If there’s one artist I look to as having captured the epitome of sword-and-sorcery, I would say that for me it’s not so much Frazzeta as Esteban Maroto.
Just as I like black and white photographs more, so I tend to prefer pen-and-ink art over paintings. Maroto’s illustrations may never have been historically accurate, but he was rarely depicting history anyway; he drilled straight into that heady mix of violence, horror and eroticism that’s the heart of the sword and sorcery genre and made it his own with his lush detail and touches of the Art Nouveau style.
I actually prefer Maroto’s Red Sonja to Frank Thorne’s, and only recently did I find out it was Maroto who gave Sonja her signature silver-coin bikini. See what I said about Maroto and historical details? But really, tell me what boy in the 70’s didn’t buy Red Sonja for the chain mail bikini? I know I did.
I also love Maroto’s way of ignoring the conventions of comic-book paneling, and instead designing his page as a single narrative canvas, echoing Renaissance-style religious paintings. There’s so much detail for your eyes to trace that you can spend ten, fifteen minutes on a single page.
Maroto was best known for his work on Savage Sword of Conan, and the Warren magazines Vampirella, Eerie and Creepy, specially for the serials Vampirella, Dax the Warrior, and El Cid. A collection of his works was published in the USA as Xotica Volume 1 in 1995. I’m not aware if there were any other volumes.