'The Man in the Iron Mask' (Classics Illustrated #54, original 1948 version).

August M. Froehlich was an Austrian-American illustrator and comic artist, who was active in the 1940s U.S. comic book industry. He worked for several studios, drawing jungle heroes, comic biographies, superheroes and other features for publishers like Ned Pines, Prize Comics and Fiction House. In the late 1940s, he drew some early installments in Gilberton's 'Classics Illustrated' series. For a 1945 political pamphlet, he made the six-panel comic story 'Nazi Death Parade', one of the first visual accounts of the Holocaust.

Illustration career
August Froehlich was born in 1880 in Prague, and lived in Bohemia before arriving in the USA in 1909. He spent the first decades of his career doing poster and magazine art. One of his first known works were the illustrations for the 1912 book 'As It Was In The Beginning' by Philip Verrill Mighels, published in New York by Desmond FitzGerald. In 1919, Froehlich won the fourth prize in a Universal Studios poster contest. During the following two decades, his art appeared on posters for several Universal films, including 'Irresistable Lover' (1927), 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' (1927), 'Thanks for the Buggy Ride' (1928), 'Show Boat' (1929), 'Counsellor-at-law' (1933) and 'Fifth Avenue Girl' (1939). He also designed posters for the RKO-Radio Studios and made illustrations and cartoons for early 1940s magazines like Child Life and Model Builder, a publication of the Lionel Trains Corporation.

'The Ghost', drawn with playful panel shapes by August Froehlich for Thrilling Comics #42 (June 1944).

Comic book work
By 1939, Froehlich was part of the American comic book industry, working for the Eisner and Iger Studio. He was later associated with other New York-based production studios, like Funnies Inc. (1941-1942), the Jack Binder Studio (1942) and the Bernard Baily Studio (1944-1946), contributing thrilling stories and features to many of the 1940s comic book publishers. Among his first known stories were 'Oran of the Jungle' in Fight Comics #3 by Fiction House (March 1940) and 'Trojak, the Tiger Man' in Timely's Daring Mystery Comics #3 (April 1940).

He landed more regular jobs in the comic books published by Ned Pines, starting with the feature 'The Ghost, Master Magician' in Thrilling Comics (1940-1946), about an occult investigator with the mystical powers of levitation, astral projection and invisibility. For Startling Comics, he drew the adventures of the jungle trapper 'Biff Powers' (1941-1942), and in Real-Life Comics, he made comic biographies of many historical characters (1941-1948).

Winston Churchill by August Froehlich
Winston Churchill comic biography by George Harrison and August Froehlich, published in French in Le Petit Journal (16 November 1941).

In the same tradition, Froehlich illustrated comic biographies of Winston Churchill ('World Hero No. 1') and Bill Knudsen, head of the Office of Production Management for President Roosevelt ('U.S Producer No. 1') for the first two 1941 issues of True Comics by Parents' Magazine Press. The Churchill bio was drawn in collaboration with fellow artist George Harrison, and also syndicated internationally as a newspaper strip, running for instance in Canada in the Montreal Gazette and Le Petit Journal. Other early 1940s comics were the fantasy feature 'Jane of Dream Castle' (1940-1942) in Tom Mix Comics - a giveaway comic book of the Ralston-Purina pet food company - and 'Beebo of Jungle Isle and His Wonder Horse Fleet' (1942-1943) in Shadow Comics by Street & Smith.

Simba by August Froehlich
Simba, King of Beasts (Jungle Comics #100, April 1948)

In the mid-1940s, August Froehlich's productions expanded. At Prize Comics, he was the third artist - after Fred Morgan and Maurice Del Bourgo - to draw 'Worldbeater and Unggh' (1944-1946), a feature about a man from the future and his caveman sidekick, appearing in Prize Comics and Headline Comics. For the same company, Froehlich also drew the U.S. folkloric giant 'Paul Bunyan' in Treasure Comics (1945-1946). Other superhero work in this same period were stories of 'Captain Marvel Jr.' and 'Golden Arrow' for the Fawcett comic books. For Gerona/Top Spot Publishing, he drew the adventures of 'Magnificent Epod' (1945-1946), the last survivor of Atlantis, described as a "jack of all trades and also master of them". He additionally had sporadic appearances in the Rural Home titles Red Band Comics ('Bogey Man', 1944-1945) and Meteor Comics ('Race Wilkins', 1945), and drew western stories in the Buster Brown Comic Book (1946) and titles by D.S. Publishing (1948-1949). In 1946, he returned to Fiction House as the illustrator of 'Simba, King of Beasts' in Jungle Comics (1946-1948), 'Auro Lord of Jupiter' in Planet Comics (1946) and 'Chris and the Calico Colt' in Toyland Comics (1947). August Froehlich was additionally one of the early illustrators for 'Classics Illustrated' - the legendary comic book series with adaptations of classic literature published by the Gilberton Company. Froehlich's contributions were the adaptations of 'Adventures of Cellini' (issue #38, 1947), 'The Man in the Iron Mask' (#54, 1948), 'The Toilers of the Sea' (#56, 1949) and 'Black Beauty' (#60, 1949). For later editions, Froehlich's adaptations were redrawn by other artists.

Nazi Death Parade
Outside of the comic book industry, August Froehlich used the sequential art form for other assignments. The most notable was 'Nazi Death Parade', a six-panel comic page detailing the atrocities of the Holocaust. It shows Jewish prisoners arriving in the Majdanek concentration camp in the south of Poland, having to give up their belongings, and being sent to showers, which turn out to be gas chambers. The German soldiers then steal their victims' golden teeth and burn the bodies. Froehlich's graphic visualization was based on eyewitness accounts documented by a Russian journalist after the July 1944 liberation of Majdanek - the first major concentration camp liberated by Allied forces. At the time, the general public knew little to nothing about the full extent of the Nazi horrors that happened in the camps. With no photographs or film material available yet, Froehlich's comic was the first known visual account of the systematic execution of the Jewish people. Created in late 1944 - before the liberation of Auschwitz - 'Nazi Death Parade' was part of the fifty-page political pamphlet 'The Bloody Record of Nazi Atrocities', that was available in New York book stores in early 1945 to justify the American war effort. Froehlich's work then faded into obscurity, until September 2021, when the Dutch historian and Holocaust researcher Kees Ribbens discovered it, saw its historical value and brought it back to the public attention.

No further information about August M. Froehlich's life is known. By the time of his comic book career, he was allegedly already in his sixties. For years, his date of death was unknown, until his nephew Kerry M. Sullivan acquired his death certificate, which stated that August M. Froehlich died on 10 September 1951 of natural causes at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan New York.


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