Comic Book Historians

Frank Thorne: Wizard of the Comic Arts Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

February 02, 2020 Comic Book Historians Season 1 Episode 58
Comic Book Historians
Frank Thorne: Wizard of the Comic Arts Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Comic Book Historians
Frank Thorne: Wizard of the Comic Arts Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Feb 02, 2020 Season 1 Episode 58
Comic Book Historians

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Frank Thorne, born in 1930, he discusses his past and current works, with a career that spans from the late 1940s, utilizing and expanding on inspirations like Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, and Neil O'Keefe, a late 1940s graduate of the Art Career School in Manhattan, working at Dell, Gold Key and DC Comics with an explosion of fan activity in the 1970s and 80s with his comic work centered around strong beautiful female characters like Red Sonya. This episode finishes after his work on Red Sonya and we explore his famous other femme fatales like Ghita, Lann for Heavy Metal, Ribit for Comico, Danger Rangerette for National Lampoon, Moonshine McJuggs for Playboy, his working relationship with Hugh Hefner, his interactions with other prominent comic figures like Alex Toth, Gary Groth, Jim Steranko and Neal Adams.  Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at

Support the show (

Show Notes Transcript

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Frank Thorne, born in 1930, he discusses his past and current works, with a career that spans from the late 1940s, utilizing and expanding on inspirations like Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, and Neil O'Keefe, a late 1940s graduate of the Art Career School in Manhattan, working at Dell, Gold Key and DC Comics with an explosion of fan activity in the 1970s and 80s with his comic work centered around strong beautiful female characters like Red Sonya. This episode finishes after his work on Red Sonya and we explore his famous other femme fatales like Ghita, Lann for Heavy Metal, Ribit for Comico, Danger Rangerette for National Lampoon, Moonshine McJuggs for Playboy, his working relationship with Hugh Hefner, his interactions with other prominent comic figures like Alex Toth, Gary Groth, Jim Steranko and Neal Adams.  Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at

Support the show (

Alex Grand: Right, right. Now, after Red Sonja, you were working on Ghita, and you also did Danger Rangerette for National Lampoon also, right?

Frank Thorne: Right.

Alex Grand: Yeah, how was working with National Lampoon, and how did Danger Rangerette come about?

Frank Thorne: Well, Ted Mann was the one who approached me. Incidentally, that was … Stepping back for a moment. I was doing Danger Rangerette, and Michelle Eury called me from Playboy, and said, “Would you like to contribute something to our magazine?” Wow, so I said, “Yeah, I’ll give it a try.” And almost overnight, Moonshine popped out full blown from my brow. I sent it in, and they published that. And from there on, it went onto many issues, and Hefner never criticized … He loved Moonshine McJuggs.

Frank Thorne: And after all those years, he decided for some reason that he wanted me to do full page gags. Then all hell broke loose, because he always wanted to be a cartoonist, and he micromanaged me. Everything, he was criticizing … He was driving me crazy, so that fortunately … mag was dying, and it ended with the last few gags, which were pretty pitiful. Couple of them are okay, but-

Alex Grand: Did you meet Hugh Hefner?

Frank Thorne: I never met him, but I brisked back and forth for memos.

Alex Grand: I got you.

Frank Thorne: I have wonderful memos, fax of memos that have his notations. I never went to the mansion, but don’t tell anybody that. I would like to have them know that I dissipated something terrible in the grotto and all that, but I never went there. Everybody always during that period, “Have you been to the mansion, have you met Hef?” No … Well, and sometime I’d say, “Oh, yes, I’ve met him. He’s a wonderful man. I’ve been to all those girls.” But no, I was just a family man.

Frank Thorne: And Michelle Eury loved our involvement, because we were a family and I was … Compared to most of the people of the guys that contributed to it, I was normal. And we went on the Playboy Channel show with Linda Carell and I, and we did Ghita of Alizarr and Moonshine McJuggs. And she came out here to the house, and it was a big deal. And it was broadcast, we were all thrilled. They put us on the top of the show, because we had Linda, who was at that point a pulp cartoonist, fabulous looking buxom blonde.

