It’s difficult to think about the primary Warren Publishing books (Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella) without Frank Frazetta’s artwork flashing through your mind. His painted covers are mesmerizing with imaginative monsters, desperate situations, mood-setting hues and gorgeous anatomy. But those Warren books are more than one person, even if it’s an astounding artist like Frazetta. Here is a short list of some of the other comic book greats who worked in those books, Jim Starlin, Neal Adams, Carmine Infantino, Jim Steranko, Dick Giordano, Larry Hama, Walt Simonson, and Alex Toth. There were a variety of cover artists as well including Jeff Jones, Ken Kelly, Boris Vallejo, Gray Morrow, Manuel Sanjulian. In an effort to showcase various artist’s work I’d like to write a series of articles starting with Frazetta. J. David Spurlock, JDS, graciously agreed to give his expert insights into some of these works by Frazetta.
Top 10 Warren Publishing Covers by Frank Frazetta
10. Creepy #16 (August 1967) – Cat Girl. This isn’t as dramatic as a giant naked woman on the Empire State Building but it is powerful. A striking young woman standing with her hip popped out to the side staring at you with white eyes draws you into this cover. Then you notice that she is surrounded by leopards who have you fixed in their same white eyed gaze. In the foreground, the jungle floor is speckled with light and shade, nondescript and undefined. While the tree that she is near is clearly in focus. The out of focus foreground and background force your eyes to the middle where the beauty lives.
JDS: This is the original rendition of Frazetta’s famous painting, “Cat Girl.” He later updated the painting to make the subject a brunette and it became a trademark piece for the Frazetta Museum in East Stroudsburg PA.
9. Vampirella #31 (March 1974) – Luana, the beast girl, is charging over a hill toward the fray. She isn’t a model who is too thin with the straight lines of a boy. Luana is endowed with curves and strength and several ferocious animal friends. The sky behind her is a pale yellow void framing her face and hair. There is amazing life and power in this image.
8. Creepy #89 (June 1977) – Combat. CGC cases don’t credit this cover with Frazetta but his name is clearly on the cover. This painting was originally used for Blazing Combat #1. The grey smoke-filled background, the shells flying, the motion of the men’s legs in the water and the gun firing all speak to the savageness of war. There is an awkwardness to the injured man’s form and a desperation in the man trying to save him. This is a powerful albeit horrible painted cover.
7. Eerie #3 (May 1966)- Sea Monster. A scuba diver has found a buried treasure but he’s also been noticed by an underwater creature who towers above him. The stack of skulls near the base of the chest should have alerted him to danger. The massive creature displays human and fish-like qualities allowing him to be expressive in his threat. Hidden in this perilous scene are beautiful striped fish and lush seaweed of varying colors which frame the scene. This image was also used for Creepy #97 (May 1978).
JDS: Frazetta’s original painting, “Sea Monster” is still in the collection of the Frazetta family. The piece was also featured, with slight alterations, in the famous 1979 Steve Martin comedy film The Jerk.
6. Eerie #8 (March 1967)- The Brain. The scene Frazetta captured is dramatic with a demon about to deliver an epic blow to a foe who is down but defending himself. But there is more to this cover with a multi-color brain glowing behind the two fighters who are all in muted colors. The brain is reflecting off a glassy surface to complete this utterly bizarre and wonderful cover. Warren used Frazetta’s art again with Eerie #84 in June 1977. This art was used a third time by the band Nazareth in their November 1977 release entitled “expect no mercy”.
5. Eerie #7 (January 1967)- Sea Witch. Standing in the midst of a dramatic, tempestuous sea is a pale white figure, one arm lifting her garment and the other directing the action. The ocean is crashing around the rocks in white foam while creatures begin to surface around her. Frazetta masterfully composed this horizontally oriented cover around subtle shades of color but powerful action. According to J. David Spurlock, Frazetta’s official biographer, Warren told Frazetta he could do anything he wanted artistically because he was paying less than other publishers. Frazetta took the opportunity to give Warren a horizontal piece of art for a vertically oriented magazine. This was later used by Wolfmother for their album in 2006.
4. Creepy #11 (Oct 1966) – King Kong. If you take King Kong and the lovely blonde out of this painting it’s a placid sunset full of vibrant colors. Add them back into the scene and it’s a dramatic contrast, now it’s a life or death struggle. It’s not difficult to imagine the lady whipping her head around to see how close the beast is to her. King Kong is majestic and terrifying as he lunges toward her with vines or fabric hanging off his arms. In the Frazetta Sketchbook, there are three separate versions of this painting, all are incredible for different reasons.
3. Eerie #81 (February 1977) – Queen Kong. This cover features an interesting switch from King Kong holding a beautiful woman to the opposite, a giant woman holding a gorilla. It’s a captivating cover with a nude but conveniently covered woman fighting off brightly colored bi-planes. The city stretches off into the distance in gray and blue tones which gives the overall image depth. This cover also represents the first new cover for a Warren book by Frazetta since May 1971. J. David Spurlock explains in his book, The Frazetta Sketchbook.
“Frazetta hadn’t done new work for Warren since Vampirella in 1971 (the Luana cover by Frazetta on Vampirella #31, in 1974, was not done for Warren but was reused from the Frazetta movie poster).It was out of respect for his old friend and contemporary, EC legend Wallace Wood that Frazetta agreed to do new work to be published by Warren.The Frazetta piece was based on Wood’s concept: instead of King Kong on the Empire State Building holding a lovely blond, do a role reversal.”
2. Eerie #23 (Sept 1969)- Egyptian Queen. A Gorgeous Egyptian queen leaning up against a speckled marble column. She is clad in gold fineries with a luxurious fabric draped around her waist. Her bodyguard with a knife in hand stands in the shadows waiting for her command. A chained leopard snarls at the foot of the stairs. This beguiling princess is inaccessible but her eyes say otherwise. Incredible cover! This artwork was also used for Creepy #92 in October 1977 and Fantasy Illustrated #6 (May 1999).
JDS: The leopard has just broken his chain and both the princes and guard are very concerned for their lives as to their next move. There are subtle differences between the first printing and how Frazetta slightly updated it after receiving his original art back.
The #1 cover is…
Vampirella #5 (June 1970)- Cornered. How do you beat this cover? The caveman and cavewoman are about to do battle with this devious looking crouching dinosaur. They are clad in pieces of animal skin that aren’t neatly cut but scraps of leftover skin, which gives a sense of realism to the painting. The woman asserts herself with a hand on his rib cage. “This nasty boy is mine.” The backdrop is gorgeous in juxtapose to the imminent threat from the dinosaur.
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of great Frank Frazetta covers, that would take multiple articles. His Conan work, art for paperback books, album covers, and Famous Funnies work is simply spectacular. For some great information on Frazetta and other great artists, please go to www.vanguardpublishing.com They publish the Frazetta Sketchbook that I mention in this article and a complete line of official Frazetta books.
by Ron Cloer with J. David Spurlock commentary