Archive for May, 2010

The story so far

Posted in Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 by bradellison

A genetically perfected scientific genius from the future, a magic-wielding princess from the Moon, and a short-tempered fist-fighting archeologist are the only people with a shot at saving the world from the fascists trying to enslave the human race for its own good.  They’ve thwarted vampire gangsters, ninja assassins, serpent-worshipping cultists, time-traveling terrorists, flying snake-headed gorillas, and a bluesman who sold his soul for music that can rip the fabric of reality, but now they know their greatest challenge is still ahead.

Because they’ve learned that the man behind everything they’ve faced, the shadowy figure pulling the strings, working inexorably to bring the world under his benevolent but absolute dominion, is the greatest mind on earth.  Their enemy is the pinnacle of human achievement, Doctor Clark Savage Jr., the Man of Bronze.

Unfortunately for our heroes, this revelation came shortly before they were thrown back in time to an age undreamed of, a prehistoric Hyborian Age of swords and sorcery, where their only allies are two of Doc Savage’s most trusted aides, the cold-blooded electrical genius Long Tom, and the slightly unhinged archeologist and Miskatonic University alumnus Johnny Littlejohn.  To get back home to 1928, this uneasy alliance must navigate the treacherous alleyways and ancient temples of Shadizar the Wicked, a city where life is cheap, help is expensive, and every shadow harbors peril.

I’ve given a lot of thought, lately, to the importance of escapism, in my own life and in general.  Fantasy’s the trap door to life, the means of slipping out at taking a break from reality, and I’ve come to realize that this is absolutely essential for me.  And the best escape is the one made with friends, around a table with dice and character sheets.

Frank Frazetta, 1928-2010

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 12, 2010 by bradellison

I am eight years old.  In the science fiction section of the public library, I have found a book written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created Tarzan.   The book is called A Princess Of Mars, and it will change my life forever.  This is the cover illustration:

A landscape like nothing I’ve ever seen before, strange monsters, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and standing over it all the triumphant hero, powerful and free, sword held aloft before the twin moons of an alien world.  I didn’t know much at eight years old, but I recognized adventure, fantasy, and pure wish-fulfillment when I saw it.

Frank Frazetta was one of the greatest fantasy artists of all time.  Many, many people tried to imitate his barbarians, princesses, monsters and scenery.  No one ever came close.  His paintings live. Energy, motion, fury, strength, made manifest on canvas.  You can talk about his lighting, his composition, or his grasp of anatomy and how to effectively exaggerate it.  You can talk about his impossibly beautiful women, his superhumanly powerful bloody-handed warriors, the incredible menace of his beasts and monsters.  About the richness of the worlds he created.

For me, what it comes down to is this: Frank Frazetta believed in what he painted, and that made it come to life.  Robert E. Howard’s prose has that quality, and I believe that’s why Frazetta is the definitive Conan artist.

It’s why he is the definitive Tarzan artist.

It’s why Frazetta is in a class by himself as a fantasy illustrator.  Without peer.

Looking at his art is the only connection I have to the man.  But it’s enough of a connection to make me feel like I’ve been punched in the gut, knowing he’s dead.