Category Archives: Frank Frazetta

It’s Frank Frazetta’s Birthday

Frank Frazetta, one of the greatest fantasy artists to ever stride this land, was born on this date (February 9) in 1928.  I’m not even going to try to put the impact his art has had on my life into words, much less that of the fantasy field.  Here are a couple of my favorite works of Frazetta’s.

The image on the left is the promotional poster for a Frazetta exhibit I saw in Austin last spring.  That trip has really been on my mind today, maybe because the weather has been so unseasonably warm.  The image was used on the cover of one of Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane books.  You can read about my trip in this post.

Probably my favorite of the Frazetta Conan covers is the one shown on the right.  It’s  for Conan the Usurper.  I saw this one at the Frazetta exhibit, and let me tell you, none of the reproductions do the images justice.  It was awesome to stand in front of some of those paintings and see close up the detail and the brushwork.  The painting were larger than what you see on a book cover, of course, and the detail really stood out.

I think the thing that has always captured my imagination about this picture is the snake.  I hate snakes.  There’s just something evil about them.  I’m not sure why, but they’ve always given me the willies.

Frazetta is gone now, but his work lives on.  While it might be easy to think that with his popularity, there will always be copies available to enjoy, that’s a dangerous way to think.  Today hot property is too often tomorrow’s has-been, or worse completely forgotten.  So take a moment over the next few days to admire a Frazetta painting, especially if it’s one you’ve not seen before or not seen in a while.

Update:  Here are tributes by David J. West and Woelf Dietrich.  They’re both worth checking out.

A Visit to the Frank Frazetta Exhibit

20160314_135938So last week was Spring Break.  I had to go in to work a couple of days to get some stuff ready for labs, plus there were a number of things that simply didn’t get done, such as writing some reviews (although I did finish the first draft of the WIP), the backyard is still covered with pecans, etc.

I did manage to sneak off to Austin for an overnight trip.  I went down to see an exhibit about violence on the border in the early 20th century, which will be the next post at Dispatches From the Lone Star Front.  That will be followed by posts on La Salle and rural cemeteries.  These will be lengthy posts in some cases, so it may be a week or three before they start showing up.220px-Ffrazettaself

I got to Austin on Sunday with plans to see the museum on Monday, when a notice about a Frank Frazetta exhibit came across my Twitter feed.  An exhibit that was only a short walk (9 blocks or so) away from the Bullock State History Museum, where the exhibit I had come to see was on display.  It was at the Robert Rodriguez museum, a block off the state capital.

The impression I got from the announcement, reproduced at the end of the post, was that the exhibit was only for a week.  I think the dates were a draw for the SXSW crowd.  I didn’t care.  There were original Frank Frazetta paintings that I could go see near where I was going to be in the morning.

So you know I had to go. Continue reading

Blogging Conan: Rogues in the House

Coming of ConanThe Coming of Conan the Cimmerian
Robert E. Howard
Paperback $18
Kindle $11.84  Nook $13.99

“Rogues in the House” may have been among the earlier tales of the wandering Cimmerian that Robert E. Howard wrote, but it is one of the best.  I reread it last night to get in the mood for Howard Days, and found it to be compelling and exciting, even though I knew everything that was going to happen.

Sometimes it’s good to go back and reread something when you know all the plot twists the author is going to throw at you.  Doing so give you a greater appreciation of the author’s skill and technique.  Note:  There will be spoilers. Continue reading

Blogging Conan: The Scarlet Citadel

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a post on Conan.  All I can say, “Where did the time go?”

Anyway, there are times when you just need to get back to basics.  This weekend has been one of them.

The Frazetta art for “The Scarlet Citadel”, shown at right and originally appearing on the cover of Conan the Usurper, has always been one of my favorites.  Perhaps it’s because I don’t like snakes.  If that were me chained up, I probably be a blubbering mass of jelly.  Anyway, even though it isn’t exactly faithful to Howard’s description, it’s still a masterpiece. 

“The Scarlet Citadel” was the third Conan story published in Weird Tales, following “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “The Tower of the Elephant“, although “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” and “The God in the Bowl” were probably written before Howard wrote “The Scarlet Citadel”.  (Links are to my posts about those stories.)

This story takes place during Conan’s reign as King of Aquilonia.  It opens with him taking 5,000 of his knights and riding to the aid of King Amalrus of Ophir against Strabonus, King of Koth.  With them, and actually the one in charge, is the sorcerer Tsotha-lanti.  It’s a trap, and all of Conan’s men are killed.  Conan is captured and offered his life if he will abdicate.

If you’ve read any of the Conan stories, you should know what his answer is.  As a result, he’s chained in a dungeon in total darkness to wait for the giant snake in the above picture to have him for a snack.

I’m assuming most of the people reading this are familiar with the story, but there are probably one or two of you who either haven’t read it or haven’t read it recently, so I’ll not give much in the way of spoilers. 

It had been a few years since I last read “The Scarlet Citadel” before I reread it the other day, and the images that had most stayed with me were the opening scene and the sequence of Conan and the snake.  It was fun to refresh my memory of this tale.

Howard by this time was becoming comfortable with the character.  His identity is well established.  Howard’s prose is top notch.  There’s a portion of the story in which Howard relates the events in Aquilonia after the population learn (falsely) that Conan is dead.  Howard summarizes the series of events beautifully, painting in broad strokes the usurpation of Conan’s throne by Tsotha-lani’s pawn and giving details about the resistance of certain individuals, such as the student Athemides speaking out and having to flee the city.  This is some of Howard’s better writing, although probably not his absolute best.  It’s certainly better than the passages in “A Witch Shall be Born“, in which the soldier Valerius relates events to his lover Ivga.

Yet, as much as I enjoyed this story, I can’t help feel that Howard was never really comfortable with Conan as a king.  While he’s still king, he spends most of the story trying to regain his throne.  Most of the story that’s told from Conan’s point of view consists of his capture and adventures in the dungeon, plus the concluding portion of the final fight at the end.  We never really see him in any kingly role.  And even though he’s portrayed more like a ruler in “The Phoenix on the Sword” and The Hour of the Dragon, I can’t shake the impression that Howard is at his most comfortable with the character when he’s not a king.  Even in The Hour of the Dragon, Conan spends much of his time traveling in order to regain his throne and even reminisces about when he was a wanderer. I know the Conan stories I’ve enjoyed the most have been those in which Conan answered to no one, even if there was a woman he was protecting.

Much of this one after Conan manages to escape consists of summaries and skips over some of the details.  If filled in, those details would turn this particular adventure into a short novel.  I don’t know if Howard didn’t feel as though he could write some of the details effectively or if he didn’t think he could sell Farnsworth Wright a story of that length about this relatively new character.  Certainly on the surface the basic concept of Conan having to fight against an invading army here bears a strong resemblance to the basic plot of The Hour of the Dragon.  Perhaps Howard felt more comfortable a few years later when he wrote Dragon, or if the character was by then popular enough to sustain a serial of that length.  Of course, by the time he wrote The Hour of the Dragon, Hester’s health was in a steep decline, and he probably needed the money a novel would bring more than he did when he wrote “The Scarlet Citadel”. 

“The Scarlet Citadel” is well worth the read.  The action is broken up into two main parts, the first being Conan’s capture and subsequent escape, and the second relates what happens in Aquilonia while he’s gone and how he gets his throne back.  It’s not one of the longer Conan stories, and it’s readily available in a number of collections.