Jay Fotos began his career in comics as a colorist for Todd McFarlane, but since the debut of the best-selling "Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer" mini-series from Image Comics in 2007, he has become known as the overseer and driving force behind a line of comics based on the works of the fantasy artist. At last years Comic-Con International, in San Diego, Fotos announced that he would be following up the success of that mini-series with several new projects based on other Frazetta works. This year is no different. Fotos spoke with CBR News about the latest wave of Frazetta-based projects, the involvement of Frank Frazetta, Jr. and good news for the fans of Frazetta's Death Dealer character.
Before talking about his future plans with the Frazetta line, Fotos took a moment to reflect on the success of the line thus far. "I think the reaction has been great," said Fotos. "I think [the fans] can see we are trying to stay true to spirit of Frazetta's paintings, staying honest and not trying to pump out stuff just to do it. I think of Frazetta Comics as being very 'Mom and Pop,' no bells and whistles, just creators coming together and having fun with what they love do and ask for nothing more."
And not only are fans pleased with the ongoing project, so is Frazetta himself. Said Fotos, "The whole family is very happy with what we are doing, that's priority number one with us. I've heard all the horror stories that the Frazettas have been through over the years, and we make it a point to not be 'one of those guys.' I think the most important thing is communication, letting everyone know what's going on, and the second most important thing is to do what you say you're going to do. Actions speak louder than words when it comes to working with the Frazettas. That's why I think things move so smoothly with us and the Frazettas."
Now, following the "Death Dealer" mini series and last year's wave of one-shots and mini-series, some of which are scheduled to be released later this year, Fotos is announcing another wave of Frazetta books for 2009. Said Fotos, "Right now, with most of these we are still at the development stages and I can't get to specifics as they might change down the road. Not the titles, just story concepts."
"We are putting out another run of one shots for '09, 'Combat,' 'Moon Maid,' 'Neanderthal' and 'Night Stalker.' We like these. They are fun and bring in other artists and writers to mix it up a bit. We're not saying what we announce today is it for the year; we have other projects we are discussing now, but just can't announce them just yet."
Of the first announced one-shot, "Combat," Fotos said, "We wanted to mix it up compared to our other titles. From the beginning we wanted to do war or western books, Frazetta has a nice stable of paintings for each, but to play it safe out the gate we went more 'fantasy/adventure,' I think we made our mark with that. I'm not saying we are moving away from it, just it's time to bring in the other titles to spread our wings a bit, broadening the Frazetta line. Frazetta always got pinged for being a 'fantasy artist' and it bugs him, he's done a hell of a lot more than that and we want to show Frazetta Comics is more than that as well. I see a lot more of these types of books in our future as well, westerns, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, war stories etc. It's all there in the 'Frazettaverse.'
This book is my first crack at writing a book myself," Fotos said of "Moon Maid. "Scary, huh? Not really, anyone that has worked with me finds I'm pretty hands on and always quick to give ideas or help work stuff out, so I thought, 'What the hell, I'll give it a shot.'" Tim Vigil, who illustrated "Frank Frazetta's Dark Kingdom", will be handling the art chores on this book.
"I'm a fan of his work," Fotos added, "and his style fits right in with what I would like to do."
Steve Niles, who wrote the Frazetta book "Dracula Meets The Wolfman", returns to the fold to script the "Night Stalker" one-shot. Josh Medors is slated to handle that book's art duties.
The last of the one-shots now announced is "Neanderthal." This title is probably my favorite as of now," Fotos said, "just because of the concept. The whole story is just told with the art. No dialogue. Cool huh?" "Neanderthal" will be written by Chris Ryall of IDW Publishing with Zach Howard handling the art.
With the two-issue "Interlopers" mini series, Frazetta's son, Frank Frazetta Junior, enters the comics arena for the first time, taking up writing duties and providing painted covers. "Here's a outline on what to expect," said Fotos. "Ten years ago, while the country lay sleeping, the hills of Northern California became a battleground. Army Rangers and a squadron of heavily armed Apache helicopters engaged and brought down two of what can only be described as alien spacecraft. Eyewitness reports from personnel on the ground are sketchy at best, and descriptions of what was found aboard those vessels have become the stuff of rumor and legend. The legends all agree on one thing: the ships' occupants had come across space to rid themselves of something. Something locked in cages, behind impenetrable bars and laser locks. Something big...something canine, reptilian... and hungry."
