Legendary comics artist Fred Fredericks died this week.
After attending New York’s School of Visual Arts in the period following the Korean War, Fredericks started drawing historical comics that attracted the attention of comic book editors. Before long, Fred was a regular at Western Publishing (Dell, Gold Key), where he drew such titles as The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, Mighty Mouse, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Mister Ed, Nancy, and Snuffy Smith. After working on several short-lived Civil War newspaper strips, Fredericks created the comics feature Rebel for Scholastic Scope, which ran for 30 years.
In 1965, the year following the start of Rebel, Fred was selected by writer / playwright Lee Falk to take over the art chores on his daily and Sunday Mandrake The Magician newspaper strip. Fred drew Mandrake until the Sundays ended in 2002, but he continued drawing the daily feature until his retirement in 2013. Fredericks took over the writing chores when Falk died in 1999; he already had been lettering the strip. Overall, his stint on Mandrake ran nearly a half-century.
For 10 years Fred also inked George Olesen’s pencils on Lee Falk’s The Phantom Sundays, until Graham Nolan took over following Olesen’s retirement.
Fredericks returned to comic books in 1987, inking Alex Saviuk’s pencils on Marvel’s adaptation of the animated series Defenders of the Earth – a show that featured Mandrake, The Phantom and Flash Gordon. He went on to work on such Marvel titles as Punisher War Journal, Daredevil, Quasar, G.I. Joe, and Nth Man: the Ultimate Ninja. Around this time Fred also did a fair amount of work for DC Comics, including Who’s Who, Secret Origins, Showcase, and Black Lightning.
After his retirement in 2013, King Features put Mandrake The Magician into reruns, reprinting Fred Frederick’s work.
A personal note.
Around the time the Sunday Mandrake was coming to an end, I received a phone call from Lee Falk asking me if I knew where Fred might land some assignments. I gave him a few ideas, and later told Fred of a few more. As a “reward”, Fred sent me a package of original Mandrake art. Quite frankly, his entertaining me for decades was more than enough, but I was greatly moved by his generosity.
A man of great kindness and skill, Fred Fredericks played an important role in the world of post-WWII American comics, both strips and books. He kept Mandrake The Magician alive when all but a small handful of adventure strips fell by the wayside. Fred Fredericks will be missed by his great many fans worldwide.
(Photo above, left to right: Lee Falk, Lothar, Mandrake, Fred Fredericks)