Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Comics Journal now online and the Frazetta family feud

This week, the new online edition of The Comics Journal went live. It's sad to see another long-running print magazine disappear from the rack, although in this case it's still going in another medium.

I was surprised to see that the lead story for the first online "issue" was a piece on the on-going turmoil between the children of artist Frank Frazetta. I've written about his work here save for the family troubles after his wife's death and his passing. The situation was just too fluid for me to get a handle on although I tried to read the ongoing articles from the Pocano Record website.

I was very glad to read Levin's article "Goodbye To All That" as it's one of the best summations so far of a confusing mess, and I consider it a must-read for anyone interested in Frazetta specifically or even 20th-century illustration in general. I liked the parallel with the Barnes Museum fiasco, the idea of artists' wishes for their works, and I also generally enjoy autobiographical pieces when the subject at hand is contrasted with the feelings and events in the life of the author. On the other hand, I felt, like many others, that it was lacking. The author disclosed his lack of knowledge about his subject and, although Levin seems to have done some good research, it was puzzling to me that a leading comic book industry publication would assign such an article to someone without further knowledge or contacts.

Be sure to check the comments. One can assume that what was expected from some of the readership for this article was a more objective and up-to-date journalistic piece. The tone and voice changed at several points in the article. The most recent event noted was the sale of "Conan the Destroyer" in July 2010. Any word on what has happened with the family or the artwork since then? That may be the reason for the disappointment.

I might also suggest that the author's opinion of Frazetta's work may have discouraged some readers. For myself, I was taken aback by this comment:

"There was no indication that, even in his private moments, Frazetta accessed the quirky, personal corners of the mind that, for me, made art tingle."

Certainly the author is entitled to his opinion, but I'm not sure that the samples shown on the museum website should be representative of the artist's work as a whole. And these qualities were not seen in the published materials consulted for the article?

The books consulted for this piece may also play a role here. The original Ballantine collections are good, but, aside from the documentary DVD (2003), the most recent book in the list was published in 1994. The three volume retrospective from Underwood published from 1998 to 2008 should be the beginning point of any serious look at Frazetta's life and work.

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