Many of Frank Frazetta's fans had trouble understanding why the "master of fantasy" couldn't fantasize a better lifestyle than a home in the suburbs with a wife and kids.
Frazetta was able to conjure up vivid worlds of savage barbarians and wild harem girls. He painted eyewitness accounts of magic spells on alien planets and colossal battles with dinosaurs.
How could such an imagination possibly be satisfied with middle class domestic life?
But Frazetta made no apologies for his choice, shrugging, "I got married, had kids, did my thing."
Frazetta said he picked his wife Ellie over all the other girls because "I sensed that she would be forever loyal and I never had that feeling about any other girl I'd been involved with." Apparently her ability to pilot a space ship was not even a consderation.
They started out with very little money, but you don't need much when you're young and hot blooded. Ellie recalled that when they moved into a small apartment in Brooklyn,
we used to have water pistol fights in our apartment in the dark. Have you ever been squirted with water in a pitch black room? Oh, it's creepy! We did all sorts of silly things when we were young. I had to clean up the mess in the morning, but so what? We had fun and it didn't cost a dime.Years later, a more matronly Ellie tried to keep the art from their early frolics under wraps, saying "I don't want my grandkids to see their grandmother like that."
As the couple matured, Ellie primly scolded Frazetta for paintings she now considered "too sexy" or "sacriligious."
"I really didn't care for... the alien crucifixion.... when you start messing with people's core beliefs, that's when the joke's gone way too far." --Ellie
When his art offended her, she urged him not to hang it up, and even threatened to destroy it. To please her, he would paint pictures of Jesus.
Frazetta fans watched aghast: would married life tame their hero?
Outsiders can't always appreciate the fact that marriage provides its own magic spells and alien planets. Marriage can introduce you to the true meaning of life-or-death stakes. You think facing a lizard with a ray gun is daunting? Try bringing new life trembling into the world, and taking permanent responsibility for it.
(And of course, marriage also provides its own version of that barbarian-and-harem-girl game.)
A couple must get beyond what poet Eavan Boland calls "the easy graces and sensuality of the body" and face life's tough challenges before they can truly comprehend "what there is between a man and a woman. And in which darkness it can best be proved."
The Frazettas stayed together through thick and thin, through lean years when assignments were hard to find, through vicious quarrels and illness and a stroke.
After Ellie died, Frazetta's publisher J. David Spurlock visited him alone in his home studio. Spurlock discovered that Frazetta had taken down his world famous illustrations from the walls and replaced them with pictures he had painted of Ellie over the years.
Spurlock reported that even when the face wasn't a photographic likeness, it was obvious that Ellie had been the inspiration for each picture Frank selected.
In case there was any lingering doubt about the crucial role Frazetta's marriage played in his work, Spurlock spotted Frazetta's famous painting, "Adventure," on his drawing board where Frazetta was carefully repainting the face on the girl as his late wife.