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'Frank & Ernest' Creator Bob Thaves


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'Frank & Ernest' Creator Bob Thaves

by Gillian Flaccus


A 'self portrait' of artist Bob Thaves, who amused

comic strip readers for decades with 'Frank & Ernest.'

LOS ANGELES, California -- Bob Thaves, whose nationally syndicated comic strip, "Frank & Ernest," amused newspaper readers for decades with its quirky observations on life, has died of respiratory failure. He was 81. Thaves died Tuesday, at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, California, said his daughter, Sara Thaves.

His long-running strip stars the happy-go-lucky punsters, Frank and Ernest, who travel the universe and through time - and sometimes change shape - as they comment on everything from science to world politics. The strip, which was syndicated in 1972, is distributed to 1,300 newspapers worldwide by Newspaper Enterprise Association.

Thaves' son, Tom, has collaborated with his father on "Frank & Ernest" since 1997 and will continue to produce it, according to a statement from United Media, whose Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicates the strip. The popular comic strip is read by more than 25 million people a day.


Bob Thaves' final tribute

Sara Thaves said her father's curiosity about the world made his comic strip unique. "He was an avid reader. There are books and periodicals and newspapers stacked up all over the house," she said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Manhattan Beach, California.

"That allowed him to be interested and engaged with the world in a way that was pretty unique and it consequently made him a really interesting person to be around." Thaves, who held both bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology from the University of Minnesota, began cartooning as a child.

Thaves was published in a college humor magazine at the University of Minnesota. He went on to cartoon for various magazines and created "Frank & Ernest" while working as an industrial psychology consultant in Los Angeles. The strip wasn't syndicated until Thaves was 48, and he didn't quit his consulting job for several years.


Ever camera shy, Bob Thaves' drew this self-potrait

"He knew the chances of being syndicated - you might as well try to be a professional athlete," his daughter said. "And then to be as successful as he was, it's even more lucky . . . He did not take that for granted."

"Frank & Ernest" went on to become one of the most popular comic strips in the world, as well as one of the most innovative. According to United Media, it was the first newspaper cartoon to run in a strip format, the first to use block lettering, the first to use comic book-style digital coloring for the Sunday pages and one of the first to have its own Web site, in 1997.

The Web site features interactive cartoons as a way to attract Internet readers without losing newspaper fans, Sara Thaves said. Thaves was a three-time winner of the National Cartoonists Society's prestigious Reuben Award for best syndicated panel and won the Free Press Association's Mencken Award for best cartoon.

Besides his daughter and son, Thaves is survived by his wife of 52 years, Katie, and a son-in-law, Michael van Eckhardt.

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Family Statement

Bob Thaves

October 5, 1924 - August 1, 2006

Our husband and father had a full and wonderful life and he loved cartooning. He introduced FandE.jpg to us as an idea for an idea for a comic strip during a family dinner many years ago. Bob at a drawing board had been part of our family life before this as he had drawn magazine cartoons in addition to his work as an industrial psychologist.

While other husbands and fathers golfed or gardened, ours drew. So, we welcomed FandE.jpg from the very beginning and they have been the source of many wonderful moments for our family. On Bob's' behalf there are a number of people we would like to acknowledge.

First and foremost, are the readers of FandE.jpg. Bob respected you and he did his best to have that respect reflected in his work. He wasn't advocating a point of view or targeting a specific demographic - he just wanted the strip to be funny. Thank you for supporting this.

Of course, there have been a lot of people at NEA and United Media who have worked hard on behalf of FandE.jpg and Bob had no doubt that the editors, salespeople and business people were partners in the success of FandE.jpg.

We would like to make a special acknowledgement to the late Tom Peoples, from NEA, who was willing to take a chance on a single panel strip when nobody else would because it had never been done before.

Tom Thaves has collaborated with Bob on the production of FandE.jpg since 1997. In recent years Bob had transitioned into a semi-retirement and now Tom will continue to lead a team effort to produce the strip.

Bob was never a big joiner of groups - but by virtue of his work, he was part of a special group, cartoonists. He had immense respect for the work of other cartoonists and did his best to encourage and support others. Thank you for the friendship and respect you showed him.

Lastly, there are a number of people whose contributions literally make FandE.jpg possible. These include many writers and Don Dougherty and Sam Hurt who provide key assistance with the artwork. We look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.

Thank you for the consideration and good wishes.


Katie Thaves, Bob's wife

Sara Thaves, Bob's daughter

Tom Thaves, Bob's son

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