If are a victim of the book disease, you are probably aware that — GASP! — sometimes book lovers buy books not for the book, but because of the cover art.

Yes, I know; if you aren’t a regular reader, or, like me, a biblioholic, this may be hard to understand.

Readers sometimes buy their books because the cover is really cool.

When a friend convinced me to join the Science Fiction Book Club way back in 8th grade, the SFBC had just published a new edition of Burroughs’ first novel, with a gorgeous, adventurous, otherworldly and downright sexy cover painting by Frank Frazetta.  A Princess of Mars was my first SFBC purchase — bought simply because of the evocative power of the cover — and was the start of a lifelong love of speculative fiction.

That 1970-71 edition’s popularity was due less to the qualities of Edgar Rice Burroughs as an author, and more to the savagery and the raw sensuality of Frazetta’s artistry, that was so attractive to male adolescent readers.  Princess was quickly followed by the next two books in one volume, The Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars.

These three novels are perhaps Burroughs’ best, and complete, I feel, an accidental trilogy that works on a massive and epic scale.

Thuvia, Maid of Mars and Chessmen of Mars

Frazetta had been working as an artist since the ’50s, for EC Comics and others.  During the Burroughs boom of the early ’60s, Ace hired him, at $200 a painting, to paint some Tarzan covers.  But he caught major national attention when he was hired to paint the covers of Lancer’s editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan books.

I bought them — and read most of them — for three reasons: #3. They were pulps, from the Burroughs era. They had to be magic.  #2.  The Conan comic book, as drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith and written by Roy Thomas, was the most amazing comic book of the early seventies.  More magic.  and #1.  Frazetta’s covers.  Cool, barbarian magic.

The poster below hung on my wall during high school.  The colors and the composition are vibrant and evocative — and the painting inspired me to write a story that ties in to the novel I just finished.  (The story is called, “In the Mountains of Frozen Fire.”)

I could show you a lot more art, but you’d do much better if you searched the Net or went to Amazon and ordered Icon or any other Frazetta art book.  I have a feeling that, in the next few years,  a comprehensive retrospective will be published.  At least, I hope so.  This was an artist of heroes who was himself heroic — after a stroke a few years ago and losing the control of his painting hand, he taught himself to paint using his left hand.

He was the man’s man of fantasy art.  RIP Frank.

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