Sunday, July 05, 2009

FRAZETTA VS. WOOD


It isn't often that you get to compare the work of your favorite artists in some way that can lay claim to being objective. Maybe the closest you could get to a fair contest would be one in which both artists attempted to illustrate the same story, without being able to reference each other's work. Well, that's what we have here: Frazetta and Wood illustrating the same story. There's no stylistic similarity, so I'm guessing that neither saw how the other handled the story.

Hold your hats, it's going to be a battle royal!



I can't put up every page of the story, so I'll just put up highlights of what each artist did with the beginning, middle and end. The finished, inked page way at the very top is by Wood. The pencil page immediately above is by Frazetta. Frazetta's pages only exist in pencil because the magazine folded before he could start on the inking.



That's one of Wood's middle pages above. The story goes something like this: a lonely bachelor is staying at his hunting lodge in the woods. A beautiful girl knocks on the door requesting help. Her car broke down, and she was pursued through the woods by someone or something intent on capturing her. The bachelor takes her in and offers her his protection. They start chatting and discover that each is the other's ideal mate. They fall deeply in love.



That's one of Frazetta's middle pages above.




Here's (above) the next Frazetta page. As their love deepens an announcement is heard on the radio.



Above, the next Frazetta page.

The radio announcer says a beautiful blonde mad woman has escaped from the local asylum. The announcer warns that she's very beguiling, but is not to be trusted. She's a homicidal maniac who slowly cuts up and horribly mutilates her victims. Under no circumstances should anyone let her into their home.

The bachelor is horrified. He kicks the girl out, locks the door, and spends the night upright in a chair, holding a rifle. Outside the girl begs to be let in.

She says they both found the true love of their lives in the cabin. She says he needs to trust that, and not the radio. She says the maniac is approaching. How, she asks, could he leave the girl he loves defenseless, in the hands of a fiend? With great difficulty the bachelor listens to blood-curdling screams all night. Finally the screams stop and the sun comes up. With gun in hand he opens the door to the porch.



That's Wood's page above.

The bachelor opens the door and discovers....the hacked, mutilated body of the girl he loved, and who he kicked out of the cabin. The girl, the love of his life who had pleaded for help, had been telling the truth all along.



That's Frazetta's final page, above. So who do you think won the competition? Who did the superior version of the story?

BTW, the format of the second version is different because it was undertaken later when the Congressional hearing on comics forced EC to recast their comics stories in magazine form. The reasoning was that magazines are assumed to be for adults and are therefore less vulnerable to censorship. The public didn't go for it. Sales of the magazine format declined (Mad excepted) and the horror titles fizzled out. Poor Frazetta was ordered to seize work on the magazine story before he could finish it.

I assume that he never saw the earlier Wood version because there's no similarity in the approach.

Also BTW: Thanks to Milt for bringing this to my attention and providing the artwork.




38 comments:

Niki said...

He may have seen it and thought he could do better, I really like Frezetta's approach better, but Woods work is still something to be envied by today's comic books.

M@ said...

Another great post Eddie!

I would have to say Frazetta wins this one! It's draughtsmanship of the highest order, and I even prefer the slightly unfinished feel to the illustrations.

Your earlier post on Keaton is superb too. I remember Mike F telling me that L.A was a spectacular place for architecture once-but that earthquakes took their toll. Anyway "anonymous" beat me to it.


sigh.

Rich Dannys said...

Frazetta wins it, hands down..

But to me, the entire comparison is flawed & unfair. And you make some assumptions, that I simply do not agree with..

For one, Frazetta was a huge Wally Wood fan. Wood's comic-book story appeared in the middle of EC's SHOCK SUSPENSE run. And Frazetta surely would've seen it, before beginning his own version.

For me, it's an important distinction that Frazetta's version was "designed" to read as an Illustrated book. It was for EC's 'Picto-Fiction' line of magazines, geared (as you mention) towards an older audience.
A series of illustrated plates would be interspersed throughout a Text narrative. Similar to the way Big Little Books were published..
The approaches are entirely different from one another, even though they're telling essentially the exact same story.

Dave Winiewicz posted an excellent examination of Frazetta's "Came The Dawn" on his excellent Blog, at:
http://frazfritz.blogspot.com/2008/06/
frazettas-came-dawn.html

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

M@: Thanks!

Rich: Thanks a million for the great link! I can't wait to see what else is on that blog!

Sean Wiig said...

