by Casey Burchby
Frank Frazetta’s prodigious and varied output is given even more breadth by a new collection from IDW of the artist’s humor work. The contents of Frazetta – Funny Stuff date from the late 1940s, when he was still just a kid, really, and still a long way from the cavemen, exotic temptresses, movie posters, and cover paintings that would come to define his work. Yet, as Frazetta told The Comics Journal in 1994, “The funny stuff is the real me.”
In his early 20s, Frazetta produced stories for publications like Barnyard Comics and Thrilling Comics that mostly featured hapless ducks and lazy hicks. Frazetta’s work here is playful and cartoonish. The animal stories suggest the influence of contemporaneous animation work, whereas some of the Thrilling Comics stories show Frazetta paying tribute to one of his own heroes, Hal Foster. For the latter title, Frazetta drew a serial called “Looie Lazybones,” a relatively short-lived Li’l Abner knockoff; several years later Frazetta was ghosting Li’l Abner itself for Al Capp, a job that lasted nine years.
The middle chunk of Funny Stuff reproduces numerous illustrations Frazetta did for children’s books during the same period, mostly title page drawings.
Craig Yoe’s IDW imprint put the book out, and Yoe provides an illuminating introductory essay that draws from an encyclopedic assortment of interviews with Frazetta and his contemporaries. Ralph Bakshi, who collaborated with Frazetta on the animated sword-and-sorcery film Fire and Ice, provides a foreword that fondly remembers his friend.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.