Alex Grand: Linda Behrle.

Frank Thorne: Yeah, she played Ghita of Alizarr and Moonshine. And I wrote the script for the skits, and they ran it on the first part of the show. Most people said they never looked at anything else after.

Alex Grand: Was she basically purely a model, was she also a friend, or a girlfriend, or anything too, or just a model?

Frank Thorne: Well, I always call her my muse, but I have a thing about … I have a lot of muses. No, she’s a friend. She only lives a couple miles from here. We’ve known her for years. She’s married, and now middle-aged. She had two sons, and … She lost all of that wonderful … You know what age does.

Frank Thorne: Well, and we hear from Angelique Trouvere, who is one of the Sonja models. We hear from her quite often. And Wendy Pini, we’ve reconnected after … She’s now retired, and we’ve reconnected after a fashion. And so, it was wonderful, wonderful experience, because I developed a show along with the Pinis, and it’s given more credit than it’s due for being an early form of cosplay, with using the costumed characters.

Alex Grand: Right, and that’s what I was going to ask is, in ’78, you got a Playboy Editorial Award, San Diego Inkpot Award, and you were also doing … you were dressed up as a wizard at San Diego Comic Con, and that was a lot of the early cosplay stuff you’re mentioning. Yeah, how did that come about, the whole wizard persona?

Frank Thorne: Well, when I was given Sonja, I was savvy enough to realize that this was a goldmine, and I had the idea that I would project myself into it, which I did, into the Sonja things, and more so into Ghita of Alizarr. So I had the wizard suit sewn by a church lady, who sewed the stars and moons on it while she was in Bible class. And that suit, which I wore many, many times in the shows … I had a one man show at the Illustration House gallery three years ago, four years ago. It sold for $40,000. So the tale of the wizard suit ends with a magnificent sum of 40 grand.

Alex Grand: Oh, wow.

Frank Thorne: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Wow that’s pretty cool.

Frank Thorne: Yeah, so …. And then it turned out that … We did the show several times, and Wendy Pini was so outstanding as Red Sonja that it dwindled down to just Wendy and myself. And of course, the mystic main spring behind it all was her husband. They were fans, and they had plans to develop Elfquest, I think, all along. But between Wendy, and I, and Richard, it came to a culmination in San Diego when he did this really elaborate show, which had projected animations. YouTube has one of those. It has some idea of what that looked like. It goes on for quite a while.

Frank Thorne: And then at the end of that San Diego show, the Pinis and the Thornes, we decided we were each going to go a different way, because they had Elfquest on their mind, and I had Ghita of Alizarr on my mind. I had Linda Behrle-Carell on my mind. I knew she was going to be my Ghita of Alizarr. That was the culmination of that wonderful experience. Fun was being had by all. Can’t explain it. It’s great.

Alex Grand: Yeah, mystical almost.

Frank Thorne: Yeah. Yeah, well, Stan Lee wrote a piece about me in Superhero Women, saying that Sonja and I met in some ancient time. Because of the way I had drawn her and the power of that character infused into … it had to be something mystical.

Alex Grand: So would you say that you were able to take Red Sonja beyond where Marvel would really allow it with Ghita, and then combine the comic and the almost pornographic love of the female body, and combine it all into Ghita? Is that what-

Frank Thorne: Right.

Alex Grand: … evolved there?

Frank Thorne: Of course, yeah, getting back to … One of the seminal moments is when I discovered my father’s pornographic photograph collection, and he had also films. That came handy later in life, because I went on to Iron Devil and some of the … I say with all lack of humility, some of the best porno drawings done in recent memory. And they, by the way, in the one man show that I had at the Illustration House gallery, they went for huge amounts of money. We pulled in about a half a million dollars worth of change on a lot of it. And so much of it was Ghita of Alizarr and the porno stuff. It’s very collectible by a small audience that won’t admit that they’re collecting it.

