Circus Solly by George Frink
'Circus Solly', aka 'Slim Jim and the Force'. 

George O. Frink (also referred to as "Charles Frink") was an early 20th-century American newspaper cartoonist. During the 1900s and early 1910s, he drew dozens of short-lived humor comic features for The Chicago Daily News. His longest-running series was 'Circus Solly' (1904-1911), about a happy-go-lucky tramp, which from 1910 on continued as 'Slim Jim and the Force'. After Frink passed the pencil to other artists, 'Slim Jim and the Force' continued for two more decades, lasting until 1937. Two other Frink gag comics of some duration were 'Sammy Spankem' (1908-1913), about a dim-witted father and his punishment-prone son, and 'Getting Wise' (later retitled to 'Mr. Fallguy', 1909-1915). 

Early life and cartooning career
George Frink was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in either 1872 or June 1874. He began his career working one year for the Indiana Illustrating Company and was subsequently employed by the Anderson Herald, before joining the Chicago Daily News in 1903. Remaining at the News for over a decade, Frink applied a sketchy style, that showed influences from the cartoonists John T. McCutcheon, Joe Donahey, Frederick Burr Opper and early George Herriman.

Chicago Daily News strips
Between 1901 and 1911, Frink produced a great many short-lived and irregularly appearing weekday features for the News, some lasting only a couple of months or even weeks. Among his earliest creations were 'The Absent-Minded Man' (11 January through 24 November 1901) and 'Ambitious Activity: The Amateur Detective' (28 December 1901 through 7 March 1902). In December 1901 he also created drew 'Motion Pictures' (AKA 'Home Motion Pictures') and 'Pictures of Energy' (AKA 'Home Energy Pictures'), both lasting less than a month. 1902 saw several other comic strips with a limited run: 'Scientific Experiments' (23 January through 18 March), 'Have You Ever Noticed?' (7 February-12 April), 'Why Popkins Is A Bachelor' (17 February through 26 April), 'Prediction Habit' (18 February-14 March) and 'Experiences' (15 March-3 June). The only one to last until 1903 was 'Uncle Bellamy' (16 October 1902 through 16 December 1903). In 1903, Frink was also preoccupied with 'Mister Grouch', running from 6 May through 12 June. 

Circus Solly, AKA Slim Jim and The Force
Frink's longest-running creation with the Chicago Daily News was the weekday strip 'Circus Solly'. First published on 11 January 1904, it began as a feature about a hobo called Circus Sully, a character obviously inspired by Frederick Burr Opper's extraordinarily popular 'Happy Hooligan'. By the third strip, 'Circus Sully' became 'Circus Solly', and the strip continued its run in the News with that title until the end of its run on 12 September 1913. In 1905 and 1906, an additional 'Circus Solly' Sunday page appeared. Frink was not the only cartoonist working on the feature. Switching with Frink for periods of several months were Ted Brown and R.B. Fuller, while Richard Thain ghosted two 1909 episodes.

On 25 September 1910, George Frink's creation was picked up as a Sunday comic by World Color Printing, a St. Louis company that produced Sunday comic sections for mainly rural newspapers. 'Circus Solly' was reworked into 'Slim Jim and the Force', with the tall and thin hobo title character renamed to Slim Jim, who constantly outwits three police officers, referred to as 'The Force". Frink was one of the first cartoonists using the chase scene as a running gag, a gimmick perfected in the 1950s by Chuck Jones in the animated 'Road Runner' cartoons. Also working on the 'Slim Jim' feature were Raymond Crawford Ewer (1911-1914), Stanley E. Armstrong (1914-1937) and "Sterling" (1915), possibly a pen name for C.W. Kahles. George Frink's involvement ended in October 1915, after which 'Slim Jim' was continued by Stanley Armstrong until the end, with some periods of reprints in the meantime. Although the strip was advertised by the syndicate until the early 1940s, Armstrong presumably ended his run in 1937.

The Chicago Tribune
For a couple of months in 1905, George Frink apparently left the Chicago Daily News to try his luck with the paper's competitor, the Chicago Tribune. Between April and September, he created several short-lived weekday features for the Tribune, starting with 'Mister Makinbrakes' (2-9 April), and followed by 'Tommy Town' (23 April-17 September) and 'Ratty and Algy' (23 April-20 August). Between 23 April and 3 September 1905, he additionally briefly continued Roy W. Taylor's Sunday strip 'The Goats', as 'The Goat Family'.

