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Albums and Icons: The Art of Frank Freas

What does Mad Magazine have in common with the rock supergroup Queen?

No, it’s not that Alfred E. Neuman and Freddie Mercury both needed dental work.

The answer I was looking for is illustrator Frank Freas. While Freas is not a household name to most, to fans of science fiction and fantasy art, he is a legend.

Frank Freas, born August 27, 1922.

Frank Freas (pronounced “freeze”) was born in upstate New York 88 years ago today. After attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he began a career in advertising and illustration. In November 1950 he created his first fantasy cover for Weird Tales magazine. Two years later he created a cover for Astounding Science Fiction magazine which depicted a giant robot with a sad expression holding the body of a man he has innocently killed. It featured a caption that read, “Please … fix it, Daddy?”  

For the next 50 years Freas would illustrate dozens of magazines and books. In 1958 he became the chief artist for Mad Magazine, depicting the “What Me Worry?” icon Alfred E. Neuman on dozens of covers.

In later years he did work for NASA, creating insignias and posters for Skylab 1. Freas published several collections of his works and was awarded ten Hugo Awards for his contributions to science fiction and fantasy art. He passed away in January 2005 at the age of 82 and is interred in Chatsworth’s Memorial Park Cemetery.

And what about Queen’s connection to Freas?

Nearly a quarter-century after his sad robot cover appeared, Queen drummer and science fiction fan Roger Taylor asked Freas to re-create the cover for the group’s News of the World album. Pretty neat, huh?

Queen's "News of the World" album from 1977.