Today, Frank Thorne and Hy Eisman share their memories of Fred Fredericks, the cartoonist who drew the Mandrake the Magician strip for half a century. Here’s an excerpt from Thorne:
Fred was the fastest ink-slinger in the West in that he treasured the old Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers movies, but also was the fastest comic artist alive. Period. And his stuff always displays a stunning freshness. I’d seen his work, admired it, but never thought we’d have him living just a few miles from us in Gillette, NJ. “Burial place of the MGM lion!” Fred would boast. How Fredericksian! Of course, Franny would shoot him down with “The lion was buried somewhere in Sterling!” (The adjoining town.) Actually, over the years, town fathers, visualizing a lucrative tourist attraction, have been trying to locate the grave, turning to trans-mediums, mystics and dowsers. They thought they’d found the bones in one location, but they were remains of a dead whale. It was positively identified as once belonging to a traveling carnival. The leviathan died en route to Gillette and the carcass began to stink, so the roustabouts dubbed it “Smelly Dave.” The boney mass still lies beneath an isolated greensward on the edge of town. The locals say that on steamy summer nights the odor of old Smelly still lingers.
In the late ’50s, just before we met, Fred and Franny were a newly married couple living the Bohemian life in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan. Fred was fresh from a three-year service in the Marine Corps, most memorably under the gimlet eye of General “Chesty Puller,” a name that always brought a scalding laugh from Franny, who often belittled his Marine service in casual conversation. Fred often quoted Fran’s remark when they visited the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va.: “There’s all these Marine heroes, and then there’s you.”
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