Alex Grand: Secret joys.

Jim Thompson: I wanted to go back to Playboy just for a minute to ask you about, I’ve never seen any notes from Hefner to your stuff, but I have seen ones to Harvey Kurtzman and I think maybe Wally Wood. Did you ever talk to Kurtzman or an elder or anybody that was doing other comic stuff in relation to Playboy?

Frank Thorne: I never met Will Elder, but I always felt sorry for Will Elder and little Annie Fanny, because Hefner killed it. I mean, he micromanaged that thing, so it was so difficult to read. He did all these things in it and insist that elder Kurtzman would do it, but he never took any credit for it and it was running it. That’s on time with Moonshine McJugs, which was a sweet read, fast and funny and little Annie Fan… I don’t know if your memory is beautifully rendered and all that, but it was lo-

Jim Thompson: Beautiful looking. Yeah.

Frank Thorne: But he would drag on, you know, and I mean you were never bored with Moonshine cause it went and went straight pipe down. Funny and that was it. Barf McBuns never got a chance to get into Moonshine’s panties, and a everybody in the… the ones in McJugg’s clan got into her panties but Barf never did. And that was the running gag and even to the last day… last time I was published, poor Barf never made it. And he was one of the great characters in fiction, unrequited because of his size. I had a little character called a Sister Whammy who was absolutely flawless in her predictions. She carried a crystal ball, and the only time that she failed to predict, was she predicted that Barf was going to get into her panties, but nope, never did.

Alex Grand: Was Lil Abner an influence on Moonshine McJuggs at all?

Frank Thorne: Well Moonbeam mixed fine. It’s sounds… he sort of just happened. It works better, actually, than Moonbeam McSwine. Moonshine McJugs… it’s got… it’s got a more of a cache to it.

Alex Grand: It does, yeah. It goes for the jugg-ular in a sense.

Frank Thorne: Hahahahaha

Jim Thompson: I understand that you’re primarily associated with, in terms of the alternate comics with the, the pennies, but you actually did the only cover for Cerebus, Dave Sim’s Cerebus, that was not done by him and that was not Dave Sim. That was done by someone other than Sim and, and or Gerhard. Do you remember that?

Frank Thorne: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Did you do that cover?

Frank Thorne: Yeah, I do.

Jim Thompson: What was the circumstances behind you doing that? I’ve always been curious.

Frank Thorne: Dave Sim, I finally met years later. I only met him once. I don’t know much about him, but he, apparently, is Canadian, was a strange man.

Jim Thompson: Yes.

Frank Thorne: I don’t really know, but what I read about him, I wonder. Because I gave a free drawing to… because he’s written a fan letter to me and I made a drawing of Sonya holding Cerberus in her hand, and he was very appreciative of that. But that was about the only contact with him. And then he did a parody on Ghita of Alizarr, I think it went for a couple of issues. I have them some around here somewhere. So, I really don’t know, but he became a religious guy or something, or he divorced his wife.

Jim Thompson: The cover you did, I think was done as they were getting married and going on their honeymoon. Because it was pretty early on in the run, and it stands out because it’s you. You know, and a lot of people don’t even know that that was your cover.

Frank Thorne: Ah. I don’t know whether I have in my collection. I have scrapbooks-


Alex Grand: Oh yeah?

Frank Thorne: That have all this… As much as I could gather it together and I have about 15 of them now. Huge scrapbooks.

Jim Thompson: Oh wow.

Frank Thorne: Hefner had dozens and dozens, and they were all published at one point. He collected all of that, too. Though, I don’t know whether he, you know… if all in all, if he had… maybe he would have been better off being a cartoonist, but he wasn’t very good at it.

