Circus Solly by George Frink

George O. Frink' (also referred to as "Charles Frink") was an early 20th century American newspaper cartoonist, best-known as the creator of 'Circus Solly' and its follow-up 'Slim Jim and the Force'. Frink was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in either 1872 or June 1874. By the early 1900s, he was working as a cartoonist for the Chicago Daily News. He applied a sketchy style with influences from John T. McCutcheon, Joe Donahey, Frederick Burr Opper and early George Herriman.

Between 1901 and 1911, Frink produced a great many short-lived and irregularly appearing features for the News. These included 'The Absent-Minded Man' (1901-1902), 'Ambitious Activity: The Amateur Detective' (1901-1902), 'Motion Pictures' (December 1901), 'Pictures of Energy' (December 1901), 'Why Popkins Is A Bachelor' (1902), 'Experiences' (1902), 'Have You Ever Noticed?' (1902), 'Scientific Experiments' (1902), 'Prediction Habit' (1902), 'Uncle Bellamy' (1902-1903), 'Mister Grouch' (1903), 'Mister Makinbrakes' (April 1905), 'Tommy Town' (1905), 'Ratty and Algy' (1905), 'The Goat Family' (1905, continuation of Roy W. Taylor's 'The Goats'), 'The Red Creek School' (1906), 'Jan The Joker' (1906), 'Going To College' (1906), 'Serving The Papers' (1906), 'Terrible Tommy' (1906), 'The Awful Bore' (1906-1908, 1911-1912), 'Buddy and Banty' (1906-1908), 'Professor Umpah and his Horn' (1906-1908), 'The Village Doc' (1907-1909), 'Fearless Finglebaum' (1908), 'Teaching Royalty' (1908), 'The Optimist' (1908), 'Getting Down Early' (1908-1909), 'Sammy Spankem' (1908-1913), 'His Frightful Nerve' (1909-1910), 'Official Agonies' (1909-1910), 'The Town Blowhard' (1909-1912), 'The Detective At Home' (1910-1911) and 'The Stubborn Man' (1910).

In 1906-1907 and 1909-1911, he also drew 'Brainy Bowers and Drowsy Duggan', a comic strip created by Ed Carey. Several of Frink's creations were made in alternation with fellow staff artist R.B. Fuller, such as 'Poor Uncle!' (1907-1911), 'Seeing The Ball Game' (1908-1910), 'Laughing It Off' (1909-1911), 'Getting Wise' (1909-1915), and 'The Humorous Yeggman' (1909-1911). His longest-running creation with the Chicago Daily News was however the weekday strip 'Circus Solly', which first began as the weekday feature about a hobo called 'Circus Sully' in the Chicago Daily News on 11 January 1904. The name was changed to 'Circus Solly' from the third strip, and was printed in the News until 4 December 1911. Other artists who drew the feature on and off were Ted Brown and R.B. Fuller.

By 1910, Frink left most of his daily work at the News and turned to World Color Printing, a company that produced Sunday comics sections for mainly rural newspapers. Frink's first features the syndicate were 'The Picture Show' (1910) and 'Oh Just Laugh And Forget It' (1910), which he signed with names like "Binks" and "Babb". In September 1910 he transformed his 'Circus Solly' strip into 'Slim Jim and the Force'. The strip dealt with the extremely tall and thin tramp Jim, who continues to outwit the three police constables known as The Force. Frink's involvement ended as early as 1911, and then new episodes were made by Raymond Crawford Ewer (1911-1914), Stanley Armstrong (1914 until 1937) and a certain Sterling (1915, possibly C.W. Kahles). Although the strip was advertised until the early 1940s, Armstrong presumably ended his run in 1937, with several periods of reprints in the meantime (1915, 1920s). Frink was one of the first cartoonists who applied the chase scene as a gimmick in his comic strip. The genre would be perfected in the 1950s in the animated 'Road Runner' cartoons by Chuck Jones.

Besides his comic strips, Frink is also known for having illustrated 'Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus' (1906) and 'Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys' (1907), two of George Wilbur Peck's books with his mean-spirited "Bad Boy" Hennery Peck. For a long time it was thought that George Frink passed away during the early years of Slim Jim's run, in 1911 or 1912. The artist had apparently dropped out of sight afterwards, and no new cartooning work by him is known. Research by Alex Jay from the Stripper's Guide has however made it clear that Frink was institutionalized at a mental health facility by the early 1930s, and that he passed away on 17 November 1932 in Elgin, Illinois.


Illustration from 'Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus'

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

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