Friday, September 16, 2011

Frazetta's Weird Science Fantasy #29

It was in the late 80's when I walked into Frank's studio. I noticed all the FAMOUS FUNNIES covers lying on the carpet. I picked them up and sat down, shaking my head. "What's the matter?" Frank asked. I responded that he can't just leave these things laying on the floor. Someone will step on them, or the bugs will starting eating them. Frank had a problem with ants coming into the studio from the back door. I looked at all the stains and flaws on the covers. Each one had its own set of problems. The WEIRD SCIENCE FANTASY 29 cover was part of the pile. What's this? It was covered with large brown spots. At first I thought it was foxing from all the humidity. Foxing is a bacteria living on the surface of the paper. It eats the sizing that holds the fibers together. I showed the piece to Frank. He seemed completely unconcerned. Later he asked me if something could be done. I told him that I would take it to a professional paper conservator and have it evaluated. I was fortunate in having the Cooperstown School of Art Conservation in my backyard. At the time there were only 4 schools of conservation in the country. Most art conservation is done by "enlightened" amateurs with no real training. A proper and professional conservator must have a chemistry background. A piece is photographed before anything is done to record its state. After treatment a new round of photography is employed to document areas of change. A full treatment report is also given that outlines all the procedures and all the chemicals used. This is usually a document several pages in length. This professional treatment is what I had done.

After leaving Frank's house with the WSF29 I stopped at Al Williamson's home. Once he saw that Frank was getting this major piece done, he decided to give me the famous PRINCE VALIANT "Bridge" page for conservation. Al had mounted the page on cardboard with Elmer's glue and he wanted it removed. Elmer's glue is a nightmare for conservators because of its chemical properties. The conservator took 8 months to finish and delivered the original to Al personally. She enjoyed meeting Al and seeing his massive collection.
I subsequently had a number of other pieces worked on for Al including 4 Foster TARZANS, a Joseph Clement Coll, and a few Raymonds.

One more stop was at Mark Schultz's home. I thought he'd enjoy seeing the WSF29 up close. He was stunned when I brought it into house. I added some pics of Mark and I holding the original. Mark and his wife looked at the surface carefully with a loupe. Mark was stunned by the brownish discolorations.

I had 2 of the most important comic art and comic strip pieces in my home! I was afraid to leave the house!! I spent hours looking at those pieces from the comfort of my sofa.

After a couple of months, the WSF29 was finished. The problem? Those brownish stains were nicotine stains caused by smoke falling on the surface of the paper. Frank was smoking this original into a state of non-existence! Luckily, the treatment regime was relatively benign. The problem was easily remedied. The ink was stable and didn't need any consolidation. I took the page and decided to frame it for Frank. I used 8-ply sheets of rag museum mats both front and back. The hinges were used with archival methyl-celluose. I did a thorough job and a good one. Before doing all this I had a 4x5 inch transparency shot and made some copies. I figured that Frank didn't have a decent repro of this. I made a full size photo repro of the piece and took that with me when I returned the piece. I had Frank inscribe the photo to me. I always had an eye to preserving these little moments in Frazetta history. After all, this was one of the world's greatest art treasures.

That was the first original I had conserved for Frank. Over the next couple of years I also had these drawings worked on for assorted paper illnesses: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE EXECUTIONER, SHEBA, SENORITA O'TOOLE, and a couple other FAMOUS FUNNIES covers (Girl floating in space, and the big planet cover). It was fun being able to spend time with these originals in the comfort of my home. I did my best to educate Frank and Ellie about the importance of art conservation. Ellie thought it was a waste of money. I had to expend a great deal of energy to get Ellie to agree. It was exhausting and exasperating. I was always prepared for a battle of some sort before each visit. Frank quickly saw the light and realized that this would preserve these pieces for future generations.

© 2010 DocDave Winiewicz


Rich Dannys said...

A very fascinating story, Dave.. Thanks, for sharing it!
Seems such a shame that all of the 'Famous Funnies' covers have now been cast to the Four Winds..

I feel privileged to have seen them in the Museum a few years ago, before the Big Selloffs began!

Adrian Tysoe said...

It's cool that you had an opportunity to preserve a piece of history. It's amazing what those restorers can do though I had no idea it took so long.


  1. It's great to see your Frazetta blog back... the stories are always fascinating, and the art!

    About that art, though! Suddenly, all the art is opening in a viewer, and none of the images are viewable larger than about 3" x 5". (Depending on monitor size, of course.) What happened? This ruins one of the major attractions of your blog... the ability to see original art by Frank, and really appreciate the lush, brilliant brushwork! (or pencils, or pen work...) I hope this is just a temporary glitch!

    Best wishes,
    Glen Story

  2. Glen:

    Thanks for the kind words.

    As for the art/photos, it must be a new policy by blogspot. I was totally surprised to see it on a viewer. I'm working on a 27" Apple monitor and everything opens up full size. It's not reduced on my screen. Maybe this is something temporary. I try to present things the best I can.

    The internet is CONSTANTLY working against Quality by super-compressing files and trimming off the sizes. It is really frustrating. I apologize, but I don't have control over this.



  3. Dave,if i´m not wrong this piece is owned by George Lucas,isn´t it???

  4. No, it was recently purchased by the co-owner of Heritage Auctions, Mr. Jim Halperin, for the princely sum of $380,000. It is a world treasure at a bargain price.


  5. Frazetta's WSF #29 cover has undoubtedly inspired many other artists to have a go at a similar theme, and Berni Wrightson is no exception. His Swamp Thing #2 cover from 1972 has a castle on the right with very similar rock patterning as the ledge of WSF #29, but what recently surprised me is how similar the right foot of the caveman being struck by Buck Rogers in FF's cover is to that of the left foot of the Swamp Thing in Wrightson's cover for Swamp Thing #10. See for yourself:

    Placed next to one another, the feet are almost a mirror image!

    Best regards,


  6. Nice find, Alec! Berni was a giant fan of Frazetta and borrowed liberally throughout his career, especially that early period.

    Thanks for the addition.


  7. Hello, Dave. I'm huge brazilian fan of Frazetta's art and of your writing about it since I was introduced to your "The poetry of Line": The Graphic Genius of Frank Frazetta, in Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated # 4. In fact your thought and insights in that essay have influenced me a lot, both as illustrator and as writer, there being the first time I've heard about Bruno Schulz, for instance. Your understanding of what is important in art - power, life, the contact with the primal images as Jung, Bachelar and Durand understand them -, not the subject matter or the perfection of tecnich at all costs (everyone knows that Frazetta's anatomy and proportion were not "correct" sometimes, but who cares, if in a Frazetta's error there is more life, more chi, than in dozens of Boris Vallejo's paintings? I certainly don't!!), those qualities of yours are so rare and I, for one, apreciate them so much, and would like to thank you for that and for your personal dedication and sacrifice to Frank and his art, as is shown in this post about the WSF #29, surely the greatest comicbook drawing ever and, in my humble opinion, the greatest action scene ever made on paper! Thanks A LOT, Doc Dave!

  8. Many thanks, Fabio, for your very kind words. I appreciate your thoughts very deeply. I have always tried to share my passion for Frazetta. I have always thought he was quite special. I am so gratified that others share that passion and understanding.

    All the best,