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Frank McLaughlin (artist)

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Frank McLaughlin
BornFrancis X. McLaughlin
(1935-03-18)March 18, 1935
Meriden, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedMarch 4, 2020(2020-03-04) (aged 84)
Milford, Connecticut, U.S.
Area(s)Cartoonist, Artist
Notable works
Justice League of America

Francis X. McLaughlin[1] (March 18, 1935 – March 4, 2020)[1][2] was an American comics artist who co-created the comic book character Judomaster, drew the comic strip Gil Thorp, and assisted on such strips as Brenda Starr, Reporter and The Heart of Juliet Jones. He also wrote and illustrated books about cartooning and comic art.


Early life and career[edit]

McLaughlin was born in Meriden, Connecticut, to Francis and Grace (Daly) McLaughlin,[1] and raised in Stratford, Connecticut.[3] He had three siblings: sister Maureen and brothers James and Michael.[1] Growing up, McLaughlin was inspired by the work of such magazine illustrators as Coby Whitmore, Joe Bowler and Howard Terpning, as well as such earlier illustrators as Gustav Klimt and Alfons Mucha, and such comic-strip artists as Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff.[4]

He studied art at the University of Bridgeport and the New Haven State Teachers College, both in Connecticut.[4] McLaughlin's first professional art job, at "about 17," was drawing belt buckles for a Bridgeport manufacturer's catalog.[5]

After college, McLaughlin, an avid baseball player, went to work for the brake manufacturer Raybestos, where he played for its internationally ranked fast-pitch softball team.[5] After a year there, he was drafted into the U. S. Army, then returned to civilian life as a technical illustrator for Sikorsky Aircraft.[5]

McLaughlin entered the comic book industry in the early 1960s. A college friend recommended him to editor Pat Masulli at Charlton Comics in Derby, Connecticut, who hired McLaughlin as his assistant. "There were no art directors or assistant editors or any other job titles", McLaughlin said in a 2000 interview.[5] "[I did] everything from proofreading to art corrections, lettering titles for [editor] Ernie Hart's books, traffic managing, liaison with the Comics Code, and anything else, including cleaning the storeroom".[5] He did occasional, uncredited inking on late comic books, including on "a couple" of stories by Steve Ditko.[6]

Creator credits were not routinely given in comics during this era, and McLaughlin's earliest known probable credit is inking penciler Dick Giordano on the cover of, and a seven-page story in, Charlton's Battlefield Action #39 (Dec. 1961).[7] McLaughlin's first confirmed credit is full pencil and ink art on the five-page story "And the Light Shall Come" in the same publisher's Reptisaurus #8 (Dec. 1962).[7]

Giordano later became Charlton's editor after, McLaughlin said, he himself had turned down the job: "[Giordano] was a freelancer at the time, and then he hired me to work with him after I got through working at Charlton 9 to 5, and I'd go over to his studio, and then later on, we kind of swapped jobs, because there was a change at Charlton, and I think Pat [Masulli] was moving up, and they offered me his job. I opted to stay freelance and suggested Dick for the job. He became editor and I took over the studio," which artist Jon D'Agostino and writer Joe Gill would soon join.[5]


McLaughlin, who became Charlton's art director by 1962,[7] worked throughout the Charlton line, including on the superhero titles Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and Son of Vulcan, the adventure comic The Fightin' 5, the supernatural/science-fiction anthologies Strange Suspense Stories and Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds, and the espionage comic Sarge Steel, where martial artist McLaughlin's backup features, "The Sport of Judo" and "What is Karate?," presaged the original character he would create with writer Joe Gill.[7]

Judomaster's debut: Special War Series #4 (Nov. 1965). The series title is visible diagonally within the red logo box. Cover art by McLaughlin

That character, Judomaster, debuted in Special War Series #4 (Nov. 1965), the final issue of that series, and continued in his own series, beginning with Judomaster #89 (June 1966), taking over the numbering of the defunct Western series Gunmaster. The series, which McLaughlin almost immediately began scripting as well, starred an American soldier in the South Pacific during World War II, who, after saving a native island girl from a Japanese sniper, was taught martial arts by her grateful grandfather. He acquired a costume based on the Japanese military flag, and, in issue #93 (Feb. 1967), a sidekick, Tiger. The series ended at #98 (Dec. 1967), and the character was later purchased by DC Comics in 1983, during Charlton's final years.[7][8]

Marvel and DC[edit]

Following McLaughlin's final Charlton work, penciling the cover and both penciling and inking the seven-page story "The Living Legend" in the comic strip spin-off comic book The Phantom #30 (Feb. 1969), McLaughlin began to freelance. After a smattering of work that including inking an eight-page teen humor story in DC Comics' Debbi's Dates #10 (Nov. 1970) and a seven-page story in Warren Publishing's black-and-white horror-comics magazine Eerie #34 (July 1971), McLaughlin circa 1971 began assisting comic-strip artist Stan Drake on the naturalistic soap-opera strip The Heart of Juliet Jones.[9] McLaughlin, at Giordano's suggestion, had shown samples of his work to the Westport, Connecticut-based Drake, who hired him to succeed assistant Tex Blaisdell, who had left to draw Little Orphan Annie. "I would pencil and ink just about everything that wasn't a main figure," McLaughlin said.[4]

The following year, McLaughlin began to work steadily for industry leaders DC Comics and Marvel Comics. His first work for the former was inking Win Mortimer on a Zatanna story in Adventure Comics #421 (July 1972), and his first for the latter was inking Jim Mooney on a romance comics story in Our Love Story #18 (Aug. 1972).[7]

