Saturday, May 26, 2012

Finally! Frazetta's Funny Animals (and Stuff)!

Frazetta Funny Stuff!
Edited and Designed by Craig Yoe
Produced by Clizia Gussoni
Yoe Books! & IDW Publishing, 2012

As he has many times before in his publishing career, Craig Yoe has done all lovers of comic book art a huge solid. With his most recent archival project, Frazetta Funny Stuff, Yoe has collected all the big foot and "cartoony" art from one of the greatest artists to ever work in the field of comic books, the legendary Frank Frazetta (all following artwork is taken from FFS).


Splash panel for “The No-Hound!” – Happy Comics #32, July 1949

What I find most rewarding about Craig's publishing adventures is his knack for mining out the artwork and stories of under appreciated comic book artists. In recent years, Mr. Yoe has edited collections of Bud Sagendorf, Otto Messmer, Dick Briefer, Bob Powell, and Milt Gross to name but a few (with the Gross collection, Yoe was greatly responsible for the recent Milt Gross renaissance). Committed archival projects like these has prompted Publisher's Weekly to refer to Yoe rightly as a "comics archaeologist."


Splash panel for “The Wonderful Machine!” – Barnyard Comics #24, 1949

Of equal interest and importance in the Yoe oeuvre are projects wherein Craig tackles well known artists, like Steve Ditko or Dan DeCarlo; collecting a popular artist's less-known work (The Jetta collection from DeCarlo is a particular favorite). Such is the case here with Frazetta Funny Stuff.

Anyone finding their way to this blog will, more than likely, know who Frank Frazetta was (sadly, the artist passed away in 2010). Also likely, that person will count themselves a fan. Much like in the case of Jack Kirby or Wally Wood, I have never met any comics lover that doesn't count themselves a fan of Frazetta. I include myself proudly in this roll call. I can well remember as a kid purchasing cheap mass-market paperback reprints of Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) simply on the strength of those intensely powerful, masculine covers by Frazetta. Likewise, Frazetta's artwork was responsible for my purchase of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and John Carter reprints. I still recall the thrill I had when Frazetta's magnificent artwork so perfectly complimented the terrific prose of both pulp masters. Because of the pure, dark perfection of this and other fantasy work, Frazetta will be best remembered as a painter.


Text illustration – Goofy Comics #27, August 1948

Yet, very early in his career, Frazetta cut his teeth on funny animals and other cartoony material (primarily the Little Abner knock off, Looie Lazybones, done for Thrilling Comics) which Craig Yoe has collected between hardcover in its entirety. To come right to the point, the collection is a sheer thrill. What is so startling about Frazetta's work from this, his inchoate period (late 1940s); is that none of the work on these pages is inchoate in the least. To the contrary all the artwork presented here, done when the artist was in his very early twenties; is beautifully realized - exhibiting an incredibly well defined, unique style. For an artist so young, the record these stories provide is nothing short of revelatory. For those missing the days of brushwork - done with ink and brush - Frazetta's inking will make you swoon.


Text illustration – Happy Comics #28, November 1948

The book also has some excellent supplemental material, including a fascinating and very touching introduction by Ralph Bakshi and a great piece by Mr. Yoe, "The Real Frazetta;" which is chocked full of great Frazetta art and memorabilia. Included as well are all of the great banner illustrations Frazetta did for the text stories done in comics. These single panel gems have long been loved by comic art fans, and it is sooo cool to have them all in one place.

As for the technical specifics: Great non-slick paper stock; sturdy sewn binding; and beautiful color reproduction. These points have become par for the course with all of Yoe's work, and IDW's high publishing standards are well met here.


Text illustration – Goofy Comics #26, June 1948

After living with this book for awhile now, I have asked myself the inevitable question. Which do I prefer? Frazetta's fantasy paintings or his funny animal cartooning? I will simply say this: If given a chance to own a single piece of original artwork by FF, including such iconic masterpieces as Conan the Conqueror; - I would happily choose an orginal penciled and inked page (including scribbled indexing notes and coloring cues) from the late 1940s.

Regardless of personal preferences, this publication makes one thing crystal clear: Frank Frazetta was one of the most accomplished artists America has ever produced.

7 comments:

  1. To me, the most amazing artists are the ones that transcend their own areas and can “wow” you in many different ways. Frazetta is clearly one of them.

    Carl Barks, too, had he never met a Duck, could easily have been a fine illustrator or accomplished painter. On occasion, but (alas) all too infrequently, you can see this show through in his “duck-work” – particularly that of the early 1950s, before such things were discouraged by his publisher.

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  2. Joe: You are so right about Barks the painter. His oils of famous Dell Four Color covers are absolutely amazing. I have prints of two of them hanging on the walls of my home.

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  3. Okay, no updates to this blog for months. Now I'm getting sad.

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  4. Okay, no updates to this blog for months. Now I'm getting sad.

    ReplyDelete

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