Fotos took some time out to talk about the younger Frazetta's involvement in the line. "Frank Jr., like all the Frazettas, is involved in one way or another. It's a family business. I knew he was artistic, he paints, but I never thought to bug him about it until he brought it up to me that he had an idea to do a comic.
"He's a busy guy, runs his own business and has a big family, so when he approached me about it I was like 'For sure, this will be cool to see!' We are helping him out with story layout, pacing and how to write in comic form. It's going great. The first issue script is done and issue #2 is being worked on now. We have an artist picked, but Jr. has final word. As soon as we get the nod we'll shout it from the rooftops."
In addition to "Interlopers," readers can look forward to a follow up to the original "Death Dealer" mini series. "Well, you can guess this was a no-brainer due to how the first series did," said Fotos. "What makes this even more special is that Frank Frazetta painted a new 'Death Dealer' painting that will spearhead the new series. It's been 18 YEARS since Frazetta painted the last 'Death Dealer' painting, so it's a pretty big deal. Right now we are playing around with ideas, but we have to get [the previously announced "Silver Warrior" done. That's our priority, after that we're all over 'Death Dealer II!' We expect this to hit late 2009.
Lastly, playing off name of Frazetta's art books from the 70s ("The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta"), the end of 2008 will se the release of "The Fantastic Worlds of Frazetta, Volume One." Said Fotos, "This oversize hardcover compiles all the stories we put out this year, 'Dark Kingdom,' 'Swamp Demon,' 'Creatures,' and 'Dracula Meets the Wolfman.' I'm just wrapping this book up now to have it out before this Christmas and I'm very pleased how it turned out, a big, beefy book with over 60 pages of behind the scenes and never before seen extras!
"After we did the 'Death Dealer Deluxe Edition,' fans loved the oversized format, so we'll stick to that formula with all of our books for the first editions and then follow up with standard size editions down the road."
Fotos anticipates the first books of the latest assortment to hit the stands early next year. "Right now I'm cleaning off my plate of all the stuff due this year so I can wrap my head around everything else for next year," Fotos said. "I know I will be jumping right on 'Moon Maid' after 'Fantastic Worlds' is sent out to press, and Tim has already completed the alternate cover for that, so we will be starting on that soon."
"On the other books, things have started, but like I said, I'll be full bore, whip-cracking in a few weeks and things should be moving steadily from that point on. So I would expect all the new books to hit early '09 and spread out over the year."
Is Fotos surprised by the growing interest in the Frazetta comics and the artist's works? "Not to sound like a pompous ass, but no," he said, "due to a few things, First, and what's most important to us is keeping the honesty between us, the source material, and the fans. We are fans as well, and we respect what we are doing, putting out the best product we can and it shows. Our fans respect and honor that as well. I think if we keep that set of morals in tact our fans will stick around as long as we do and can only hope to gather more along the way. At this point we are a 'Mom and Pop' independent operation; in our eyes we are still building the foundation. Everything is hands-on here, like I said, no bells, no whistles and with no financial backing. We're proud to say our books stack up to any big name/big budget guy out there, with us working off shoestring budgets and our fans standing behind us based on our merit. We can't ask for anything more. We hope to keep growing, keeping that mindset intact."
"Second," Fotos continued, "it's stories based off Frank Frazetta paintings. Duh."
Asked if he plans to continue the Frazetta line beyond this latest round of one-shots and mini-series, Fotos responded "Oh yeah, we'll keep on trucking. No worries in that my friends." He also dropped a hint regarding who might be involved in future Frazetta projects, referring to "some musician/director guy named Mr. Zombie. Never heard of him," he said, "but I guess he's pretty popular with the kiddies."
Now discuss this story in CBR's Image Comics forum.