Frank Thorne: Hy Eisman, who draws Popeye, he’s a friend of mine, an old buddy. We went to art school together and we had a reunion of the Camp Magazine, when they were in the service together. And they both worked on the magazine and they had a 50th reunion and Hefner came and recognized Hy, and came up to him and he said, “Hy, I’m glad you made it in comics. I wasn’t that good. I didn’t make it, but I, I make a lot more money than you do.”

Alex Grand: Did you ever meet Jim Warren?

Frank Thorne: Oh, yes. Yes, I did. We’re both exactly the same age. We both played the trumpet at that time. We both did gigs in the area. We got along very well. He was very friendly. Sometimes, a lot of people didn’t like him, but I enjoyed his presence, and he was very enthusiastic about serializing the Ghita of Alizarr in the magazine and that, of course, thrilled me and he said it may bring some negative reviews because of the content. I said, “Great.” I said, “We see what is working there and build a Bay.” I said, “I have fake, some really devastating reviews, saying what a piece of crap it was, and how horribly explicit it was.” But they didn’t have to write it cause they came in anyway, which made it even better, and fueled the… and then Two Tone picked it up and we got distribution of a Ghita of Alizarr, and ultimately in about five or six languages.

Alex Grand: Oh, cool.

Frank Thorne: Iron Devil has got the same number of… she’s been in a lot of those, too. One just came in Portuguese so and Hermes is reprinting all that stuff. Ribbit, and the lesser-known creations of mine.

Jim Thompson: How did you come to Warren at that time? After you left Marvel? Did anybody reach out to you or did you go to to them, and who was your editor?

Frank Thorne: At that time, I was represented by Al Zuckerman at Writer’s House and he saw that Ghita of Alizarr had a great potential. And I think he’s still around. Writer’s House is still around. And anyway, at that point we were having nice parties there, Christmas parties, and that was the time then Playboy called, and Michelle called, and they asked me if I could contribute something to the magazine, as I mentioned before. So I told Al about it and he wanted 15% of my Playboy.

Frank Thorne: I said, “Well, but she called me. It wasn’t you.” And so we parted ways at that point. And I, on my own, approached Jim Warren with Ghita of Alizarr. So, that’s the story of that.

Jim Thompson: When you were riding high off of Red Sonja. I mean, people love that work, so that was, I’m sure… that was a perfect book it seems like, for Warren at the time.

Frank Thorne: Yeah. Yeah. It was a youthful energy, which I had no longer have. I’m amazed looking back at the torrent of work that was pouring out of me, and now I have difficulty… I’m on a cane, and I have difficulty getting up the stairs without falling over.

Alex Grand: Oh my gosh.

Frank Thorne: This awaits all of us, you know. I am your coming attraction. So enjoy and produce while you can.

Alex Grand: Right.

Jim Thompson: You sound pretty good for a 90-year-old.

Alex Grand: Yeah. You sound real… You sound very virile and strong.

Frank Thorne: Hahahahaha

Jim Thompson: So, I was going to ask about Heavy Metal, too.

Frank Thorne: Heavy metal. Yes. That was Lann.

Jim Thompson: Yeah, you were… right, right. Tell us about that character and what you were doing there.

Frank Thorne: Well, that was another thing. They called me… She called me and asked me if I would contribute something to the magazine, you know, which seems like an incredible… to have Playboy call, and Heavy Metal call, asks you to do something for the day. And so thank you Sonja and ed Al. And, so, I ended up creating Lann. It was a recently, Hermes did the beautiful reprint of it and I never liked it from the beginning, but it seemed to work when I saw it in black and white. It seemed to have a solidity that I didn’t like when I originally did it, and time that enough has passed and it puts it into perspective. So, she is one of my lesser creations, but I’m still proud of her.

Alex Grand: Yeah, I like Lann. Yeah.

Frank Thorne: What I have been doing recently, and for the past five or six years, is painting huge images of my character. So, panels, without any sound effects or balloons of the characters, and they roughly average three feet by five feet. They’re on stretched linen latex with a felt pen. They come out quite beautifully. It’s amazing when you see them. I have a graphic house; it gives me a fantastic actual detailed enlargement, and I have a method of transferring it to the linen, which will remain secret.

