Brilliant post as always. It's interesting to see that on both this painting & on the Death Dealer (that you posted recently) Frazetta started out on the rough giving the character a skull face, only to revise this when he came to the actual painting.
Yeah, fascinat'n--maybe he did it other times, too, and I just haven't noticed-could be a quick way to begin a face, or he could have truly changed his mind--I like both much better without the skull, although the skull face really works on Rich Corben's Death Rattle elsewhere on here
I agree that both the Frazettas look better without the skull-face, especially 'Death Dealer', when I saw the initial sketch on here the other day it occurred to me that maybe it was originally supposed to be a fantasy/barbaric version of the Grim Reaper or something, which ironically seems much more mundane than the final 'faceless' version of the image. For similar reasons I never liked either the novelizations or comic book versions of Death Dealer (despite some nice art) since both (intentionally or not) humanized the character (or at least made him less of an enigma, if not exactly 'human')), which to me at least missed the whole point of the original painting... the anonymity & mystery.
Right on, Staz....there is indeed sump'n wonderful about flashing swords #2 (the first time we saw this guy) standing all alone