When Phil Frank died in 2007 San Francisco and the cartooning world lost a great voice. We should all be as beloved as Phil was by the Bay area he cared about so much. The tribute above speaks volumes about the man and his art. A unique and very funny man!
Phil Frank (March 27, 1943 – September 13, 2007) was an American cartoonist best known as the creator of the San Francisco-based comic strip Farley and the artist on nationally syndicated comic strip The Elderberries (written by Joe Troise). Frank and Troise worked together on other comic strip projects, including Chateau Defeat (published in the Wine Spectator) and Miles to Go, plus Nigel Shiftright, Automotive Anachronism and the eponymous Frank and Troise, both for Road & Track magazine.
Frank started cartooning at Michigan State University first by creating illustrations on classmates jackets and then with the university newspaper for $5 a strip. After graduation he took a job as an illustrator and humorist with Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, where his son Philip was born. Frank returned to teach at Michigan State for a few years, during which time his daughter Stacy was born. After moving to the Bay Area California in 1973, Frank was an illustrator for a variety of clients. He started his syndicated comic strip career with Travels with Farley, while he and his second wife, Susan, lived on a house boat in Sausalito, on San Francisco Bay. During this time his studio was in a pilot’s cabin atop a ferry boat docked nearby. When Farley transitioned from a syndicated to a local strip, Frank secured a secret studio atop the Chronicle building where he could covertly create his characters.
In addition to his comic strip work, Frank also worked as an illustrator on many projects during his career for conservation education materials (“Aunt Energina,” the “Electric Gnus,”) and for numerous commercial clients, including the San Francisco Giants and Pet Food Express. He also created some of the first computer-based clip art, and one of his cartoon bears from Asphalt State Park was used as a popular stuffed animal for sale at State Parks alongside his Farely books.
An avid classic car enthusiast since a child, Frank always had a project going, his passion over the years included the restoration of seven Ford Model As, two MG TCs, a Ticford and a Jaguar MKII . In the summer of 1976 he, along with his wife Susan and the two children, drove a 1929 Model A Four Door pulling a period appropriate camper from California to Maine and back all along the back roads of America. His wife, Susan, collaborated on his publishing projects and she also wrote and published children’s books.
Frank announced his retirement for health reasons on September 7, 2007 and died shortly thereafter in Bolinas, California. Frank had been suffering from a brain tumor for months prior to and was gravely ill at the time of the announcement.