Alex Grand: All right.

Frank Thorne: And, really, I have dozens and dozens of them now and I have a problem with storage. Our daughter has a much bigger house. She lives in Pennsylvania. She has a lot of them, so I await, somehow, to connect with a gallery that’ll show one or two of these, because I would like to get a decent payment for them. I don’t-

Alex Grand: Yeah. You emailed me one sample, a couple weeks ago, and I was really amazed by that one panel, but it has movement in it. Although, there is no wavy lines of movement, but the expression and what you’ve captured on that page of that woman’s facial expression, I can almost feel the movement as I look at that.

Frank Thorne: That was a mermaid from book three of Ribbit.

Alex Grand: Yeah, there you go. Ribbit. So you did that for Comico, right?

Frank Thorne: Yes. Yeah. There’s also a fantastic one of Sonja that’s that size. It’s a close-up, but the eyes and the sweep of the hair, the blinds that I originally drew are enlarged and beefed in, so that to get the total effect of it, as you see in that one that I sent you.

Alex Grand: Yeah, I love it.

Jim Thompson: Did you do it on that scale because of a vision. Is it easier to work when it’s larger like that?

Frank Thorne: Well that’s true, but I can still do… I’m doing it right now. Behind me is a very large and leaping Sonja, which has no black. It’s all very, very light line work, but it is large. I can manage some of the small faces and fingers and fingernails. I’m working within my limitations as best I can. I have the happy aspect of my life that I can’t wait to get up in the morning and get back at it, and I still have trouble sleeping at night when I figure I have the wrong color on something. But those are a small price to pay for enjoying what I’m doing my age.

Alex Grand: How was working with Comico? Were they pretty easy to deal with? With those comics and like your 90s reprints, were they profitable for you?

Frank Thorne: Ribbit was a money loser for Comico. It was run by a guy whose father was a sports guy. So, he had money from owning a football team or something. He set his son up, and the son didn’t know much about comics, so it came into being in that respect. And they produced a pretty full line of comic books, but it ultimately failed. I don’t know whether it went on for, what, two or three years. It could have been four years, maybe, I don’t know.

Alex Grand: Yeah, I have that… I think it’s a five issue run. It’s the Erotic Worlds of Frank Thorne and those are reprints from the 90’s but they have pictures of you and Linda Behrle in them, and and all that stuff.

Frank Thorne: Right. That was Fantagraphics. Yeah.

Alex Grand: Okay.

Frank Thorne: Eros saved Fantagraphics in a sense. The erotic stuff got them out of a bad spot, and Gary Groth is great stuff. Wonderful treasure to the comic world, and the Erotic Worlds of Frank Thorne were, I guess part of that. But it was before I produced all that lettering, so it’s all by hand. All of those titles in… I had always done all the lettering, title lettering, by hand, and so when you look at it, you see he did just pass over Iron Devil, and so forth. But you’ve got to realize that that was not done on a computer, it was done all by hand.

Alex Grand: It’s amazing.

Frank Thorne: A gun, you know, now it’s a computer. What Dynamite did when they reproduced all my Sonja stuff without paying me anything. Not a centilla. They ruined all my stuff and they keep running it, running it, and they’re still doing the same thing. They have somebody color my drawings, who doesn’t know how to draw. And so they try to turn a form and they, they don’t know. And to me it ruins it… and what they’re doing to Sonja is just dreadful. I mean, making your little cartoons and crap. Yeah.

Alex Grand: Yeah. It kind of loses some of the sensuality, right?

Frank Thorne: Yeah.

Alex Grand: Now, you also did a couple of other things. You did an illustrated history of Union County.

Frank Thorne: Yes.

