Yesterday, iconic fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta died at the age of 82 as the result of stroke-related complications. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Frazetta’s work within geek circles, where his images of muscle-bound warriors and scantily clad maidens graced innumerable sci-fi/fantasy book jackets, but it’s his contribution to the whole of popular culture that truly exemplifies Frank’s significance.
Brooklyn-born Frazetta‘s unlikely career began at the tender age of 16 as a simple comic book artist for the various genre books of the day. From there he rose to prominence thanks to his work in American touchstones like Mad Magazine and Playboy, where the inherent adolescent sexuality of his illustrations certainly struck a chord.
Frank Frazetta gained further renown as a commercial illustrator not only as the cover artist for the popular works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and poster designer for feature films like Woody Allen’s What’s New Pussycat?, but as the creator of the Death Dealer, the heavily-armored warrior that graced the cover of Molly Hatchet’s 1978 self-titled debut album. This bleed-over between menacing imagery and the burgeoning heavy metal scene helped to shape the very face of genre, and late last year Metallica’s own Kirk Hammett purchased the original cover artwork for Conan the Conqueror for a cool $1 million.
Fantasy art newbies interested in learning more about Frank’s creative legacy are encouraged to check out the 2003 documentary Frazetta: Painting With Fire (not to be confused with the lackluster Frazetta-helmed 1983 animated feature Fire and Ice.) We oldsters, on the other hand, will instead commemorate his passing by simply cranking up some “Flirtin’ With Disaster.”