Saturday, September 10, 2011

Frazetta's Cartoonistry

The famous Johnny Comet series by Frazetta, which ran from 1952 to early 1953, is still misunderstood. It is a difficult strip to describe because of the unique approach that Frank employed. It cannot be described as a straight realistic strip in the fashion of Foster’s TARZAN or Raymond’s RIP KIRBY strips. Frazetta blends a great deal of cartooning into this strip along with a straight realistic approach. Hence, I came up with the admittedly poor term of “cartoonistry” to describe Frank’s intention. This represents the blending of straight creative artistry with the exaggerated elements of cartooning. Throughout his career, Frank has been known to describe himself as a “cartoonist”. Of course, he is much, much more than that. In this example, which is from the very end of the strip, we see Frank using this technique. This is the famous “piercing eyes” daily that some people have attributed to Al Williamson. It is well known that Frank used a little help from his friends on selected dailies; this is not one of them. The babe in the corner is pure Frazetta…deliciously sexy, with prominent breasts that immediately capture the viewer’s attention. The background rivalry is wonderfully animated with Frazetta’s unique energy. The second panel is a little too cartoony, but still very skillfully drawn. Note the wonderfully harmonized lines in the chin. Nothing is out of place. There are no false steps in the rendering. The excessive cartooniness of the face fooled many into thinking that Williamson had a hand here. No, quite frankly, this rendering scheme is too precise, too perfect, for Williamson at this stage of his career. His limitations with facial drawing were very apparent during this period. Frazetta wanted this particular daily strip to feature facial intensity. That is why every single eye in this daily has that “piercing” quality. Frank was heightening the drama, upping the intensity; he was having FUN! The third panel is better. The face is intense and foreshadows the wildness of the fight that is to follow in the subsequent strips. Sex, confrontation, impending violence…this strip has it. It really doesn’t matter if Johnny Comet (Ace McCoy) does not appear. The great artwork redeems the daily and makes it another unusual Frazetta prize.

(c) 2008 Dr. Dave Winiewicz


Colby said...

That first panel is just choice!

It's interesting to see the use of consistent brush strokes in the third panel. I prefer the way Frazetta would later illustrate with more varied markings, even pen and brush together. The way he designs his ink strokes is one of the main things that makes him head and shoulders above anyone else. Other artists seem to have a formula you can catch on to.


Kris said...

I love much more the second panel, even cartoony,
than the third panel ...
Who is not a very good drawing !
All the characters are perfect in the first panel...