A Tribute to Frank Frazetta
Comic art collector, fellow seafood lover and all-around swell pal Charlie Roberts sent me this fine tribute to the great Frank Frazetta... I asked him if it would be OK to pass along to all of you and Charlie graciously agreed. Here it is in it's entirety, with photos by Charlie:
As many of you may have heard, legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta passed away today at age 82. Frank was the "everyman's artist". His work wasn't written up in "The New York Times", expensive art magazines, nor covered by mainstream art critics, but many of us loved his art whether or not the elite cared. Frank was like Norman Rockwell: another great artist who was under-appreciated by art critics, but loved by the common man and woman. Frank was a nice guy with an easy smile and a sense of humor... who quite simply could draw or paint ANYTHING better than anyone else. I last saw Frank and his wife Ellie at the opening of Steve Geppi's wonderful "GEM" museum of pop culture collectibles in Baltimore in 2006. For me, seeing Frank there was "the icing on the collecting cake". Russ Cochran was with Frank and Ellie, and had brought along the cover art to "Weird Science-Fantasy" comic book #29. What an incredible event... rare one of a kind items, capped off by Frank Frazetta in person! May I say "Wowzer" and "Wowzer" again!!!!!!! Attached are photos I took that day of Frank with Martin Luther King Jr., Arnold Blumberg, and Steve Geppi; Ted and Jonell Hake with Ellie Frazetta, and Frank with the "WSF" #29 cover. (Frank is making a face due to my using a cheap camera... he always gave me a little s..t about using a cheap camera!) I first met Frank and Ellie and their young family with Frank's Dad at Phil Seuling's July 4, 1969 NYC Comic Art Convention. Attached are photos I took with an even cheaper Kodak Instamatic: including Bernie Wrightson admiring the trophy Frank had been presented by Jim Warren for being Warren Magazine's Artist of the Year; Frank's Dad; Frank and Jim Warren; Ellie with Frank Jr, Bill and Holly; and Frank talking to Al Williamson. In 1970-1971 Gary Groth put on a few comic-cons in Washington DC. Thanks to a phone call by fandom illustrator John Fantucchio, the Frazettas came to the second day of "MetroCon". They drove down in a black '49 Mercury (cool guy- cool car!) That Sunday Ellie sat in a chair in a hall trying to sell "Johnny Comet" comic strip originals for $ 25 each, while Frank gave a lengthy talk in an adjoining room. Afterward several of us went out to say goodbye, and they invited us to visit them at home anytime. Hmm... sounds like a plan to me! I visited the Frazettas in 1975, and spent a pleasant afternoon and evening with the whole family... and took more photos with the trusty Instamatic. Frank smoked cigarillos and played Frank Sinatra 78s while he worked. The true "Great woman behind the great man", Ellie ran the business end from home which included mail order posters. In 1976 my old friends Mark Feldman and John Taylor put on a "Maryland Funnybook Festival". Ellie came down with Frank Jr. and brought several paintings. I talked to Ellie about putting on a Frazetta exhibit at one of the "Lancaster Comic Art Conventions" Chuck Miller and I were putting on in Lancaster, Pa. Ellie said if we put on the show near their home in the Poconos it would be fine. "Frazetta 77", a two day exhibit was held in East Stroudsburg in September 1977: 30 paintings, original pen & inks including the "Famous Funnies" comic book covers, and more. Ellie had us insure the room for One Million Dollars, and hire a guard to sleep in the room. Frank didn't attend, but guests included Harvey Kurtzman (who had given Frank work on "Little Annie Fanny" in the early 1960's when Frank couldn't get work,) Bernie Wrightson, Mike Kaluta, Will Eisner, Jerry Robinson, Burne Hogarth, Charles Vess, book publishers Ian and Betty Ballantine, and two busloads of students from the Joe Kubert School of Art.
I like to think that Frank is with Ellie right now, looking as happy and healthy as they did in 1969. N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, and Norman Rockwell are telling Frank how much they enjoyed seeing "The Egyptian Queen" and "Golden Girl"; and Jerry Bails, Shel Dorf and Phil Seuling are setting up a major comic-con for all of them near the Pearly Gates.
Bless you Frank, and Thank You for everything.
Respectfully, Charlie Roberts
Thank you, Charlie, for the reminisces. Rest in Peace, Frank Frazetta.