Whoa, These are both amazingly cool!
Frazetta's last page is awesome. I love the high tension pose of him waiting with the gun. Real rugged.

mike f. said...

Whoa! A great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compare Golden Age giants. Frazetta wins, naturally - as who could ever compete with him when it comes to romance/adventure comics?

But it's not exactly a fair comparison, is it? Wood's forte, in my opinion, was humor. His funny stuff is still much funnier than Frazetta's, (especially when he worked in tandem with Kurtzman.) For pure parody - something like Superduperman! or Batboy & Rubin, for instance - Wood is still second to none.

You could argue, I suppose, that Frazetta's version is funny, too - with the weird, tongue-in-cheek placement of the stuffed squirrels and mounted moose head, etc. But I don't think that was on purpose.

Like most people, Frazetta is funniest when he's not trying to be...

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Niki, Mike: You're gonna hate me for this, but I prefer the Wood version. Any one drawing by Frazetta is better, and he's probably more faithful to the writer's intent, but Wood's stylized, funny-even-when-he's-serious way of presenting things wins the prize for me.

The Wood drawing of the couple in the upper left panel of Wood's second page is masterful. The girl is off-balance, but it doesn't matter. You can tell by the way that he stages things that Wood believes that romance is absurd, but that we have no choice but to make fools of ourselves by totally commiting to it. That's not my point of view, but it certainly is interesting.

I also like the way he shamelessly commits to the comics genre. He refuses to lapse into illustration, even though it would probably be more appropriate here. Wood has to stick with his style...he has to play the cards he was delt, even though they may not be the ideal cards...and that mirrors his philosophy that we're all helpless victims of the notion of romance, even though it's bad for us.

Of course the Frazetta drawings are superb.

Jenny Lerew said...

I don't know who Rich Dannys is but I agree with everything he says. I love both of them, but Frazetta is inarguably superlative at using the human figure in this way. Wood does other things better in other stories and for me, achieves greatness much more in the comic vein

OK, just looked over to my left here--figures Fontanelli also nails it. Now I have to just say "Durrrr, I agree wit' boff of 'em!"

I could seriously take a course in just these few Frank ruffs here. Sighhh.

Jenny Lerew said...

OK, and now I've read EDDIE'S response(can you tell I start tappin on the keys without reading through the entire page?)

I am not surprised you felt that way at all. Iconoclast. But this story doesn't have to be funny. Not everything has to be funny.
Frazetta did it best. : )

Josh "Just What the Doctor Ordered" Heisie said...

Sheesh! I dunno! They're both fantastic. I love the final picture of the Frazetta one.

Redburn El Gaviero said...

Thanks for putting this up! It's incredible to see the pencils...I'm a huge Wally Wood fan, but I'm not going to weigh in on who was better...

Adam T said...

I like Wood's better. Wood is better at creating a scene in its entirety. The characters seem like they're in a specific place. Frazetta's backgrounds are an afterthought really just used to frame the characters and I don't like that approach as much. Plus the writing itself is kind of silly and Wood seems more in on the joke.

The way Frazetta uses taxidermied animals in the compositions is weird too. The one with the racoon, moose, and squirrel is just bizarre.

Trevor M said...

To be a fair comparison, Frazetta should have been handed the same story in comic book form with all the small panels and cramping text and word bubbles. I think he would have done a tremendous job, as his romance comics are outstanding, but here he doesn't have to really "tell the story" like Wood does, nor does he have such demanding restrictions. All he's got to do is draw a three or four self-portraits with him carousing with a beautiful woman on each page. Of course, he does an excellent job, but... BTW, I like the creepy stuffed animals in his panels -- unintentional foreshadows of PSYCHO.

Brad Mackay said...

As much as i revere Wood, Frazetta's version 'kills.' It's more open, compositionally, and way sexier. Sorry Wally!

3awashi thani said...

ugh, i hate stories like this >< they upset me, i preper ghost stories
i'm just reviewing the last panel of each, i dont have much time...
i'd say they all have their merits i don't like the dead womans pose in woods comic, it lacks clarity, for all we know she could be holding that knife in her teeth. while frazetta's is much clearer with a dramatic angle to boot. i like the mans expresion more in wood's comic though

axel leecrow said...

Wow! never hear of these artist.
Just can't believe how good comic where.both are amazing ,but i like
wood then other guy. so eddie thick you.

Anonymous said...

You can really see the influence Al Capp had on Frazetta

Anonymous said...

