I like the girls of Vargas. I like the pinups of Elvgren even more. As a matter of fact, there are scores of very talented girlie artists that have drawn and painted females of every race, occupation, and in every setting…and continue to do so. The one common element of all these artists is that they present fresh-looking girls exhibited with little touches of soft-core titillation. They are all so perky and exuberant…it’s impossible not to find them very appealing. It is a growth industry and not likely to stop anytime soon. At any given time EBAY is stuffed with hundreds of female depictions from artists of varying degrees of talent.
Now, let’s add Frazetta into this equation. He is, in a word, different. Why is it that collectors are ALWAYS looking for “babes” by Frazetta? This is the number one pursuit by Frank’s legions of rabid worldwide fans. I get requests every single day from collectors looking for a great Frazetta female. Why is this? It is because of the unique nature of Frazetta’s women. Yes, he has drawn that same type of softcore pinup girl. We can see these girls displayed in the men’s magazines wash illustrations from the early 1960’s. They are beautifully drawn, but for the most part they don’t rise above the norm for this type of subject matter. He was doing a job and doing it well. On his worst day Frank can draw girls better than most other artists. Consider this unique case of the female drawn for this 1962 illustration (from a men’s magazine). The story is unimportant. The man is beautifully rendered, but he is there to complete the story. The crosshatching defining his back is simply sublime. The fantastic machine is there as a bit of an inside joke. It’s looking at her bottom and saying “Va-Va-Voom” (if you can understand machine language!). Delightful.
Frank wanted the woman to be special. He spent 3 full pages in his 1962 sketchbook to explore the composition. This book features large 11x14 inch pages. Frazetta has girls jumping, standing, writhing, rolling, tumbling, and floating across these 3 pages. Is he having fun? He certainly is. Thank heaven that we have these pages intact and we are able too see this great mind at play. Notice that he even includes a caveman on one of the pages. One might think it is out of place here. Not at all. With all those females populating those pages, Frank drew his id onto the page. That caveman is the visual embodiment of Frank’s testosterone. All those women demand a leering male presence! Frank is there. Quite amazing, really.
The final result is a sensational floating female, an apparition in the night with lush, wild hair and a face that defies description. Is this your standard cutesy pie girl-next-door type? Not at all. Her face reveals a woman that is gentle and sensual, strong and erotic. The face has catlike qualities that are unusual and highly desirable. Has Frazetta ever drawn a better female face? I do not think so.
With his women Frank transcends the pinup mentality and all its superficial prettiness and contrived sexiness. His women smolder. There is genuine mystery present and a sense of personal power. He brings a sense of insight and revelation to his depictions that go beyond prettified surface descriptions. That is the realm of Vargas and Elvgren and countless others. Again, they are sensational painters of the female form. But Frazetta brings a new set of very special qualities to his best females. Page upon page could be written about the magic of the Cat Girl, or the Burroughs heroines, or all those other sensual females from the Canaveral drawings or the Doubleday illustrations. The list goes on and on. One thing is sure…collectors will always be searching for the best Frazetta female that their pocketbook can afford. Now, that is ART with all the capitals in place!
A quick update about the 6 panel men's magazine illustration at the head of this essay. It is the only other men's illo known to exist, along with the floating girl pictured above. However, the original is no longer in this format. The current owner decided to break it up into 6 separate illustrations and sell them individually. He owns it; it was his decision. Usually, one can find one or two of these little gems for sale at the San Diego Comic Con. The prices vary from 15K-25K each. Luckily, I have a nice transparency of the original in its full integrity.