CCI: Frazetta Comics

At Comic-Con International, Image Comics announced an extension of the Frazetta Comics line with three new projects: "Frank Frazetta's Kodiak," a one-shot written by Joe Hill of "Locke & Key" fame; "Frank Frazetta's Invaders," another one-shot, written by Dan Wickline with art from Bud Root; and the first of three sequels to "Frank Frazetta's Dark Kingdom" from Mark Ridwell and Tim Vigil. CBR News caught up with Frazetta Comics overseer Jay Fotos for more information on the titles.

Frazetta Comics is responsible for several one-shots and miniseries based on the work of Frank Frazetta, the acclaimed artist responsible for many iconic fantasy illustrations and paintings. His work has featured characters such as Conan and John Carter of Mars, as well as several original creations. The premiere of the Frazetta Comics line came in the form of the sold-out "Death Dealer" miniseries, which started in 2006.

"The success of the 'Death Dealer' series gave us the backing to continue the line," Frazetta Comics' Jay Fotos told CBR News. "[The Frazetta family] kept a huge thumb on how we represent the Frazetta name. That's what is most important to them and us - creating timeless, quality comics that 10 - 70 year old people can enjoy [that uphold] the legacy of Frank Frazetta."

Kicking off the new round of Frazetta Comics titles is the October-debuting "Dark Kingdom" #2, a sequel to the 32-page comic book released in 2008. Written by Mark Kidwell and Tim Vigil, "Dark Kingdom" tells the story of legendary sea raider Red Morden as he battles across the ocean to save his endangered family. The upcoming issue picks up immediately after the first installment and features a unique twist on the comic book format, as it is essentially a prose piece.

"It's a different approach on how to lay out a series but we think it's kind of cool," said Fotos. "'Dark Kingdom' #1 came out last year and it's your standard panel-to-panel 'one-shot' comic, but [it] leads to part two, which is 'prose-style.' It's basically an illustrated novel, but we put a little spin on it - it's still in comic book format and we bumped up the amount of illustrations [so as] not to lose the attention of comic book readers."

Fotos admitted the concept could provoke a standoffish response from comic book fans that come to the medium for its use of visual storytelling. "I'm hoping [the book's pages] will shake off anyone that thinks, 'Gah, a novel, I have to read more!'" he said. "Yeah, it's got more text, but plenty of art to carry you through. We think it works well - it gives the 'meat' of reading a novel but giving illustrations along the way to help with the visuals."

Following the October-releasing issue are two more "Dark Kingdom" installments. "Dark Kingdom" #3 will also be in prose, but the fourth and final issue returns to the traditional panel-to-panel format. "There are a few reasons we decided to do that," Fotos suggested. "First is that Red Morden goes toe-to-toe with Death Dealer in the final issue and it just made more sense that fans would want to see that in all it's comic glory; I know I would! Second, down the road when we go into trade format - which will be oversized as well, like the 'Death Dealer' and 'The Fantastic Worlds of Frank Frazetta' trades - it will form what I like to call a 'comic-prose-comic Oreo' for an overall nice package."

Mark Kidwell and Tom Vigil, the creative team behind the first issue, will return for the duration of "Dark Kingdom," set to run from October through December. "We would not have it any other way; both are amazing talents," Fotos said of Kidwell and Vigil. "Watching Mark write this is fun, he really enjoys this kind of stuff and it shows. Vigil, what can I say? His work speaks for itself."

After "Dark Kingdom" finishes its run, Frazetta Comics will present two new one-shots at an unspecified point in 2010. The first is "Frank Frazetta's Kodiak," which is written by Joe Hill of "Locke & Key." "Joe and I have been working on 'Locke & Key' together for a while; we just finished up the second series, 'Head Games,'" Fotos said. "I love his work, so it was a no brainer to ask him if he would be interested in Frazetta Comics. Thankfully, he was."

Frazetta enthusiasts might be scratching their heads at the unfamiliar name "Kodiak," and they'd have valid reason. The story is actually inspired by Frazetta's painting "The Bear," departing from that original name for the comic book version. "I think we are more of the sticklers on that kind of stuff than Frank," Fotos admitted. "We try and stay true to the original painting names, but 'Frank Frazetta's Kodiak' sounds so much cooler than 'Frank Frazetta's The Bear.'"

Joining Hill on "Kodiak" is co-writer Jason Ciaramella and artist Nick Stakal. The story is filled with "flame, fur and ferocity," as Fotos described it. The plot centers on a betrayed young man who is forced into battle against a vicious Kodiak bear, with only the love of a fair maiden able to sustain him through the vicious altercation. "'Kodiak' is your classic EC Comics noir story that obviously stars a giant Kodiak bear," Fotos said. "But if you know Joe's work, it's more than that. I don't want to give too much away."

The next project on the docket is "Frank Frazetta's Invaders" by writer Dan Wickline and artist Bud Root. According to Fotos, "Invaders" focuses on a man and his mate, armed with a spear in one hand and a net in the other, as foreign invaders come to their utopian paradise with destruction and corruption in their hearts. The heroes must defend against these unknown warriors or else face certain extinction.

The original "Invaders" painting debuted in 1974, and Fotos described it as incredibly inspiring for a detailed story. "Just by looking at Frazetta's cover art for 'Invaders' spins your mind out of control on the possibilities of how this story will unfold," he said. "Wickline nailed it with his interpretation and with Bud handling the art, I predict a smash hit."

With the upcoming releases of "Dark Kingdom," "Kodiak" and "Invaders," it's safe to say that Frazetta Comics has its hands full at the moment. But Fotos told CBR News that there are plenty of other titles in the works that are not quite ready to be announced, which is an impressive advancement for a comic book line that initially had an uncertain future. "At the beginning, things were a little tough, which was understandable. The Frazettas wanted to make sure the Frazetta name was represented on how they saw it and now they are comfortable [with us] handling the Frazetta name and books accordingly," said Fotos. "Everything gets put in front of Frank, he has final say and we wouldn't have it any other way. With the creative process, we pretty much have full reign. In sticking to the Frazetta rules, we have yet to have creative differences."

"Dark Kingdom" #2 hits stores on October 14, 2009, courtesy of Image Comics and the Frazetta Comics line. "Frank Frazetta's Kodiak" and "Frank Frazetta's Invaders" will debut later in 2010.

After this interview was conducted, Frank Frazetta's wife Eleanor passed away after a yearlong battle with cancer. She was 74-years old. Jay Fotos issued the following statement to CBR News:

"Ellie played an important role in Frazetta Comics. With us, she helped set the standard on how we approach the Frazetta titles and was most passionate about keeping the Frazetta name alive. I will miss our weekly conversations. Ellie taught me about life, love and happiness; she taught me to slow down and focus a little more on what is most important: family and friends. Ellie Frazetta made the world a better place and I will miss her deeply."

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