Born in Springfield, Missouri, O'Neal was kept on the move by his traveling father, and the youth grew up in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee and Washington, D.C. He graduated from high school at the age of 15, but his parents decided he was too young for college or art school. Employed as an advertising collector for a Washington newspaper when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he enlisted within 30 days.
Following World War II, he worked in the flour and feed business. In 1948, he began studying in Santa Monica, California at the Jefferson Machamer School of Art, working such odd jobs as a janitor, bellhop and busboy during his three years at the art school. While a student, he began to do advertising art and sell to magazines. In 1950, he sold his first cartoon to The Saturday Evening Post. After working as a freelance artist from 1950 to 1956, he spent a year-and-a-half doing television storyboards. His feature "How to Bring Up Parents" ran in Redbook for three years.
Comics from Carmel
When O'Neal decided he didn't want to bring up his children in Los Angeles, he began to look elsewhere in California: "Bettie, my wife; Johnny, my son, and my daughter Mollie and I scoured half of California and finally found Carmel Valley and an old house with four baths, trees, a river and four-and-a-half acres—not to mention a mortgage." He viewed Carmel as a creative environment and began to develop comic strip concepts to submit to syndicates.
He submitted Short Ribs to NEA, and in November 1958, the syndicate offered Short Ribs as a daily strip, with the Sunday strip launched eight months later in June 1959. The Sunday and daily were soon carried in 400 newspapers. Success meant deadlines, but O'Neal still found time for his hobbies, cars and sailing.
- "Frank O'Neal, Creator of Short Ribs, dies" The Comics Journal #116 (July 1987) p. 24
- National Cartoonists Society
- "Short Ribs Starts in Press on Monday, The Pittsburgh Press, November 13, 1958.
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