Settling into his career as an inker, McLaughlin became ensconced at Marvel, inking the likes of Wayne Boring on Captain Marvel and Sal Buscema on both Captain America and The Defenders before becoming primarily a DC inker. Throughout the 1970s, McLaughlin inked backup stories featuring the Atom, Black Lightning, Zatanna, and "The Fabulous World of Krypton", among others. He became the regular series inker for penciler Dick Dillin's Justice League of America, and for some issues of penciler Ernie Chan's Batman stories in Detective Comics, and Joe Staton's Green Lantern. Concurrently, he wrote martial-arts articles for Marvel's black-and-white comics magazine The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.[7]

In the 1980s McLaughlin was regular inker on penciler Carmine Infantino's The Flash, Gene Colan's Wonder Woman, and Dan Jurgens' Green Arrow, among other assignments. He also inked Steve Ditko on the first two issues of A.C.E. Comics' short-lived series What Is...The Face? (Dec. 1986 and April 1987), and for the same company wrote, co-penciled and co-inked the single issue of Big Edsel Band (Sept. 1987), starring the modern-day retro-1950s band.[7][10] During the following decade, while continuing to draw for DC, McLaughlin expanded to Acclaim Comics and Broadway Comics. His last known comics work is Broadway's Fatale #6 (Oct. 1996), inking J. G. Jones.[7]

Comic strips[edit]

Aside from his stint on The Heart of Juliet Jones in the early 1970s, McLaughlin also worked on such comic strips as Brenda Starr, Reporter, assisting Dale Messick;[11] Nancy;[12][13] and The World's Greatest Superheroes.[14] From 2001, he took over the art for Jack Berrill's Tribune Media comic strip Gil Thorp, drawing the sports feature through 2008.[15]

Teacher and author[edit]

McLaughlin has taught at the Paier College of Art in Hamden, Connecticut,[12][16] and Guy Gilchrist's Cartoonist's Academy in Simsbury, Connecticut.[17] He co-developed the literacy program "Writing to Read" for the JHM Corporation through Nova University, in which comic-book storytelling was used to teach and encourage reading.[17]

His books include How to Draw Those Bodacious Bad Babes of Comics (Renaissance Books, 2000, ISBN 1-58063-068-5) and How to Draw Monsters for Comics (Renaissance Books, 2001, ISBN 1-58063-069-3), both with Mike Gold.

Personal life[edit]

McLaughlin practiced judo from ages 18 to 50, initially studying at Joe Costa's Academy of Judo.[18] He married at age 30, in 1965, living then in Derby, Connecticut, and working in a studio in nearby Ansonia before moving back to his home town of Stratford.[3] As of 2000, he had two grown children: daughter Erin and son Terry.[5] His brother James’ daughter, Anne McLaughlin, is also a professional artist.[19]

McLaughlin died March 4, 2020, age 84, at Milford Hospital in Milford, Connecticut.[1]


Archie Comics[edit]

Atlas/Seaboard Comics[edit]

  • Planet of Vampires #1–2 (1975)

Broadway Comics[edit]

  • Fatale #1–6 (1996)

Charlton Comics[edit]

DC Comics[edit]

Marvel Comics[edit]

Valiant Comics[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Francis X. McLaughlin". Connecticut Post. March 5, 2020. Archived from the original on August 10, 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  2. ^ Leiffer, Paul; Ware, Hames, eds. "McLaughlin, Frank". Who's Who of American Comic Strip Producers at The Comic Strip Project. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2010. {{cite web}}: |first2= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b "Frank McLaughln interview". Comic Book Artist (9). Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing: 87. August 2000.
  4. ^ a b c Comic Book Artist, p. 84.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Comic Book Artist, p. 85.
  6. ^ Comic Book Artist, p. 86.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Frank McLaughlin at the Grand Comics Database
  8. ^ Judomaster at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on October 25, 2011.
  9. ^ Leiffer; Ware, McLaughlin, Frank, Who's Who of American Comic Strip Producers: Who's Who Update. Retrieved December 20, 2010. Archived June 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Kolson, Ann (August 10, 1987). "Big Edsel Band's on Stage and on Comic-Book Page". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on August 16, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  11. ^ Leiffer, Ware. "Credit Updates (Additions): Brenda Starr". The Comic Strip Project. Archived from the original on November 17, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  12. ^ a b "About Me". Frank McLaughlin (official site). Archived from the original on July 11, 2011.
  13. ^ Leiffer, Ware. "Credit Updates 2 (Additions): Nancy". The Comic Strip Project. Archived from the original on November 17, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  14. ^ Weizel, Richard (January 25, 2009). "It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a superhero artist". Manchester, Connecticut: Journal Inquirer. Archived from the original on March 26, 2016. During the decades to follow, McLaughlin also drew for such comic strips as Brenda Starr, Nancy, and The World's Greatest Superheroes.
  15. ^ "Frank McLaughlin". Lambiek Comiclopedia. March 26, 2015. Archived from the original on May 12, 2016.
  16. ^ "Connecticut Talent". Connecticut Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  17. ^ a b "Frank McLaughlin (Professor Emeritus)". Guy Gilchrist's Cartoonist's Academy. Archived from the original on August 15, 2006.
  18. ^ Comic Book Artist, p. 88
  19. ^ "Annie's Graphic Arts". Archived from the original on July 31, 2004.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Justice League of America inker
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Dick Giordano
Batman inker
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ray Burns
Gil Thorp artist
Succeeded by