Collector Brian Kondravy regales with this recap of his recent meeting with legendary artist Frank Frazetta. CGC’s Scott Talmadge was present to create a once-in-a-lifetime CGC Signature Series opportunity. Frazetta is one of the most emulated and admired artists having created signature covers for Famous Funnies, Mad Magazine and Vampirella in addition to work for Playboy, movie posters, and book covers.
So, this past Saturday I watched a little of the Mets game with Frank Frazetta in his home studio.
Wanna hear more? Thought so. Lemme go back to the beginning...
About 6 months ago I was horsing around on the internet, just googling past comic artists. I decided to google Frank Frazetta. Obviously a ton of links came up. One was a link to the Frazetta Museum. I clicked on it and started reading his bio. Turns out he lives about an hour and a half from me. Interesting. While looking around I saw a button in small letters on the bottom of the page that says "sign my stuff". I click on it, but it is a dead link. I decided to shoot off an email to the webmaster asking if this is still an option. I then realized that the website hadn't been updated in a year. "Oh well", I thought, assuming the option was no longer available.
About 4 months later I received an email from the webmaster. I had totally forgotten about it. It was a simple email. Just said, "Contact Frank Frazetta Jr. at the following number". WOW!! All of a sudden I have Frank Jr's number. Should I call? Absolutely! I have to take advantage of this opportunity. So I take a deep breath and dial. Frank Jr. answers. I introduce myself and explain the reason of my call. He says "Sure, we can still do this," and he gave me some info about sending in a book.
So now my wheels start spinning, thinking about what I can do with this opportunity. I started thinking about arranging a CGC Signature Series signing. I immediately called Scott Talmadge at CGC. "Hey Scott, I just got off the phone with Frank Frazetta Jr. Wanna do a signature series signing with his father, Frank Sr.?"
"Heck yeah!" he says. We discuss it more and decided to call back Frank and see if this could be arranged. I called him, discussed the Signature Series process and asked if they would be interested. Jr. says he would talk with his mother Ellie, because she is in charge of all the business. He was hesitant, because Frank Sr. is now 80 years old, has had 2 strokes and doesn't do shows or signings. He is more reclusive now. Jr. does asks how many books we were talking. I said, maybe 500 or so, thinking of the collecting community. He says probably not, because that would be too much for dad, and would take too long, but he will call me back in a week or so. Ok, so it wasn't a "NO," but it is not looking good. I called Scott back with the news.
Click images to enlarge.
Two weeks go by, and no call from Frank Jr. I figured I'd call and see what mom said. I get Jr. on the phone. Mom said she is not interested, because it is too much for Frank, and he gets all worked up before he has to do a project. She doesn't want to chance him getting worked up and something happening.
SHOOT! So much for that idea. I thanked him for his consideration but, right before I hung up, I asked if it would be possible maybe to do a smaller number of books. He said, "you would have to talk to my mom. Call her at home, here's the number." Whoah...now I have Frank Frazetta's home number! What if he answers? What would I say? After the fanboy in me calmed down, I decided to call. No answer.
An hour later I tried again. This time, a woman answered. "Mrs. Frazetta?"
"Yes, who's this?"
I introduced myself. She knew who I was from conversations with her son. I thanked her for her consideration, and asked if maybe a smaller signing would be possible. After several weeks, and several phone calls, she agreed, on her terms, and landed on 25 to 50 books at most. I thanked her profusely and explained how she just made 50 fans extremely happy! Happy to get anything, I accepted and we scheduled the signing for May 10, 2008.
I call Scott at CGC back. We're on!! We were both so excited! The spots were filled and we waited in anticipation....
Fast forward to May 10. Scott flew out here and we both took the hour and a half drive to the Frazetta Museum. We were both so excited and nervous. I mean, cmon...it's Frank Frazetta!!! It was a great drive on the winding back roads of Pennsylvania. We pulled up to a small unassuming building. The museum is on the family property, a beautiful 6 acres with a babbling brook from a pond. The family home sits right next to the small museum. We go inside, but Ellie isn't there. Neither is Frank. We meet Walter, the museum manager and the Frazetta's personal assistant. He offers to go get Ellie while we wait in the museum.
Brian Kondravy displays his enthusiasm before entering the Frazetta Museum.
Now, the museum isn't very big, but it’s covered with Frank's masterpieces. You cannot truly appreciate these works until you see them in person. The colors and detail are amazing. Scott and I walked around for a while, just gawking at some of the amazing Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella covers we had already come to know and love. Mrs. Frazetta joined us, and after some small talk she gave us a personal tour, with her own stories for some of the works. I got chills taking in the stories and artwork. She is a very strong-willed woman, and to hear her talk of her husband, the love and respect she has for him, was so refreshing.
Scott Talmadge and Brian Kondravy stand in the Frazetta Museum's main gallery, flanked by the master's art.
After the tour, she informed us that Frank was sleeping, and we needed to wait until he got up. About an hour passed before the signing. Scott and I were fortunate enough to spend about 20 minutes with Frank in his home studio. He had an unfinished Death Dealer painting on his easel he was working on. Even after 2 strokes, he still can paint with his LEFT hand! Heck, I can't even write my name with my left. He was a very nice, friendly guy. He invited us to sit and watch the Mets game with him while we talked. He was curious where we got all these old comics of his, and thought it was neat they were still around. He graciously took some pictures with us before we left. Walter, the assistant, explained to us that we were extremely lucky, as NO ONE EVER gets to meet Frank. Maybe one or two people a year. WOW! It was a surreal, amazing experience, for me, bested one by my marriage and birth of my two kids.
Legendary Artist Frank Frazetta signs a copy of Creepy #5 to be encapsulated with CGC Signature Series label.
The ride home was funny. We both were still flabbergasted that we were just in Frank Frazetta's studio, watching the Mets game with the Master...
So there you have it. The first, and possible only CGC Signature Series signing of Frank Frazetta. I really can't see this happening again, as it took a lot of work and convincing. Mrs. Frazetta is very protective of her husband, and he does not do public signings because of his health. I am truly lucky to have had this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and glad Scott could share it with me. Hope you enjoyed my story as much as I enjoyed telling it.
- Brian Kondravy
Collector Brian Kondravy with Frank Frazetta in the artist's studio.
CGC's Scott Talmadge with Frank Frazetta. Talmadge describes the trip to envious CGC colleagues: "I've had one of my greatest comic experiences of my CGC career by meeting and chatting with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Frazetta."