Noodnik #5

Frank Roberge was an American cartoonist, best remembered for his gag-a-day series 'Mrs. Fitz's Flats' (1957-1972) at King Features Syndicate. He also worked on comic books, drawing 'Noodnik' for Comic Media in the 1950s and comics with Hanna-Barbera characters for Charlton Comics in the 1970s.

Frank Roberge was born in Stratford, Connecticut. He started cartooning in 1944 without a formal art training. During the 1940s he assisted Dale Messick with his comic strip 'Brenda Starr' and also worked on 'Wash Tubbs', originally created by Roy Crane. He then turned to comic book art, initially working for Allen Hardy's short-lived publishing label Comic Media. Roberge drew and probably also wrote the five comic books about the little Eskimo 'Noodnik' (1953-1954). He also provided the artwork for the back-up features 'Pinky Penguin Jr.' and 'Pierre Ze Trapper'. Comic Media's assets were bought by Charlton Comics, after which Roberge continued his 'Noodnik' feature in the comic book based on Frank Beck's 'Bo' in 1955. Reprints of older 'Noodnik' stories continued to appear in titles like 'Ribtickler' (Green Publishing, 1957) and 'Pinky the Egghead' (I.W. Publishing, 1958).


Mrs. Fitz' Flats (23 April 1957)

By 1955 Roberge returned to newspaper comics and joined Mort Walker's staff, whom he assisted on 'Beetle Bailey'. Walker also wrote scripts for Frank Roberge's daily gag series 'Mrs. Fitz's Flats' (1957-1972). The series made its debut on 7 January 1957 and was originally intended for a friend of Walker's, but Roberge insisted that it was given to him instead. The comic revolved around the eccentric inhabitants of an apartment block, owned by a nice old widow named Sophie Fitz. Among the people living in her flat were aspiring actress Sireen, incurable gambler Turf, failed painter Umber, lazy janitor Linseed, mad scientist Professor Neutron, the bickering couple Danube and Ludvig and the more loving but impoverished Lord and Lady Balderdash. Walker specifically chose for an apartment block as a location because it offered an excuse to combine all these off the wall characters in one comic. 'Mrs. Fitz's Flats' had a retro look and equally old-fashioned style of comedy. It might explain why the series didn't really catch on. Having learned from past experience with 'Beetle Bailey', Walker tried a change of setting.

Mrs. Fitz Flats by Frank Roberge
Mrs. Fitz' Flats (27 April 1957)

On 22 February 1961 Mrs. Fitz decided to stay at a farm for a while, which opened the gates for various hillbilly jokes. Two months later, on 10 April 1961, the series changed its title to 'Mrs. Fitz' and had her marry Linseed the janitor. The newlyweds promptly left for Florida, where a new cast of recurring characters was introduced. Mrs. Fitz and Linkweed met a retired ferry captain and his wife, two children named Trinket and Albert, Barf the teenager and a self conscious cat called Mercedes. Walker and Roberge kept the setting in this locale for two years until Fitz and Linkweed moved back to their apartment, taking Barf with them to assist Linseed. All these changes could not conceal that the series ran out of steam. Some episodes occasionally feature "off model" art, hinting at a possible ghost artists whose identity remains unknown or Roberge possibly becoming less interested in the series. The later period of the 'Mrs. Fitz' strip coincides with Roberge's return to Charlton Comics in 1970. The strip ended on 28 October 1972.

Mrs. Fitz Flats by Frank Roberge
Mrs. Fitz' Flats (31 December 1961)

He drew for Charlton's comic book based on the variety TV show 'Hee Haw' (1970-1971), which mixed country music and humor in a fictional town setting. During the first half of the 1970s Roberge also drew covers and stories for several comic book series based on Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons like 'The Flintstones', 'The Jetsons', 'Yogi Bear', 'The Great Grape Ape Show ' and 'Hong Kong Phooey'. His art appeared extensively in 'Flintstones' related titles like 'Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm', 'Dino' and 'The Flintstones'. His final known work were contributions to Charlton's humor magazine Sick in 1976. In 1972 he also drew some comic books based on E.C. Segar's 'Popeye' for King Features's comic book line King Comics.

There is some uncertainty about Roberge's date of death. The King Features website comickingdom.com says the artist died in 1972 while playing a game of golf, which would be the reason for the cancellation of 'Mrs. Fitz'. Roberge was however a regular contributor to Charlton comic books until 1976, which would make that the more likely year of his passing.

Cover art by Frank RobergeCover art by Frank Roberge

Frank Roberge posts on Ger Apeldoorn's blog

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

X

If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.