Kelly Freas, an influential illustrator who produced sleek, stirring images for science-fiction and fantasy books and helped shape the image of Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. Newman, has died. He...
LOS ANGELES — Kelly Freas, an influential illustrator who produced sleek, stirring images for science-fiction and fantasy books and helped shape the image of Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. Newman, has died. He was 82.
Mr. Freas died in his sleep Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, said his wife of 16 years, Laura Brodian Freas, the host of a Los Angeles classical-music program. The cause of death was old age, she said.
“He always wanted to be a science-fiction illustrator, and the life of a science-fiction illustrator led him to so much more,” she said yesterday. “Life with a Mad artist was never boring.”
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Mr. Freas illustrated the covers or the pages of books by writers including Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, A.E. Van Vogt, Poul Anderson and Frederik Pohl.
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His science-fiction and fantasy illustrations included emotive images of pained robots, insidious aliens and exotic women.
Beginning in the 1950s, he spent seven years as the main cover artist for Mad Magazine, creating stylishly detailed portraits and helping to make famous Alfred E. Newman, the freckled, front-tooth-deprived purvey-
or of the phrase, “What? Me Worry?”
“Kelly Freas created the future in his paintings, sleekly delineating a style that has influenced two generations of designers as the technology became available to make his fantasies real,” said Paul Levitz, president of DC Comics, which publishes Mad Magazine. “And with the impish grin he gave Alfred, he winked and warned us not to take it all too seriously.”
His other illustrations included the official patch of NASA’s 1973 Skylab 1 orbiting space station, as well as the covers of such Mad paperbacks as “Son of Mad” and “Ides of Mad.”
Mr. Freas (pronounced “freeze”) also created the cover of Queen’s 1977 album, “News of the World,” and a picture of a werewolf that appeared in the movie “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
Frank Kelly Freas was born Aug. 27, 1922, in Hornell, N.Y. In the late 1930s, he attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh; he received a doctor of arts degree from the institute in 2003.
While serving in the Pacific theater in World War II in photo reconnaissance, he passed his spare time painting beautiful women on the noses of bomber airplanes.
Mr. Freas started as a commercial illustrator, but he soon moved on to science-fiction and fantasy illustrations. He illustrated publications including Analog and Weird Tales or Astounding Science Fiction.
Among his awards, Mr. Freas received 11 Hugo awards for his achievements in science fiction, five of them awarded in consecutive years.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Freas is survived by a daughter, son, and six grandchildren.