I agree with Eddie, I won't argue that Frazetta's drawings had superior draughtsmanship and composition but I found Woods much more interesting to look at

Rich Dannys said...

Anonymous said..."You can really see the influence Al Capp had on Frazetta"

WTF??!!

Seeing as Frazetta didn't even begin working for Al Capp 'til sometime around 1954.. A time period (roughly) coinciding with this 'Picto-Fiction' story work.. I hardly see how Capp would've had much (if any) influence on Frazetta's art style?

Capp's work is characterized with heavy holding lines around all of his characters. Frazetta is the polar opposite of that approach, in my opinion.

It's important to note that all of Frazetta's "ghosting" work on Capp's LIL ABNER strip.. was limited to pencilling ONLY the Sunday strip, once-a-week. Work done remotely from Frazetta's own home/studio, rather than at Capp's studio. Which I believe was located in Boston?

When Frazetta finally left Capp in the early 60's,-- he had a hard time shaking off the very iconic character linework featured around the ABNER characters.. That's pretty-much the legacy of working under Al Capp, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

cool, I don't really know that much about Frazetta, I thought he'd gotten his start with Al Capp, most of my knowledge of cartoon history comes from snippets I pick up on blogs like this which makes me more knowledgable that 99 percent of people.

It sucks when you're talking about stuff you half a half assed knowledge about in real life and a genuine expert overhears you and indignantly calls you out. I'd probably just end up imitating you in a nerd voice like Conan Obrien does if that happened

mike f. said...

Seeing as Frazetta didn't even begin working for Al Capp 'til sometime around 1954.. A time period (roughly) coinciding with this 'Picto-Fiction' story work.. I hardly see how Capp would've had much (if any) influence on Frazetta's art style?


Perhaps Rich Dannys has never seen LOOIE LAZYBONES, which a young Frazetta drew for Standard's Thrilling Comics in the late '40s. That hillbilly feature is what attracted Capp to Frazetta's work in the first place. It's derivitive in the extreme, basically an out-and-out imitation of LI'L ABNER. The early influence is clear and unmistakable.


Capp's work is characterized with heavy holding lines around all of his characters. Frazetta is the polar opposite of that approach, in my opinion.


Influence doesn't begin and end with mere line weight. Capp's great forte was storytelling, mixing burlesque comedy, outlandish characters, satire and suspense in a way that no one had ever done in newspaper comics before. It's evident in Capp's idiosyncratic staging of the strip, which was provided to Frazetta in the form of layout roughs.


It's important to note that all of Frazetta's "ghosting" work on Capp's LIL ABNER strip.. was limited to pencilling ONLY the Sunday strip, once-a-week. Work done remotely from Frazetta's own home/studio, rather than at Capp's studio. Which I believe was located in Boston?

Wrong again, Rich. The deliniation of chores wasn't always as clear-cut as that, and Frazetta did indeed switch roles - and even occasionally commute - from time to time.

Anonymous said...

This is why I tend to skim through the comments till I find one by Eddie, John K , Amir , or Mike F etc.

When everyone online is an expert you can only trust the experts

Joel Brinkerhoff said...

Holy smokes, I read parts of the Dave Winiewicz blog and learned Frazetta didn't use models or photo references! I've always love his stuff but if he pulled those beautiful women and lighting effects out of his head I have new found admiration for the guy.

Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair that some folks can just lay it down without any struggle.

Oh well, it's beautiful stuff and I'm glad to have seen it.

Thanks!

Jenny Lerew said...

Yay Fontanelli! Ain't nobody can beat him in the Capp recap dept!

For my part before reading the last post I was about to argue that Frazetta was certainly influenced by Capp pre '54--not because I have the encyclopediac knowledge Mike has amassed, but only because one artist needn't actually work one on one with another to be influenced by them-especially in that line of work. And, I thought I saw an influence in the characters' posing etc before that year manifest itself.
Clicking through to the page suggested by Dannys there are some really quintessential Capp sort of poses that caught my eye among Frank's sketchbook roughs...but regardless, Frazetta is his own man in more ways than three. What a genius!

Al wasn't bad either. I used to love reading his comics and Pogo when I a pre-K kid through my primary years, when they were in our San Francisco Sunday paper in great big glory(I learned to read very early). Though I had absolutely no idea what the hell the stories were all about and I gathered it was really adult stuff--the drawings were just so appealing!

mike f. said...

