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Connections: Frank Frazetta, Marcus Boas, Boris Vallejo

Well… in all fairness, the two paintings posted below are different enough that I probably should have tossed this post into the “Connections” category. And you know what? I think I might have done so, if only Boas’s style here weren’t every bit as derivative as his concept…


Marcus Boas’s debt to Frazetta in the above painting is clear enough, I think; however, in terms of painting technique, colour sense, and model types, Boas owes an even bigger debt to Boris Vallejo circa 1980. Because the fact is, Boas’s Heroic Fantasy painting is pure pastiche. It has nothing original about it other than the poorly designed creatures whose misshapen wings are attached to their bodies by wishful thinking rather than by anatomy and the inevitable awkwardness that seems to emerge whenever a mediocre illustrator attempts to make changes to a composition he has cribbed from an acknowledged master.


Two covers by Boris Vallejo, scanned from the paperback library of yours truly:

As I recall, Boris’s un-Frazetta-like cover for Demon in the Mirror made a big impression on me as a teenager, and truth be told, it remains one of a handful of Boris’s covers that I quite like. In recent years, Boris has unfortunately transformed his fantasy art into a platform to indulge what can only be described as a personal fetish for the bodybuilder physique, both male and female. Notice, however, that no bodybuilders were recruited to pose and flex for either of the above covers — thank god!

Keywords: Through the Reality Warp, Demon in the Mirror.

6 thoughts on “Connections: Frank Frazetta, Marcus Boas, Boris Vallejo

  1. I don’t know about you, but I see whole heap of Frazetta in those two Boris covers. Not in the figures, but the trees seem to me to be pure Frazetta rips, the way the trunks curve and the treatment of the clustered moss and hanging bits. Even the planet in the first one looks Frazetta-esque!


  2. Wow! A comment on a post from 2010! I’m a bit busy at the moment, but let me see if I can concoct a quick reply…

    To begin with, Jay, I agree with you completely that Boris’s Through the Reality Warp cover is heavily influenced by Frazetta; I said nothing about the painting in 2010, but the figures, the planet, etc., — it’s all as you say, Frazetta-esque. But I still don’t think it’s fair or accurate to lump Boris’s Demon in the Mirror in with that earlier work; or, at least I think a case can be made that Boris’s style is more his own (and less Frazetta’s) in Demon in the Mirror than it is in Through the Reality Warp. Now, certainly, the gnarly tree is derived from Frazetta — though it’s painted in a dreamy soft-focus style that screams BORIS — but the tree in the background on the right hand side (barely visible here, I grant you, but more visible in the original) is like no tree that Frazetta ever painted, and the woman and horse are also far, far removed from Frazetta’s usual types. In other words, unlike Boris circa 1976, Boris circa 1978 doesn’t appear to have asked himself, what would Frazetta do here? Or, what do I have in my Frazetta swipe file that I could riff on? Instead, I think it’s clear that he not only designed his own composition, coming up with his own pose for the horse and rider, but also hired an actual model and maybe even an actual horse, took his own reference photographs (or worked with a professional photographer to get what he wanted, or whatever), and painted them in his own style. Generally speaking, I’m no fan of Boris, but I think it’s fairly obvious that by 1978, he wasn’t JUST a Frazetta imitator any more. To put it another way, whereas, at first glance, many readers familiar with but not expert in Frazetta’s work might mistake Through the Reality Warp for a Frazetta cover, relatively few (I hope!) would be so blind as to make the same mistake with Demon in the Mirror. And in fact, nobody ever seems to mention it, but I’d argue that it was competition from slick technicians like Boris (and Sanjulian and others) that caused Frazetta to tighten up the rendering in his oil paintings in the 1970s. The influence flowed both ways!



  3. I can almost see a pale naked girl standing on top of the large branch of Boris’ “Through the Reality Warp” cover like in Frazetta’s “The Moon’s Rapture.”

    Frazetta’s has done some nice trees. This one is one of the best ones.


  4. The large branch in Vallejo’s Through the Reality Warp cover is an odd thing. It’s as though the artist started with the intention of painting a complete tree and then remembered that he had to leave the upper part of the picture free of clutter so the book’s title, etc., would be readable. His solution: end the branch abruptly with a huge clump of moss or whatever it is. Would look even stranger without the type, I think, but whatever…


  5. I guess he could have done the same thing he did with the other example where the tree fades into leaves. It does give the impression of another world. Weird. I do like his earlier work, too. His late 70’s and 80’s work had less body builder women with those 70’s shapely gals. I thought he got wrapped up in the whole “chrome” thing which always looked like it was pasted on and not existing in the same plane. In the 90’s he began to do all those Marvel superhero characters and the majority of them looked very bad. On occasion I run into something done well from that period and more recently, but overall his older stuff was better (minus the advertising stuff).


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