[Paleopsych] NYT: F. K. Freas, Who Drew the Devilish Face of Mad Magazine, Dies at 82
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Wed Jan 5 18:25:17 UTC 2005
F. K. Freas, Who Drew the Devilish Face of Mad Magazine, Dies at 82
New York Times, 5.1.5
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Frank Kelly Freas, an artist and illustrator whose work
included luminous images of amiable aliens beloved by
science-fiction fans, the jug-eared visage of Alfred E.
Neuman for Mad magazine and the crew shoulder patch for
Skylab I astronauts, died on Sunday at his home in Los
Angeles. He was 82.
His wife, Laura Brodian Freas, confirmed his death in an
interview with The Associated Press.
Mr. Freas (pronounced Freeze) was best known for the
illustrations in more than 300 magazines and books that won
him 11 Hugo awards, presented by the World Science Fiction
Society and considered among the highest honors for a
science-fiction illustrator. His whimsical, highly
personalized style was characterized by vibrant colors and
a sort of cosmic haze well suited for depicting bejeweled
alien princesses. Wrinkles and other details added realism.
Mr. Freas did not invent Alfred E. Neuman, the gap-toothed
champion of adolescent rebellion whose motto was "What, me
worry?" and who was given to making pronouncements like "A
teacher is someone who talks in our sleep." But he told The
Virginian-Pilot in 2001 that his illustrations gave "Alfie"
Mad's freckled mascot was created by Norman Mingo and first
appeared in a Mad Reader paperback in December 1954. He
next appeared on the cover of Mad in March 1955.
Mr. Freas started at Mad in February 1957 and by July 1958
was the magazine's new cover artist. He painted most of its
covers until October 1962.
Among his more memorable works was a 1960 painting of a
green-tinged Neuman announcing, "This magazine is
His "Great Moments in Medicine" illustration showed a
recumbent patient and surrounding family members shocked
when presented with a doctor's bill. A barrage of enraged
letters from doctors followed. One pointed out that one of
the doctor's instruments was a gauge used in aircraft
manufacture, a perhaps understandable slip on the part of a
science-fiction writer who once spent a week in a nuclear
submarine in pursuit of verisimilitude.
Other works by Mr. Freas ranged from six posters for the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration now in the
collection of the Smithsonian Institution, to portraits of
400 saints for the Franciscans, to classic miniature
paintings done in a 16th-century technique. His picture of
a werewolf appeared in the movie "Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban."
What became one of his most famous works showed a giant
robot holding a dead man in his hand. It first appeared on
the cover of the October 1953 issue of Astounding Science
Fiction magazine. Years later, two members of the rock
group Queen asked Mr. Freas to reprise the image with band
members in the robot's hand. In 1977 it appeared on the
cover of Queen's album "News of the World," which contains
the ubiquitous tune "We Will Rock You."
Frank Kelly Freas, the son of two photographers, was born
in Hornell, N.Y., on Aug. 27, 1922, and was raised in
Canada. He was hooked on science fiction by the time he was
10. He flirted with medicine and engineering as possible
occupations, but drifted toward art and attended classes at
the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
During World War II, he painted pulchritudinous women on
the noses of bombers. An early job was painting internal
organs for anatomy textbooks.
His picture of a satyr on the cover of the November 1950
Weird Tales began 50 years of professional illustrating.
His work appeared in magazines like Analog Science Fiction
and Fact, and illustrated articles by writers like Isaac
Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke.
In an interview with Contemporary Authors, Mr. Freas said
he regarded himself as an illustrator rather than an
"I prefer storytelling pictures and picture-generating
stories," he said.
The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction called him "the
most popular illustrator in the history of science
Mr. Freas both wrote and illustrated several books,
including "Frank Kelly Freas: The Art of Science Fiction"
(Donning, 1977) and "Frank Kelly Freas: A Separate Star"
Mr. Freas was married to the former Pauline H. Bussard from
1952 until her death in 1987. In addition to Laura, his
wife, he is survived by his daughter, Jacqueline; his son,
Jeremy; and six grandsons.
His experience with Mad ended when Mr. Freas was turned
down for a raise. He was also a little tired of painting
the same grinning face.
"Alfred E. Neuman was making me stale," he said in an
interview in "The Mad World of William M. Gaines" by Frank
Jacobs (Bantam, 1972). "I found it difficult to shift my
artistic gears from the sublime to the ridiculous and back
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