ALLENTOWN - The son of the pioneering fantasy artist Frank Frazetta used a backhoe to break into a museum owned by his father in an attempt to steal 90 paintings valued at $20 million, police said yesterday.

State police charged Alfonso Frank Frazetta, 52, of Marshalls Creek, with theft, burglary, and trespass after they say he was caught loading the artwork into his trailer and SUV.

"Some of these paintings are worth a million a piece," said Monroe County District Attorney David Christine.

The elder Frazetta, 81, is renowned for his work on characters including Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan, and Vampirella. He was in Florida at the time of the attempted theft.

His son's motive may stem from a family feud over the illustrator's assets, according to a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is still early in the investigation.

The younger Frazetta was arraigned and sent to the Monroe County jail. Bail was set at $500,000. Officials did not know whether he had a lawyer yet.

Police said that the younger Frazetta and another man used the backhoe to enter the Frazetta Art Museum in the Poconos on Wednesday afternoon, tripping a burglar alarm.

A trooper who responded said Frazetta claimed he had been instructed by his father "to enter the museum by any means necessary to move all the paintings to a storage facility," according a police affidavit.

The elder Frazetta told police that his son did not have permission to enter the museum or to remove any artwork. Frank Frazetta's attorney, Gerard Geiger, said the paintings were insured for $20 million, according to court documents.

Geiger did not immediately return a phone message yesterday.

Police said charges were pending against a second suspect.