faces and multiparous bodies: thick thighed, heavy buttocked, breasts cantilevered out to there, yet still, with their soft bellies and hints of cellulite, believably real. Add in the action, the creatures, the twilit worlds of haunting shadow and Frazetta’s art is addictive as potato chips.
This monograph is the most complete ever produced on the artist, done in collaboration with the Frazetta family and winner of a 2023 Eisner Award.
- Taschen, November 2022
- ISBN 978-3-8365-7921-6
- 29 x 39.5 cm (12.68″ x 27.5“), 468 pages, hardcover with dust jacket
- $200 USD
- Order online: Amazon
As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc.), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.
This is a very different look at a book than is normally done on AE Index: I’m only reviewing the first chapter of The Fantastic Worlds of Frank Frazetta, as that’s the only one that deals with comic book art. The rest of the book isn’t quite relevant to the site so I’m skipping it and focusing on Chapter One: 1944-1959. There is amazing art throughout the book, including a lot of pencils and inks, but chapter one is the sweet spot for original comic art.
Each chapter has an introduction in three languages, English, French, and German. They change the art up for each language, so while you will skip the foreign language text the images are new for every page. The art layout changes from full page to multiple pieces per page to double page enlargements. I’m not a fan of enlargements in general and certainly not this many; it feels they were trying to pad out the contents. An example is provided below: I don’t think we’re getting an insight into Frazetta’s process or craft by taking a single panel from a Sunday strip and making it a double page enlargement. While I’m griping, I will mention the random blank pages in the book. Are they there to emphasize the art on the opposite page? Give us as much art as possible at full size.
The scans are all exceptional, with no issues. Blacks show gradients. Most art shows very well with little aging, and makes me wonder if they were lightened up. Some art shows the margins, but most has been cropped to the borders. Nice use of zip-a-tone and minimal correction fluid.
The design works, with page numbers along the bottom center and chapter name along the top right. Every piece of art is noted with its title, issue number, date, medium, and dimensions. A purple cloth cover is covered by a thick dust jacket. The cover is a serious piece of cardboard.
Taschen knows how to produce a luxury book, and this is no exception. A sewn binding of a medium matte paper with a slight gloss, possibly 100gsm. Most pages lie mostly flat when the center is smoothed: it’s such a thick book that it just can’t be flat. The book comes shrink wrapped in an illustrated cardboard case, which is also shrink wrapped. The front and back covers of the dust jacket are replicated on the cardboard box.
I appreciate the painted art of Frank Frazetta, but my favourite work is his comic work that is covered here. Just the Famous Funnies covers are enough, but to get those Johnny Comet strips and then the romance pages, plus everything else. And the inking on the White Indian pages. Amazing.
I preordered this book last fall from Indigo, the largest Canadian book seller. They didn’t get any of the numbered famous first editions, and suddenly this printing showed up a few weeks ago. That continues to bother me, but not enough to return it and try to hunt down what I really wanted, since I had a sizable discount. This time even preordering failed me. Ah, the world of expensive books.