Alex Grand: And that was reprinted by Fantagraphics in 2005, but from what I’ve been reading, it’s a serialized strip of prehistoric to modern New Jersey’s Union County. Did you start this in the late 40’s while you’re an art school? Was this like an early life project? I mean, what was that?

Frank Thorne: I was an 18 year old kid when I did that. And it ran in a Journal and to quite a bit of success. I was getting $25 a page for them, and ran every day, Monday to Friday. And that was quite a job, again, because I started it before we were married, and then you get married and that whole thing. And I was going into the service… special service in the army and producing that at the time. And I don’t know how the hell I did it then, and I could never do it now. So, it was compiled, and I did a cover, a special cover and it too charmed Gary so much that he, he printed it that to my amazement.

Alex Grand: Oh, that’s awesome. So you get along well with Gary Groth.

Jim Thompson: Yeah, yeah. Yes I did. I haven’t heard from Gary, but occasionally he’ll cut a deal for the Portuguese Iron Devil was his deal. And, and he never asked for any kind of recompense for the cutting the deal, but it’s no big deal. So it doesn’t really matter.

Alex Grand: Right, right. And they-

Frank Thorne: Have you ever met Gary?

Alex Grand: I have not met Gary. I’ve seen him at a convention at his booth just surrounded by, you know, a lot of buying and selling of his books, and I’ve read quite a bit of Fantagraphics. I have not spoken to him in person, though.

Frank Thorne: How about Ditko? You ever met Ditko? Who’s met Ditko? Nobody.

Alex Grand: Yeah, I know who’s met Ditko. Well, I did meet his, his nephew. He and I have a started a bit of a friendship recently after Steve Ditko died, and I have met and correspond with Jim Steranko. Have you ever met Steranko?

Frank Thorne: Yes, I have. Yeah. His mark is obvious to all who know a lot about comics, which is not me. I don’t know much about comics, and I’ve met him and we had a lot of fun. We had dinner together when we were in San Diego. We all sketched on a table cloth after they removed the food. Everybody did one of their characters and I did Red Sonja. I don’t know who got that table cloth, but whoever it did has got something. It’s worth quite a bit of money now.

Alex Grand: So a couple other questions. Two more, pretty much. You wrote and illustrated the Crystal Ballroom in 2003, tell us about that.

Frank Thorne: Well, the Crystal Ballroom came out… Perhaps my greatest written work is something called the Barrington Hall Sketchbook, which was self-published and I sent it, it had all my drawings of my youth, but it’s the perfect voice of a 12-year-old kid and never have… So spot on the voice remains to the very end. And Gary, so they said, “Well, this deserves a wider audience.” So that birthed the Crystal Ballroom, and unfortunately the voice is not as clear in the Crystal Ballroom as it is… And there was another one I can’t remember now, but if you were to get a copy of the Barrington Hall Sketchbook, which actually, that book deserves to be printed in bound form. But I don’t know whether… If that’s possible at this point in my life, but that’s one thing that should be out there. And I would add one of my early heroes was Harry Devil. Had you heard of Harry Devilyn?

Alex Grand: Have you heard of Harry Devilyn, Jim?

Jim Thompson: No, I-

Frank Thorne: He was a cartoonist for Colliers and Saturday Evening Post.

Alex Grand: Saturday Evening Post, I got you. A magazine illustrator guy. Okay.

Frank Thorne: And I worshipped his drawings and through connection I got the chance to go to his studio, which was nearby in Mountainside, which is a couple of miles from here. I came in with my portfolio and he looked over and he was very cocky in his 30’s, and they had about eight kids, five or six, seven, eight kids. And he looked at it and he said I should pursue another line of work with moist eye, I closed my portfolio and left and produced the Illustrated History of Union County. Soon after that I’m in King Features doing Perry Mason.

Alex Grand: So that’s that sequence of events. So that was kind of a divergence in the road there.

