Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Frazetta's Artistic Heirs

It is not an exaggeration to say that Frazetta had an influence on most comic book artists working today. Some may be consciously rejecting his aesthetic, but that too is an influence. In other cases, the influence may be unconscious or thematic. Adam Hughes is well known in contemporary comic art for depicting strong, but curvaceous woman. He is particularly known for his depictions of DC super heroines, but has also turned his pencil to Red Sonja.
Red Sonja is a Howard pastiche character based on an actual character named Red Sonya from Howard's short story, "The Shadow of the Vulture." This is one of Howard's historical stories about the siege of Vienna.

Someone else known for his beautiful, strong, full-figured women in the Frazetta mold is Frank Cho. Cho is a huge fan of the ERB Barsoom stories and has contributed pictures to ERB fanzines and sites.

Cho was also tapped to portray Red Sonja for this promotional piece.

Here we see the Green Martian, Tars Tarkas in full battle.
And Cho's depiction of Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars!

In my mind, the artist coming closest to filling Frazetta's shoes is Gary Gianni. Gianni was commissioned to paint a series illustrating complete reprints of REH's principal pulp heroes. Above was Gianni's grim and noble version of Solomon Kane, Howard's Puritan adventurer.

Here we see Conan at rest. Like Frazetta, Gianni captures the solidity of a Howard Barbarian. Conan has the character of a prize fighter with his squashed face. Gianni also excels at capturing the exotic scene in detail.

A Gianni battle scene. (I think from the Bran Mak Morn series.) Like Frazetta, there is a lone hero in the thick of the fight, taking on all comers and scattering his foes. However, Gianni takes a more distant view, emphasizing the lone hero's predicament and his precarious position. The enemy may have limited access to him, but the hero has no path of retreat. Like a true Howard hero, he's in it all or nothing.

Gianni's depiction of Howard's Bran Mak Morn, last of the great Pictish Kings. The detail is astounding, and reasonably accurate to the Roman military equipment of the era. Although the fanciful Raven helmet is a nice visual pun on the Celtic name "Bran." Howard knew full well "Bran" meant "Raven," but insisted in correspondence that in his idea of Pictish language, Bran had no such meaning.

Conan makes off with another of his women. Like Frazetta, Gianni makes ample use of light and dark to set mood and draw the eye.

Can anyone truly replace Frank Frazetta? No. But we should all be grateful that so many talented artists will try. Thanks for the marvelous work, Mr. Frazetta. You'll be missed.

1 comment:

Taranaich said...

Very nice work. I think Vallejo (at least early Vallejo, before he started using bodybuilders and beach babes as models) and Ken Kelly deserve mention, though perhaps their similarities are too close to be considered "heirs" so much as "pastichers."

The huge battle scene is from "Kings of the Night," which is a Bran Mak Morn story, but the lone hero depicted is actually Kull(!)

While some elements of Gianni's Bran are vaguely Roman, especially the pteruges, there are plenty of Celtic hallmarks too: the sword, the shield, the mail shirt. I agree, fantastic level of detail.

Gianni's Conan is directly evolved from Frazetta's: he even notes this in the foreword for The Bloody Crown of Conan. Gianni's probably my favourite of the current crop of Conan artists.