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Waiting in line for Isabel Allende to sign my son’s copy of La Isla Bajo Del Mar, I struck up a conversation with a fellow lit-fan who was clutching a copy of a Russian grammar. She was planning to visit Russia shortly with her husband and wanted at least to learn the alphabet and a few elementary phrases. It turned out she was widely traveled, and had spent the cusp of the millennium in Arequipa, Peru with a group of curanderos on the summit of the Misti volcano.
We discussed the ephemera of the event; the rituals performed, the incantations spoken, and the atmosphere generated. However, I completely missed the opportunity to ask her what the experience meant to her. It would have been very interesting to hear why a pagan would find it significant to celebrate an event calibrated according to a Christian calendar. I remain highly interested in non-Christians’ appraisals of Jesus Christ, and of His significance to them.
I have been reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and it is good beyond hope. Over and over again, I found myself saying to myself, “This is a comic book, how can this possibly be as good as it is?” It was the first time in a long time when something surpassed the expectations that I had of it, or the rumours of its quality.
The Sandman is the best Gaiman I have read to date. The narratives related in the comics have a non-Euclidean, surreal quality to them that is unlike anything outside actual dreams. Uncannily, dreams have been propelled into the forefront of my attention lately due to some striking dreams that have occurred [and been fulfilled] in my wife’s family, and to a reading of Pavel Florovsky’s Iconostasis, which deals extensively with dreams, non-waking states of consciousness, and iconography.
More on all of this much later, but I would like to take the time to especially recommend Sandman issues #15, #19, and #50. They are as good as any imaginative literature I have ever read. Interestingly, first editions of the magazines are still available on Ebay for very reasonable prices. I have always daydreamed about a collection of first editions of the works of the Inklings. Uncirculated first editions of Tolkien and Lewis are now running into the four digits, but if I ever had such a collection, I would not be at all hesitant to add the Sandman comics to it. Even in that mighty company, they would not be ashamed.
His art was very, very sexy, but I was virginally unaware of that. When I heard of his repose, I thought back on all of the covers he drew for the Ace editions of the Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars books, the Pellucidar books, the Carson of Venus books, and the Tarzan books. His men were creatures of high testosterone, brandishing swords and exploding with muscular virility. His women were feminine, curvy, and jaw-droppingly beautiful without ever appearing weak or dependent. One look at Duare facing off against the tharban on the cover of Escape On Venus, and you knew this woman meant business.
He also illustrated the covers for the Robert E. Howard Conan books, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser collections, and a number of heavy metal album covers, where his beefy aesthetics were widely appreciated.
Although he was never tapped to illustrate anything from the Tolkien mythos, I believe he would have drawn a marvelous Beren, Boromir, or Aragorn. When I got older, and began to appreciate fantastic art for its own sake, I found I preferred Boris Vallejo. Nevertheless, it was very sad to hear about the passing of this great artist yesterday.
May you rest in peace, Frank Frazetta.
Update – Frazetta did draw some Tolkien illustrations. Now that I see them, I remember having seen them back in the 70s. I must have thought they were Bakshi’s.
Thank you Mr. Herron