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September 13, 2007

Phil Frank, 1943-2007


Phil Frank, the creator of Farley and the co-creator of The Elderberries, died in a friend's home in Bolinas, California on Wednesday. The cause was complications brought on by a brain tumor. He was 64 years old.

He was born in Pittsburgh, and after entering seminary with the intention of becoming a Jesuit priest he moved into commercial art instead. His first cartooning gig came in the 1960s, doing editorial cartoons for a student paper at Michigan State University for $5 a pop. After East Lansing he joined Kansas City's significant cartooning community and worked for Hallmark Cards. He eventually moved to northern California.

imageFrank sold Travels With Farley into national syndication in 1975, where it remained a feature for more than a decade. In 1986, the strip now called simply Farley and with syndication numbers stalled, Frank decided to keep the feature going as a local/regional effort through the San Francisco Chronicle. The strip took on a flavor more specific to Northern California, and some of Frank's best work tweaked local politician, perhaps most famously celebrity mayor Willie Brown. Between national syndication and the rare, locally-sponsored strip, Frank enjoyed a 30-plus year relationship with the Chronicle and Bay Area readers, including time spent drawing for various publications in a more commercially-driven, illustration sense.

imageFrank began work on Elderberries one of several strips launched in the last couple of decades to engage the concerns of older people, in 2004. He gave up drawing that feature earlier this year when the illness made it impossible for him to perform those duties at the speed and skill level required. That strip will be continued.

At least six books were made from his comics work. The cartoonist, an honorary parks ranger, and his wife, Susan, created four guidebooks to National Parks. Frank illustrations also appeared in several magazines. Upon his passing, he was praised by targets of his strips, including Brown.

Phil Frank is survived by a wife, a son and a daughter. Although some unofficial celebrations of the late cartoonist's life have already taken place, a public memorial is planned.
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

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