The Champ and the Pirates (Treasure Chest, 18 January 1962)

Frank Borth was an American comics artist and cartoonist. He began his career during the so-called Golden Age of Comic Books, creating 'The Spider Widow' (1942-1943) for Quality Comics, and then spent over twenty years working for the Catholic Treasure Chest magazine (1950-1972). He was also the creator of the newspaper comic 'Ken Stuart' (1947-1950) and the longtime writer of the syndicated feature 'There Oughta Be A Law' (1972-1983).

He was born as Frank Mellors Borth in Cleveland, Ohio, where he also graduated from the School of Art in 1940. Borth had earned his tuition by painting price signs in tempera paint for butcher shops, grocery stores and, green grocers, etc. He eventually left Cleveland to find work in New York City. He found work as a free-lance illustrator and artist for comic book publications. He drew the feature 'Pat Patriot, America's Joan of Arc' for Lev Gleason's Daredevil Comics for several months in 1941. He had some occasional stints for Timely Comics, Harvey and Picture Scoop, but spent most of his time drawing and presumably writing 'Spider Widow and the Raven' (1942-1943) and 'Phantom Lady' (1943) for the Quality Comics titles 'Feature Comics' and 'Police Comics'. 'Spider Widow' was a remarkable feature as its heroine was one of the early mutants in comic book history. The athlete Dianne Grayton used the force of her mind to control black widow spiders, and picked the looks of a Halloween-style witch as her superhero disguise.


Spider Widow and the Raven - The Spider Widow Meets the Spider Man! (Feature Comics #66, 1943)

Borth was drafted into the army and assigned to the Transportation Corps Training Center at Indiantown Gap Military reservation to produce training aids. Back in civilian life in 1946, Borth and his new wife Barbara lived in Montauk, New York, where the artist earned a living by painting murals in bars and doing sign work at the Yacht Club. He developed an adventure strip about 'Ken Stuart', the heroic shipper of a two-masted schooner. He worked on the strip from September 1947 to 1950, but the Frank Jay Markey Syndicate had difficulties finding a wide distribution for it. A single issue of a comic book devoted to the character was released by Columbia in 1948.


Ken Stuart (1948)

George A. Pflaum, the Ohio-based publisher of the Catholic bi-weekly comics magazine Treasure Chest, hired him to illustrate a comic story about the Priest of Shark Island (1950). Many more followed during a period of over 20 years. He was one of the artists of the long-running series 'Chuck White & His Friends', which was created by Captain Frank Moss and starred the son of a Protestant father and Catholic mother. The daring feature included some social views which were quite ahead of their time. Chuck was probably the first and only comic book character at the time who had African-Americans friends. Borth also contributed to the feature 'Frumson Wooters', a.k.a. 'The Champ', about a fat kid who nevertheless always triumphs over adversity.

Treasure Chest cover by Frank BorthTreasure Chest cover by Frank Borth

Borth furthermore made serials and features like 'The Treasure of Paradise Island', 'The Prince of Peril', 'West of the Panhandle', 'Uncle Harry', 'Fearless Ferdy' and many more, while providing illustrations for text stories as well. In 1963 he also had a drawing course in the magazine called 'Draw-Along with Frank Borth'. The magazine was distributed to parochial schools and had to cease publication in 1972, due to the rapid closing of a lot of these schools. Additional comic book work in the early 1950s included features like 'Skypilot' and 'Captain Fleet' for Ziff-Davis.

Chuck White by Frank Borth
Chuck White (Treasure Chest, 28 September 1950)

In addition to his work for Treasure Chest, Frank Borth was an active member of the local Montauk community. He was member of both the volunteer fire department and the volunteer ambulance crew. He did a lot of artwork for the fire department and other civic organizations as well. He taught Sunday school and was elected an Elder of the Montauk Community Church. Borth was asked to become a Republican Committee man, which led to him being elected a Town Trustee and to the office of Councilman on the East Hampton Town Board in 1968. After a term of four years, Borth left local politics and became the writer of the syndicated comic strip 'There Oughta Be A Law' for United Feature Syndicate. The strip was created by writer Harry Shorten and artist Al Fagaly in 1944, and had been drawn by his friend Warren Whipple since 1963. Like its prime example, Jimmy Hatlo's 'They'll Do It Every Time', the gags illustrated minor absurdities, frustrations, hypocrisies, ironies and misfortunes of everyday life. Borth wrote the plots and dialogues for both the daily and Sunday features from 1972 onwards. He worked with Whipple for about ten years and then took over the entire production until his retirement in February 1983. The strip was continued by Mort Gerberg until April 1985.

There Oughta be a law by Frank Borth
There Oughta Be a Law, by Warren Whipple and Frank Borth (20/5/1973)

After his retirement, Frank Borth did occasional work for the humor magazine Cracked. He continued to do work for local organizations until he lost the vision in his left eye which deprived him of depth perception. He spent the rest of his retirement painting Montauk land and seascapes. He passed away in Newville, Pennsylvania on 9 August 2009 at the age of 91.


Treasure Chest, 31 January 1963

Treasure Chest at the Catholic University of America

Series and books by Frank Borth in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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