Frank Thorne: I think he was bothered by the fashion. He told me that. But he taught me a great lesson. The greatest lesson I ever learned was that never discourage young talent because you just never know what’s gonna come on. So then, to make amends, he invited us to come to a dinner with Noel Sickles and Milton Cannif, and that was a grand affair. And of course I had been corresponding with Toth and when Toth heard that Sickles was… That I had to actually talk to Sickles because Toth called Sickles, and Sickles hung up on him because he thought he was a nutcase. And he wanted me to intercede to get, somehow, response from Sickles. And I felt maybe I shouldn’t get involved in this. And, Toth, he was offended by that and I didn’t hear… He sent these wonderful postcards with all of his writing on it. Toth owned the 60’s, he was fantastic, but a strange man.

Jim Thompson: Did you keep those postcards?

Frank Thorne: I have a few, yes. I wish I had kept more of them. I gave them to a lot of people because they’re worth a lot of money.

Jim Thompson: That’s a subject that’s come up before in an our podcast. People who have those Toth postcards and correspondence.

Frank Thorne: Yeah, I have a couple of those. He attacked me viciously for my pornographic work. But then he would flip and it wasn’t so bad, and then when I got in… When Al Zuckerman took me on at Writers’ House, it was offense to him. I said, “What about me?” Action heroes or whatever it is who rave or heroism or something, and I said, “Alex… Al, I’ll mention him.” And he never contacted Toth, and Toth was mad at Zuckerman, me and another strange one is Neal Adams. He’s got a strange side to him because we were in Europe to one of the salons in Barcelona, and a says strange things. A lot of talent he is, but he’s a strange fella.

Alex Grand: What kind of strange things would he say?

Frank Thorne: For instance, we were at the salon and I was at a table next to his, and I had about five people in front of me signing. I was signing books and making sketches. He was next to me and he had about 30 people in line to get his signature and his wife, Marilyn, who has the same name as my wife, she was sitting next to him, and a little Barcelonian young man about 15 or 16 came up in back and cupped her. And, oh, he was furious. He threw a sketchpad at him and he got up and stormed off with Marilyn, and of course the line moved to me and I spent an extra hour just signing books.

Alex Grand: Yeah, you’re the one left standing, signing stuff after that and then Noel Sickles. How was he to have dinner with?

Frank Thorne: I found him very genial. A very nice guy. He was… He and Harry were very close. Harry’s oldest son was named for him, and his early work was unparalleled. Sickle’s stuff. Oh boy, was he ever good.

Alex Grand: And he was there with Milton Caniff, like you guys were all hanging out together at that dinner?

Frank Thorne: Yeah, as I say, I always felt that it was kind of an a payment for what he had said to me.

Alex Grand: Right. To dissuade you from it. How was it seeing Caniff and Sickles, could you get a sense of their relationship at all, or the contrast in their personalities?

Frank Thorne: Oh, they were interacting very well. It was a wonderful gathering. Memorable in every respect, which drove Toth up the wall. He couldn’t be there and Sickles thought he was a nutcase, and Toth thought Sickles was a genius.

Alex Grand: Now, Toth. Did you guys ever have a falling out, or did you pretty much have smooth sailing in your relationship other than-

Frank Thorne: I never met him. At San Diego. He had, constantly, A crowd because he was a minimalist genius of the 60’s, and he had huge fan following. His artwork got huge. To buy a piece, it would cost a lot of money. I got a chance to see him. I never broke through because I didn’t want to interrupt those fans that were surrounded him. So I only saw him from afar but you know, communicated over the years.

Alex Grand: Interesting. Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Did you have an interaction with Stan Lee? Besides that one right up and-

Frank Thorne: Well, I saw Stan occasionally. My visits to Marvel offices were very few because I mailed everything in. So I think I spotted him a couple of times and then came the aforementioned meeting when they decided they were going to put an inker on me and, and make Sonja look like the rest of the line.

Jim Thompson: He was there for that meeting?

