Frank Thorne, a legendary comic book artist best known for his work on Marvel’s Red Sonja, has died at the age of 90, along with his wife, Marilyn. Thorne and his wife died within about six hours of each other, according to fellow comic book artist Walter Simonson. The cause of death was not immediately released.
Thorne was known as a frontrunner of cosplay. He began his career drawing for Standard Comics in 1948, according to CBR. His work also included newspaper strips and comic books, including Perry Mason, Flash Gordon and The Green Hornet. The Red Sonja solo series ran for 15 issues from January 1977 to May 1979. He later went on to create several erotic fantasy comics, writing and illustrating Moonshine McJugs for Playboy, Lann for Heavy Metal and Danger Rangerette for National Lampoon. He created miniseries Ribit for Comico and several graphic novels for Fantagraphics Books, including Ghita of Alizarr, The Iron Devil and The Devil’s Angel.
Simonson wrote a touching tribute to Thorne, and shared one of the artist’s older comics. He was a fan of Thorne long before he was a comic book artist himself, and over the years befriended Thorne and his wife.
“Frank Thorne and his wife Marilyn departed the harbor for the last time today, about six hours apart. It seems remarkably fitting that they should do so together.” he wrote.
Here’s what you need to know:
Thorne’s Work Spans Decades & He Left a Legacy Within the Comic Book Industry That Stretches Beyond Marvel, Said Fans & Fellow Comic Book Artists
Simonson wrote about his fandom for Thorne’s work growing up. His mom unintentionally tossed out some of his comics as he aged, including illustrations by Thorne in adaptations of John Houston’s Moby Dick and Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He endeavored to replace them, and was able to do so.
Simonson shared a panel from one of Thorne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea comics, writing that it seemed to “sum up the romance, the mystery, and the danger of the story in a single drawing.”
“That’s a gift,” he added.
His post said:
Frank Thorne and his wife Marilyn departed the harbor for the last time today, about six hours apart. It seems remarkably fitting that they should do so together. They were a lovely couple. We had the great privilege of getting to know them over the past decade or so thanks to the kind auspices of John and Cathy Workman. Frank was a wizard of comics in any number of ways and one of the first artists whose work I loved long before I knew who he was or could attach a name to his comics.
That is the reason I use the nautical allusion above, rather than something related to wizards or barbarian women. At some point in my early adult life, I discovered that my Mom had thrown out a bunch of the old comics from my childhood. As the years went by and my profession manifested itself, she apologized more than once to me, but I wasn’t concerned and told her please not to fret. She was just doing a Mom’s job. There were, however, two comics that had disappeared that I made a successful effort to replace. One was an adaptation of John Houston’s Moby Dick; the other was an adaptation of Disney’s 20,000 Under the Sea. I didn’t see either movie until I was a grown up, but I loved both comics. I learned at some point that they were each drawn by Frank. For that alone, I would have loved him. Of course, he went on to create so much more wonderful work. I’ve reproduced one of my favorite panels in all the world below, from the 20,000 Leagues comic. I couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps, it is because it seemed to me to sum up the romance, the mystery, and the danger of the story in a single drawing. That’s a gift. He was terribly modest about his work, but I was a big fan, following it throughout the years, and it was a delight to me and Weezie to get to know both him and his wife. Godspeed, Frank and Marilyn. Thank you for both work and friendship. I’m glad you could go together.
Vanguard Productions shared a photo of Thorne and others in an announcement of his death March 7, 2021. The post summed up his extensive work.
“Very sad that Frank Thorne had passed away today (06/16/1930-03/07/2021). The Perry Mason, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, Green Hornet, Tom Corbett Space Cadet, Tomahawk, Mighty Samson, Enemy Ace, Red Sonja, Heavy Metal, National Lampoon and Ghita of Alizarr artist was followed shortly by his beloved wife Marilyn,” Vanguard Productions wrote.
Thorne Was Still Drawing Comics of ‘Beautiful Warrior Women’ in His Golden Years
Thorne never stopped drawing. Comic Book Historians spoke to him for a one-hour podcast interview in 2019. He discussed his success over the years and his early work on the podcast.
He said people commented on the attractiveness on the women he drew, and when he found success with Red Sonja, he discovered his niche. He had discussions after the second issue of Red Sonja was released, which he described during the interview.
“Shoot, you’ve got a talent for drawing women. You should keep drawing women,” he said he was told, “which I have been doing since then,” he concluded with a chuckle.
He won multiple awards, including a National Cartoonists Society award in 1963, a San Diego Inkpot Award in 1978 and a Playboy editorial award. His work in Red Sonja was compiled into its own book, Frank Thorne’s Red Sonja: Art Edition.
Comic book writer Paul Levitz also shared a tribute to Thorne on Facebook.
Bidding farewell to Frank Thorne, an artist who progressively developed his style into a more and more personal expression. I had the pleasure of working with Frank in his later DC days, when he did some magnificent work for the mystery titles, and stepped in to pencil for Jim Aparo on The Spectre, matching his storytelling approach carefully to Jim’s.
But Frank had the best time of his career on Marvel’s RED SONJA, who he made both powerful and sexy. He was probably the first working mainstream [artist] to revel in [cosplay] becoming the Wizard who acted with Wendy Pini’s Sonja at show after show.
A man of talent, charm and great wit. Good journey onward, Frank, you will be long remembered.