This is why I tend to skim through the comments till I find one by Eddie, John K , Amir , or Mike F etc.

You could add Jenny Lerew to that list, for my money. (Howdy, Jenny!)

Jorge Garrido said...

John, Eddie, Mike, Jenny, Jennifer, Trevor, Kali, Nico, Amir, Chloe and Steve are my top list of people whose comments I read. I skim over everyone else.

There's are least one or two anonymous posters on this blog who always leave really, really intelligent comments, and I can tell it's the same people by the writing style. I thought I had figured out who it was once, but I was wrong.

If the comment reads "David Germain" I know it's going to be something inane.

Rich Dannys said...

I'm very well aware of Frazetta's turn on the LOOIE LAZYBONES strip. And yes, well aware that his work on that strip, also helped Frazetta secure work thru Al Capp.
In fact, I'd posted about the fact on my Blog, back in February of 2007..
You can read it here:

http://wangdangdoodles.blogspot.com/
2007/02/frazettas-79th-birthday.html

I called LOOIE LAZYBONES a "bald-faced imitations of Al Capp's L'IL ABNER.."
But that doesn't mean I necessarily see too many comparitive similarities between the Art Styles of the two. Simply that LOOIE features an almost carbon copy cast of characters and settings, etc.

Standard's editor Ralph Mayo only gave Frazetta the job of LOOIE, based on Frank's success with their 'Funny Animal' material. Not because Frazetta was aching to do a Capp-style strip. It was a job. And the job of LOOIE can essentially be described as: "give me a Capp-style LIL ABNER knockoff..."

Now does LOOIE mean that Frank was fascinated and (indeed) "influenced" by Capp? Or, does it simply mean that Frank was doing his best to ape Capp's work? I believe the latter, rather than the former.

As such, it's only natural that you'd see echoes of Capp posing & staging, because that's what the job demanded. Not because these were natural artistic instincts that Frazetta employed, thru years of studying Capp's work..

Yes, I am aware that Frazetta occasionally travelled to Capp's studio, when deadlines demanded it. But it was hardly the norm.

And in '62, when Capp finally insisted to Frazetta that all future work would need to be done in-house at Capp's studio. And oh yeah, for about HALF the money.. Frazetta told Capp to take a flying leap!

mike f. said...

?? - I'm not sure where your superior tone comes from, since you just backpedalled on almost everything you'd previously posted. (You must be planning a career in politics!)

BTW, Frazetta says now that he told Capp to take a flying leap, (after working one day per week for almost 8 years at full wages and playing baseball the rest of the time. Some slavedriver Capp was!)

Frazetta usually leaves out the part about his miraculously returning to work for Capp in 1965, on Li'l Abner And The Creatures Of Drop-Outer Space.

Now I'll wait until you come back and tell us you already knew all about that, but were just testing everyone...

Grant said...

Wow, this was the best thing I've read anywhere for a while! Frazettas artwork, style and compositon scares the hell outta me hes so good!

Plus I live in a scottish forest, its 3am and im a bit scared...

Thanks eddie!

Rich Dannys said...

I'm trying to imagine what I might've wrote that makes you think I've got a "superior tone"?

Frazetta has always been very respectful of the fact that Capp gave him a steady job, when Frazetta needed it most.. With a new home to pay for. And a young family to feed & clothe.

Leaving the security of Capp's job, was not an easy thing. But was a decision that Capp essentially forced Frazetta into. Especially with the threat of having his wages cut in half?!

Capp may have been something of a cartoonist.. But by most accounts, was a Horse's Ass as a human being. Leveraging power against vulnerable people, isn't something to look back on & be proud of!

And Capp wouldn't have needed to be such a slavedriver on his comic-strip,-- if he'd spent a little bit more time actually working on it, himself. Rather than spending all of his time out on the golf course.

I've never heard of "Li'l Abner And The Creatures Of Drop-Outer Space".. But my guess is that I wouldn't be able to appreciate Frazetta's work on it, anyhow. Capp had so many stylistic restrictions in his work, that Frazetta's touches would get buried within it.

BTW,-- THAT's what a "Superior Tone" sounds like!

mike f. said...

And Capp wouldn't have needed to be such a slavedriver on his comic-strip,-- if he'd spent a little bit more time actually working on it, himself. Rather than spending all of his time out on the golf course.

How does one golf with one leg? Do you even know the first thing about what you've been babbling about?

