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« Miss Manners | Main | The long version »

Mar 05, 2012

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Ian McDowell

Thing is, I don't know if Frazetta did any covers for the 60s paperback editions of the Mars books. By the time I was reading them in the 60s, the copyright issue had been settled, and Ballantine got Tarzan and John Carter while Ace got Venus, Pellucidar, the Land that Time Forgot and various one-offs.

Frazetta worked for Ace. His aesthetic doesn't seem to have fit the more sedate house style adopted by Ballantine in the 60s (obviously, this changed in the 70s, hence the "Frazetta lite" covers you mention and the later ones by Michael Whelan, and well as new exciting Tarzan covers by Neil Adams, of Batman and X-Men fame).

Now, BEFORE the copyright kerfuggle was settled, in the very early 60s, Ace DID publish some of the Tarzan books and these did have Frazetta covers that were much more exciting than the later Ballantine ones (a similar copyright loophole allowed them to also publish competing editions of Tolkien's Rings trilogy, with action-filled covers by veteran sci-fi artist Jack Gaughan that were quite different from the more abstract Ballantine covers we all remember -- these were also withdrawn after Tolkien asked his readership to only buy the Ballantine ones). This made me wonder if Frazetta also illustrated some of their Barsoom books before they lost the rights to that series around 1963 or 64.

But googling Frazetta and Mars only turns up the covers and black and white interiors he did for the Science Fiction Bookclub hardcovers in the 70s. Googling "Ace Books," "Burroughs" and "Mars" turns up early 60s Ace editions of Thuvia, Maid of Mars, A Fighting Man of Mars, The Mastermind of Mars and The Chessmen of Mars with covers by the great Roy Krenkel, who often collaborated with Frazetta (and who was listed as a consultant on Frazetta's classic Conan the Avenger painting), and who also did his share of covers for the Venus and Pellucidar books and various one-offs (although by the late sixties Ace was replacing the Krenkel covers with ones by his friend and old schoolmate Frazetta). But it doesn't turn up any Frazetta ones, even when I put in Frazetta's name, the specific titles of the other books and "Ace Books."

This suggests to me that, while Frazetta did lots of Burroughs stuff for Ace in the 60s, he never did any Barsoom illustrations before the 70s hardcovers for Doubleday's Science Fiction Bookclub.

Ed Cone

McGrath replied quickly to my email. I'll let you know what he discovers.

Ian McDowell

Ed, here's a fascinating (well, to me, if nobody else) page about Gino D'Achille 70s paperback covers you call "Frazetta lite"

As I said, I see what you mean, although as a teenager I disliked these covers for their "un-Frazetta" properties, such as the comparatively realistic proportions of the figures -- the mean aren't as muscular and Thuvia, Maid of Mars, is pretty flat-chested -- the way the figures have larger heads compared to their bodies than Frazetta's do (this aspect is somewhat emphasized by the odd receding hairline D'Achille gives to John Carter, most notably in The Mastermind of Mars and A Fighting Man of Mars).

But yeah, they're definitely Frazetta-ish, and the one for The Chessmen of Mars is just a wonderful piece of pulp illustration I didn't appreciate at the time. Interestingly, the roughs are even MORE Frazetta-like than the final paintings, and note the Art Director's instructions to make Dejah "more covered."

Without any evidence, I suspect that D'Achille's depiction of John Carter is based on D'Achille himself (his Carter looks rather Italian). Frazetta based a lot of his figures on himself, too, but Frazetta was a more rugged and heroic-looking guy, a lifelong athelete who resembled a much more muscular Clint Eastwood (he actually used himself, rather than Eastwood, as the model for the poster he did for Eastwood's The Gauntlet).

Ian McDowell

One further nitpick to your latest update (and good on you for emailing McGrath about that). The "cheap hardbacks" illustrated by Frazetta did not appear "some time earlier." They were more or less contemporaneous with the D'Achille covers for the Ballantine paperbacks. One reason that folks tend to conflate the Frazetta editions with the Ballantine editions is that the former were advertised in comic books, SF magazines and even inserts in paperback books at the same. Hell, the Ballantine editions may have even contained those Science Fiction Book Club ads, as lots of SF/Fantasy paperbacks did.

Frazetta's first Barsoom illustrations appear to have been for the hardcover edition of A Princess of Mars, which the Science Fiction Book Club issued in 1971, with a painted wrap-around cover and black and white interior line drawings. As is normal with book club editions, this wasn't available in stores but only through mail order. It was offered a free "gift" for joining the Science Fiction Book Club. SFBC editions were cheaply printed hardcovers, with ragged edges, but the Frazetta illustrations made it look luxurious. The SFBC was founded in 1953, on the same mail-order-only model as The Book of the Month Club, and I believe that in the 70s the Frazetta Mars editions gave them a real shot in the arm, with lots of kids and teenagers tearing the coupons out of comic books and SF magazines and mailing them in just to get the Barsoom books.

The SFBC A Princess of Mars was followed by combined editions of The Gods of Mars/Warlord of Mars in 72, Thuvia, Maid of Mars/Chessmen of Mars in 73 and Swords of Mars/Synthetic Men of Mars in 74. In the SFBC's final combined volume, Llana of Gothol/John Carter of Mars, the cover and interiors were by Richard Corben, known for his work in underground comics and for Heavy Metal.

SFBC editions are rarely prized as collector's items, even when they are true First Editions -- for instance, although their printing of Stephen R. Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane preceded the mass market one for Holt, it's the latter that's valued by collectors. Copies of the SFBC A Princess of Mars that are listed as "Used - Very Good" go for $35-45 from Amazon resellers. "New" ones, by which I assume they mean ones from old warehouse inventory that were never sold or read, go for $80-$100. Those prices are much higher than SFBC editions usually fetch on the collector's market.

Ian McDowell

Sorry, I know, TLDR! Short version: Frazetta did covers for mass-market paperbacks of Burroughs' novels from 1960-1973. None were for the Mars books and none were published by Ballantine.

He also illustrated the Science Fiction Book Club Barsoom hardcovers sold via mail order subscription. These were contemporary with the "Frazetta lite" D'Achille covers for Ballantine Barsoom paperbacks & may have been advertised via inserts in them, which would contribute to the confusion.

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