Frank Thorne: Yeah. Stan was there. Yeah. Yeah. I liked him, and everybody seemed to like him, but he took credit sort of… He didn’t draw any that stuff. It was Ditko that actually created Spiderman, I mean, in that sense. He’s getting credit now, and toward the end of his life, Stan Lee, the damage was already done. He had taken credit for those things when he really shouldn’t have gotten full credit. He should have credited the real creators.

Alex Grand: Right. That’s interesting. And that’s cool to hear what your view is on that, because a lot of people, sometimes I want to talk about that, but it’s cool to hear what you have to say about that. Yeah. Now, you’ve done other media. So, you wrote and produced what, two Lord and a Lady about Elizabeth Lee Frazee and the Battle of short Hills, is that right?

Frank Thorne: Yeah, yeah.

Alex Grand: Tell us, what is that project?

Frank Thorne: Well, it was the local rotary, there was a historic house in a neighborhood that was built in the 1740s. It still stands today, but it was in a bad case of disrepair, it’s become a zoo and so forth. So, in order to raise money to restore it, I wrote and produced a film called Two Lords and a Lady, which involved the meeting of Lord Cornwallis and Lord Howe, with aunt Betty Frazee, who was a baker of bread, and was quite elaborate.

Frank Thorne: And we had a lot of help from WBGH in Boston, allowed us to use a lot of their footage because I pushed the deal saying, you know, “This isn’t only for just to raise the money because I usually charge $20 a second for any footage that they use, that’s to be used.” So they waived that and we got to be… it was about 24, 25 minutes. Our son-in-law, John Fazio of Fazio Filmworks, he did that. It’s followed now by… He’s doing a treatment, a documentary on myself being his father-in-law. And he’s been working on that for several years. I don’t know whether I’ll ever live to see it, but somebody may see it someday, but a lot of people have seen Two Lords and a Lady, and that’s a legitimate credit. I can take credit for that.

Alex Grand: That’s great. And it’s cool to see that. It’s good for people to see that you’ve gone beyond into other media, that you have many talents, you know, in one interview and, this is kind of a wrap up question in a way, is on one interview, you’ve made it pretty clear that superheroes is not a preferred art genre for you. But you did say in an interview one time that you liked the movie Superman 2 in 1980, is there a particular reason why liked that movie and Christopher Reeve’s performance? What’s your take on that?

Frank Thorne: Well, I was cool to it, but although I prefer the second one because Reeve was so perfect as Superman. But no, he’s actually great in it. No, I’ll pass on that. What’s happening today, is you get wonderful actors like Mark Ruffalo, playing in these transformer movies, or Iron Man or something. What the hell are they doing? And most of the time the stunt men are doing whatever they do. So, but I guess they get a good paycheck and the independents are still producing wonderful movies. You’ve just got to know where to find them.

Alex Grand: Where to find them. And I guess final question is, you said this, I think in the early 2000’s, that despite the rise of digital access that comic books will always be around. Do you still feel that way?

Frank Thorne: Yeah, I think so. In some form. Yeah, I think so. King Features, you know, Hy Eisman does Popeye, and they keep it going because it may be only has two papers, because somebody may want to make a movie out of it.

Alex Grand: Right.

Frank Thorne: So it’s worth them to pay Hy a good salary to write it, but they keep it out there. Same with Mandrake the Magician, and the Phantom. I think Phantom was a movie.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Yeah.


Frank Thorne: But they keep them, so in a way, the birthplace… You just don’t know what’s going to be developed in the future that might need content like that.

Alex Grand: Right. It’s the birthplace of ideas and in a way, comics act as a storyboard for future of the media. Okay. Well, Frank, you know that this has been a really fun interview for us. We really appreciate your time-

Frank Thorne: It has been fun.

Alex Grand: And thank you so much for joining us and walking down memory lane with us a little.

Frank Thorne: Okay, well-

Jim Thompson: Thanks, Frank, it was a pleasure.

Frank Thorne: My pleasure.

© 2020 Comic Book Historians