Frazetta has always been very respectful of the fact that Capp gave him a steady job, when Frazetta needed it most.. With a new home to pay for. And a young family to feed & clothe.

I beg to differ; Frazetta has done wildly contradictory interviews on this subject, some not so respectful. (In Frazetta's defense, Capp has as well. They certainly seem to have had a volatile relationship.) One thing Frazetta has never denied: his respect for Capp's talent. You appear to be misinformed about that, and other aspects of Frazetta's interviews as well. Some expert.

Capp may have been something of a cartoonist.. But by most accounts, was a Horse's Ass as a human being. Leveraging power against vulnerable people, isn't something to look back on & be proud of!

I have no idea where that came from. What does that have to do with your grossly misinformed posts, and pathetic backpedalling? Isn't that what we're discussing? You've already demonstrated that you know virtually nothing about Capp or his work.

I've never heard of "Li'l Abner And The Creatures Of Drop-Outer Space".. But my guess is that I wouldn't be able to appreciate Frazetta's work on it, anyhow...

TRANSLATION: "I'm ignorant about the subjects I post about, and defiantly intend to stay that way. So there!"

Suit yourself, Rich. Be my guest.

surferjoe1 said...

I have a beautiful Frazetta "Abner" daily on my wall, from the Elvis continuity of 1957.

Capp actually didn't hire Frazetta just to ape him- he had guys who could more or less manage that. He was uniquely excited by Frazetta's talent and had him experiment with the look- PARTICULARLY the inking, in a long daily sequence that actually featured Frazetta's name and likeness as a character. Frazetta brought the strip a heavier, more rendered look that editor complaints soon shot down.

I think that ultimately, Frazetta's contribution to "Abner" was to loosen up the staging a bit and bring more rhythm to the drawing, though of the two, only the latter really had a lasting impact on the strip after 1962. Going back the other way, there's just no doubt that Capp impacted and influenced the Frazetta who worked on "Little Annie Fannie", etc. Not so much the painter of Conan, dinosaurs, gorillas, and babes.

It's funny...(o.k., actually it's not)...when these...(yawn)...Capp attacks happen, after all the pseudo facts are corrected, it always returns to the same thing: an increasingly shrill personal attack. "Well, o.k., everything I said was wrong, but that's beside the point because he was a BAD MAN!" Not singling out anyone here with that, I just tend to see it a lot. Capp certainly had his ups and downs, personally. I hear Beethoven could be kind of a prick, too. What of it?

surferjoe1 said...

mike f. said...

"You could add Jenny Lerew to that list, for my money. (Howdy, Jenny!)"

^This was a weird case of mind-reading, because I had intended to post the same thing, word for word, including the "Howdy", to which I feel more personally entitled, as a barefoot ignorant Southerner.

Anyway, Howdy, Jenny!- from Joe S., late of Sony, '99.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to arguments where I'm not an expert I tend to defer to whoever comes across the least like an idiot, and Mike wins by not opening his rebuttals with "ummm wtf???". Come on aren't you at least 35? You come across like a 17 year old trying to prove how smart he is.

Jenny Lerew said...

Right back at youse, Mike!

Honestly, I wish you had a comics/illustration column, or at the very least wrote a book about Capp et al. Your knowledge is prodigious and you express it all so well(and I'm not just saying that because you shouted "hi" at me, either! I'm a real snob when it comes to writing).

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of how conservative Al Capp became late in his career but that doesn't diminish his stature as one of the greatest cartoonists of all time

surferjoe1 said...

Anonymous said...

"I'm not a fan of how conservative Al Capp became late in his career but that doesn't diminish his stature as one of the greatest cartoonists of all time"

Thank you, anonymous. Words of reason. As for me, I'm a liberal and a Capp fan. And a John Wayne fan- and check out some of his campus speeches around the same time as Capp's.

To parallel your statement, Anon, I'm not a fan of how Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson were communists, but they're two of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. I'm not a big fan of Charles Lindbergh's pre-war views, but I'm not about to say the man didn't fly the Atlantic.

So I suppose a guy is allowed to be conservative (and even mock the hippies) in this country, too.

Anonymous said...

I like Wood's story telling better I think. There is one thing that I noticed on Woods last panel is looks like the knife is sticking our of her mouth!. Whereas on Frazetta's last panel the knife is clearly stuck in her neck. It reads much better. Wood was probably trying to censor the violence a little, and it just dos work as well. I like Frazetta's last panel a lot better.