Connections · Frank Frazetta · Look Here

Connections: Frank Frazetta vs. Neil Vokes

ABOVE: Frank Frazetta, portfolio cover, Frazetta’s Kubla Khan; artwork dated 1977.
ABOVE: Neil Vokes (penciller) and R. Rankin (inker), unpublished cover for Primer #9, 12 x 17 inches; artwork dated 1984.

Look at the bridle on Vokes’s version of Frazetta’s horse. Now you tell me: what’s missing from the design that renders it useless as a device one might use to control a real horse? (I see several problems with it.)

Of course, Frazetta’s Kubla Khan on horseback is itself little more than a variation on the longstanding Western theme of the weary Indian warrior on an exhausted horse, a.k.a. End of the Trail, which dates back to the 1915 sculpture by James Earle Fraser.


In the world of functional bit-bridles, the country bridle and the western split-ear are about as minimalist as it gets:

Notice that the crucial elements in both cases are 1) a strap that attaches to one side of the bit, runs up the cheek of the horse, over the head behind the ears, down the other cheek, and attaches to the other side of the bit, and 2) an ear or brow band to prevent the bridle from sliding either down the neck towards the rider or around the head in a circle, which would pull the bit out of the mouth and onto the cheek. Seeing what a minimalist bridle looks like makes it easy to see what’s wrong with Vokes’s version, which consists of a combination browband/throat latch and an entirely separate noseband, with no cheek pieces or headpiece at all.

6 thoughts on “Connections: Frank Frazetta vs. Neil Vokes

  1. Frazetta’s Kubla Khan is beautifully drawn, but his loooong legs make him the length of a classical European figure (8-9 heads tall), not the 13th century Mongol emperor who was likely of much smaller stature.


  2. Well, Frazetta never painted history. He painted fantasy. Frazetta’s version of Kubla Khan is no more a portrait of a real person that his version of Conan was.


  3. Well, right off the bat you see that he apparently tried to copy the way the rein is carelessly draped across the horse’s neck, but he’s got it as some misc. strap, from another piece around the horse’s head that will soon slide forward over the critter’s eyes. In other words, he tried to copy the cool look of the leather trappings but missed on making them functional. Now Frazetta, he didn’t always adhere to strict functionality, either, but he made it LOOK as if it were functional, at least. And it looks to me that perhaps the penciling was a little vague at those points, and the inker just completed the drawing as he thought it was drawn.


  4. Not bad, Clayton. You’re definitely on the right track.

    I’ve updated the post with a couple of examples that I think make it clear where, exactly, Vokes went wrong.


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