Monday, May 17, 2010

Frazetta's High Adventure

We're almost finished... Today I want to showcase some of Frazetta's "other" High Adventure work. His paintings illustrating the classic pulp stories of REH and ERB tend to crowd out the covers he painted for other paperbacks of varying sorts. The first painting in this series appeared on a 1970's paperback exploring the myth and reality of Atlantis. "New Age" non-fiction books were making a big hit in the 1970's, and frequently featured lurid covers in the same style as the pulp action fiction. In addition to collecting pulp paperbacks, I have a growing collection of these paranormal "non-fiction" titles.

For me, the power of this work is in the choice of color scheme. It manages to convey melancholy, decay, and cultural decadence.
This was the cover for the semi-historical adventure, The Rogue Roman. All the hallmarks of the Frazetta style are there: naked girls, melodramatic posing, raw sensuality. But one of the things I find most intriguing about this painting is the fact that the men -- and to a lesser extent, the women too -- are more normally proportioned. Where the Conan-esque barbarians are meaty slabs of grade-A beef (can you tell I'm hungry?), these guys are smaller. Yes, they are cut like Olympic athletes, but they aren't man-mountains.

Here is a Frazetta cover for the ribald Flashman series, a raunchy 70's men's adventure series about a hero who managed to end up as a participant in various historical episodes, but was more interested in the ladies.

Frazetta was not known for depicting the American Frontier, but he did produce several illustrations of the subject. I like this one for the easy, savage grace he has imbued in character. You can sense he slips through the wilderness like a cat.

If memory serves me correct, this was the cover to one of the ERB Pellucidar books. Pellucidar was the name for Burrough's Hollow Earth realm. The Hollow Earth is one of those occult ideas that gains traction every so often, but has fallen out of favor with modern society's better understanding of geology. Frazetta did covers for most, if not all of the Pellucidar books and many of the Tarzan titles too. With her hair tossed in the air, the woman is as wild and vibrant as the saber-toothed cats, despite being posed coyly.

And lastly, we find Frazetta illustrating for National Lampoon. I have no recollection how this related to anything in the magazine. Possibly, it didn't. This is one of my favorites of his lesser known work because it is an excellent execution of a classic pulp fiction scenario. I admit it isn't as... err, "politically correct" as we might like to see today. Almost every character in this scene, including the viper, is caught in motion -- with the possible exception of the masked priest on the left. The mask adds a bit of humor as the figure looks somewhat shocked, and also like he's realized he's bit off more than he can chew.
Tomorrow we'll look at some paintings Frazetta did for Hollywood. Then we'll finish up with some heirs-apparent on Wednesday. It's obvious this Frazetta series is popular and generating more traffic to the site. I'd like to thank those of you who are stopping by.

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