Drawings and Sketches (Jones) · Edgar Rice Burroughs · Frank Frazetta · Illustration Art · Jeffrey "Jeff" Catherine Jones

Connections: Frank Frazetta (1963) and Jeffrey Catherine Jones (1970)

ABOVE: Title page of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the City of Gold (Ace, 1963; F-205), with spot illustration by Frank Frazetta.
ABOVE: Jeffrey Catherine Jones, illustration published on the back cover of Bill Thailing’s Catalog #212, 1970.

Whether or not you think that a big Frazetta and Burroughs fan like a young Jeffrey Catherine Jones might have been “inspired” by Frazetta’s title-page illustration for Burroughs’ Tarzan and the City of Gold, you surely must agree that Jones’s fan art is all kinds of wonky. Particularly egregious from a pure drawing standpoint is Jones’s botched handling of the perspective of the woman’s arms and the failure of construction that is her shrivelled right hand. Frazetta handles the same pose/angle/elements simply and with aplomb, and he is able to do so partly because he has made the throne large enough, or the woman small enough, to give himself room to operate. In particular, notice that the cylindrical forms of both of the woman’s arms are reinforced by the curves of the wrist and upper arm bands — Jones does this on one wrist, and it’s effective — and the spaces between the large, swooping arms of the throne and the outstretched arms of Frazetta’s woman effectively, along with the subtle dimensional edges of the throne and a bit of tone, push the back of the throne back in space, so that the pose is believable. In fact, as an overall strategy here, Frazetta maintains a strict contrast between the open, unrendered figure and the very simply shaded/rendered elements that surround her. Jones, on the other hand, fills the spaces between the woman’s arms and her body with black ink, and makes the woman too large for the throne, so that the arms have no space to extend toward the viewer and rest on the arms of the throne in a natural way. What Jones does not seem to realize at this point is that no amount of deep shadow and scratchy rendering can solve bad figure construction.

There are other problems with Jones’s illustration, of course, but I’m just gonna leave it there.

Anyone who has delved into the archive of this site will know that I am a huge admirer of Jones’s work, but what this illustration shows is that everyone has to start somewhere, and that that somewhere is often far distant from where one ends up. In other words, and in short, there’s hope for us all, if only we will do the work.

BONUS IMAGES:

ABOVE: Frank Frazetta, original art for the title page (see above) of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the City of Gold (Ace 1963; F-205). Frazetta’s illustration of the woman on her throne looks good in print, but the gorgeous original art shows how much the delicate subtlety of the line work was blunted by the pulp-novel reproduction.
ABOVE: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the City of Gold (Ace, 1963; F-205), with cover illustration by Frank Frazetta.
ABOVE: Frank Frazetta, The Executioner (1955). Here, Frazetta has made the same “mistake” as Jones did in the illustration I highlighted above. The baddie on the throne is fat, yes, but the throne itself, which shares some decorative elements with Frazetta’s later design, is pathetically, laughably, squat and tiny, so not only does the fat man not fit in it at all but nobody else in the scene would sit comfortably in it either, although… maybe in this case, that’s the point, i.e., to make the bad guy look buffoonish. As we have seen, however, when Frazetta took at second run at that design in 1963, he made improvements that showed he knew how to do it “right.”

Art Collection · Barry Windsor-Smith · Christopher Marlowe · Finn Matthews · Mahendra Singh · Tamburlaine

Look Here: Art by Finn Matthews

In early May of this year, I approached Canadian illustrator Finn Matthews with an idea for a commission. Finn is currently working with writer Mahendra Singh, who is an excellent illustrator in his own right, on an ambitious graphic novel, Tamburlaine: The Scourge of God, that seeks to transmute Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (Part I & Part II) into Space Opera. My idea was to have Finn draw a scene from Tamburlaine that he had not yet tackled, but to do so in a way that would combine his love of Marlowe’s play and his existing Druillet-inspired designs with ideas and motifs from works by Gustave Moreau, Barry Windsor-Smith, and others — some old favourites of mine, basically — and on Friday of last week, I received via Canada Post the completed page, which is absolutely stunning. I think it’s fair to say that Finn and I both had a blast working together to shape the final art, and I thought it might be fun and instructive to display it here at RCN along with some of the images that the page references.

ABOVE: The completed page on 11 x 14 inch Strathmore 500 Series plate-finish bristol.
ABOVE: Proposed cover for Tamburlaine: The Scourge of God, with art by Finn Matthews.
ABOVE: Page (in progress) from Tamburlaine: The Scourge of God by Mahendra Singh and Finn Matthews.
ABOVE: Character designs by Finn Matthews for Tamburlaine: The Scourge of God.
ABOVE: Here’s the relevant excerpt from Marlowe’s Tamburlaine. Finn was delighted with my choice, although I did express a preference for a shortened exchange, and that’s what made it into the commission (see original art).
ABOVE: Watercolour version of “The Apparition” by Gustave Moreau.
ABOVE: Page of original art by Barry Windsor-Smith from the Marvel comics adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “Red Nails.”
ABOVE: The opening page from Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith’s “The Song of Red Sonja.”
ABOVE: Another page from “The Song of Red Sonja.”
ABOVE: Page from a story by Frank Thorne that features multiple Red Sonjas.
ABOVE: Thor page by Walt Simonson that displays his characteristic inking strategy of leaving a white border around figures when the background is black.
ABOVE: The framed commission.

While the choice of scene was mine, it was entirely Finn’s idea to break it down into a three-panel sequence, complete with balloons featuring the precise subsection of the dialogue between the First Virgin and Tamburlaine that I had mentioned in conversation that I like best, which was a cool surprise. (When I first contacted Finn, I had thought that I was commissioning an inked drawing, not a fully formed comics page, which I think anyone would view as a significant upgrade, but let’s just say that, as the process unfolded, we both got a bit carried away.) The term “XenoBramic” in the opening word balloon is an addition to Marlowe that may or may not appear in Tamburlaine: The Scourge of God, which, when it is published, will be Finn’s first professional credit in comics. Follow Finn on Twitter and/or Instagram for updates on the progress of his and Mahendra’s graphic novel. And publishers: there are still opportunities for a few brave souls worldwide to join the crew of Tamburlaine’s corsair, the Maa-Durga, which is already prowling the space lanes for plunder and booty, so hup to it!

Chris Achilleos · Connections · Frank Frazetta

Connections: Frank Frazetta and Chris Achilleos

What interests me about these juxtapositions is not merely Achilleos’s obvious debt to Frazetta but that each of the artists revised his original composition after first publication. Whether the compositions are better or worse now, you can decide for yourself. In both instances, however, the changes were probably driven by what I like to call “the tyranny of second thoughts.” That is, once one gets it into one’s head that improvements are possible, it is damned difficult to resist sacrificing what one has for the promise of something better.