I think it’s fair to say that if I hadn’t discovered Frank Frazetta, I probably wouldn’t be writing comics. There’s really no way a simple post could properly sum up how influential Frazetta was on me. Maybe that’s a curious thing for a writer to say, but it’s an absolute truth. So I can’t really let Frazetta’s passing go without comment.

In my pre-teen years I wasn’t really reading comics. Instead, I was devouring stuff like Burroughs’ Mars and Venus novels, Moorcock’s Elric series and Howard’s Conan tales. The Conan stories were the Ace editions, covers by Frazetta. Equal parts sex and violence, those covers were revelatory for a kid my age. The covers led me to The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, the first Ballantine collection of Frank’s work, which in turn kindled a love of art in general and, well, “fantastic art” in particular. The Ballantine volumes eventually led to Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan magazine, and from there, back to reading all manner of comics.

I never met the man, but had a few brushes, no pun intended. Back when I first agreed to do some work for Valiant Comics, taking over X-O Manowar with Bart Sears and Andy Smith as the artists, Valiant brought all its new creators into New York City for a weekend of wining and dining. Part of the festivities was a private group outing to the Alexander Gallery, which was holding an extensive show of Frazetta originals. It was a breathtaking experience. The hardcover catalog for the show – they were $50 a pop, and everybody received one – still sits on the shelf in my office.

My other Frazetta anecdote involves … a plumber. When my wife and I were first married, we rented a house on a cliff that offered a commanding view of the Hudson Valley. When we needed some plumbing work done, we got a recommendation and had the plumber out to the house. The plumber, whose name I can’t remember, passed my office in the house, saw the kind of work I did, and asked, “Hey, you ever hear of this artist named Frank Frazetta?” I said of course I’d heard of him, everybody in comics knew and worshipped Frank.

The plumber told me he’d grown up with Frank in Brooklyn. “He was a good artist, but he was a better ballplayer,” the plumber said, confirming the stories I’d always heard about Frazetta’s prowess as a baseball player. The plumber also offered this: “You know those girls in his paintings, the ones with the dark hair and the curves? That’s just what Frank’s sisters looked like.” I can’t vouch for the veracity of that particular claim, but if the grin on the plumber’s face was any indication, I’m inclined to believe him.

I’m going to sit down with a stack of Frazetta books tonight and take it all in again. Thanks for everything, Frank.