Frank Frazetta was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 9, 1928. Early on, his parents recognized their son’s incredible artistic talent, and in 1936 they enrolled him in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied for six of his eight years there under award-winning artist Michele Falanga.
At 16, Frazetta started drawing for comic books, dabbling in various genres to develop his style. During those early years, several comic book giants, including Disney, tried to hire him, but he turned them all down. However, in the early 1950s, he began accepting offers, among them EC Comics, National Comics (including the superhero feature Shining Knight), Avon and several others. Much of his work during that time was done in collaboration with friends and fellow artists Al Williamson and Roy Krenkel. Through Famous Funnies, Frazetta worked on the Li'l Abner comic strip with its creator Al Capp and the Flash Gordon strip with its creator Dan Barry. At the same time, he started his own strip, Johnny Comet.
In 1961, Frazetta went solo for a while, later teaming with Harvey Kurtzman in producing the Little Annie Fanny strip in Playboy magazine. In 1964, he went in a new direction after United Artists hired him to create the movie poster for What's New Pussycat. That led to several other movie posters, as well as paintings for paperback adventure books. His cover for the sword-and-sorcery collection Conan the Adventurer by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp in 1966 brought him national acclaim, with people snatching up the books just for their covers. Suddenly, Frazetta's work was in demand.
Perhaps because of that success, he was asked to design covers for other paperback editions of classics, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs books from the Tarzan and Barsoom (John Carter of Mars) series, as well as several pen-and-ink illustrations. In the early 1980s, he joined animated movie producer Ralph Bakshi in producing Fire and Ice. The film was a box office disappointment, and he returned to what he loved best, producing paintings and illustrations.
Frazetta was plagued by a variety of health issues in his later years, and he died May 10, 2010. He lives on, however, through his work, which has become so highly regarded that even incomplete sketches sell for a high dollar.
A documentary about his life and career, Frazetta: Painting with Fire, was released in 2003.