Short-lived in-house Chicago Daily News features
By 1906, George Frink was back at the Chicago Daily News, continuing 'Circus Solly' and cranking out copious amounts of new features over the next few years. 1906 saw the launch and demise of 'Terrible Tommy' (20 January-16 June), 'The Red Creek School' (22 May-24 July), 'Jan The Joker' (23 June-13 October), 'Serving The Papers' (3 August-10 September) and 'Going To College' (13 September-19 November). New features with some longevity were 'The Awful Bore' (30 July 1906-4 May 1908, 10 November 1911-29 January 1912), 'Buddy and Banty' (9 June 1906-21 February 1908), 'Professor Umpah and his Horn' (17 November 1906-24 July 1908) and 'The Village Doc' (5 July 1907-1 February 1909). In 1908, Frink created 'Fearless Finglebaum' (17 January-15 October), 'The Optimist' (30 July-9 December 1908), 'Teaching Royalty' (5 August-13 November) and 'Getting Down Early' (AKA, 'Mister Hangitt', 19 October 1908-4 February 1909). Later solo creations by George Frink were 'Official Agonies' (AKA 'Burgomaster Boomsputter', appearing sporadically between 9 February 1909 and 14 December 1910), 'The Detective At Home' (3 October 1910-19 July 1911) and 'The Stubborn Man' (24 February-24 May 1910). George Frink was one of many cartoonists working on 'Brainy Bowers and Drowsy Duggan' (1901-1915), a gag comic about a tramp and his sidekick, created by Ed Carey. Frink worked on the strip on and off between 1906 and 1911.

Comics shared with R.B. Fuller
Several Daily News creations were made in alternation with fellow staff artist R.B. Fuller, such as 'Poor Uncle!' (24 October 1907-2 December 1911), 'Seeing The Ball Game' (1 June 1908-13 September 1910), 'The Town Blowhard' (28 January 1909-31 January 1912), 'His Frightful Nerve' (AKA 'His Awful Nerve', 16 February 1909-28 December 1910), 'Laughing It Off' (7 September 1909-16 August 1911) and 'The Humorous Yeggman' (15 January 1909-21 July 1911). Also filling in on several of these strips was Richard Thain. Fuller and Thain were also regular fill-in cartoonists for George Frink's longer-running features, 'Sammy Spankem' (1908-1913) and 'Getting Wise' (1909-1915).

Sammy Spankem
Running for over five years was 'Sammy Spankem' (7 March 1908-13 September 1913), about a dim-witted father and his innocent son, Sammy. Most gags have Sammy ask his father to do something for him, only to have it go disastrously wrong. In the end, the father always blames and spanks his son, instead of admitting he wasn't bright enough himself to foresee trouble ahead. Besides Fuller and Thain, a mysterious artist signing with "Fitz" also filled in on episodes.

Getting Wise, AKA Mr. Fallguy
Touching a six-year run was 'Getting Wise', introduced to the readers of the Chicago Daily News on 3 September 1909. The main character is Mr. Fallguy, who constantly does things he regrets afterwards. 'Getting Wise' continued its irregular run up until 12 January 1912. It was revived between 16 September 1913 and 26 August 1915, albeit under the different title 'Mr. Fallguy'.

World Color Printing
In 1910, George Frink additionally joined the World Color Printing syndicate, creating new features like 'The Picture Show' (28 August-25 December 1910) and 'Oh Just Laugh And Forget It' (8 May-25 September 1910, signing with "Binks" and "Babb"), before rebooting 'Circus Solly' as 'Slim Jim and the Force'.

Book illustrations
George Frink additionally illustrated two books by George Wilbur Peck, namely 'Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus' (1906) and 'Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys' (1907), both revolving around the mean-spirited "bad boy" Hennery Peck.

Death
For a long time, it was assumed that George Frink passed away during the early years of Slim Jim's run, in 1911 or 1912. The artist apparently dropped out of sight afterwards, and no new cartooning work by him was known. Research by Alex Jay from the Stripper's Guide however made clear that Frink - suffering from alcoholism - was institutionalized at a mental health facility by the early 1930s, and that he passed away in Elgin, Illinois on 17 November 1932.

At the Chicago Daily News, George Frink was a mentor to the young cartoonist Roland J. Scott


Illustration from 'Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus'.

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

Series and books by George Frink in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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