One of the recurring scenarios of Short Ribs. Artist: Frank O'Neal.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Newspaper Enterprise Association
First Appeared: 1958
Creator: Frank O'Neal
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There have been comic strips starring good guys like Dick Tracy, bad guys like Desperate Desmond and in-between guys like — well, like practically everybody else. Comic strips have …

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… starred men (Flash Gordon), women (Blondie), children (Tiger) and "other" (Robotman). But very seldom do you run across one that has no regular stars at all. Cartoonist Frank O'Neal, creator of Short Ribs, decided against using regular characters and a regular setting because avoiding them gave his strip greater flexibility.

Short Ribs was launched Monday, November 17, 1958, by Newspaper Enterprise Association, syndicator of Our Boarding House, Red Ryder and many other popular comics. The Sunday version started June 14, 1959.

Tho the strip lacked continuing characters, it did have a few recurring settings. Probably the most frequently used was a king's court that looked more-or-less like medieval Europe, complete with knights, wizard, forest-dwelling bandits, etc., kind of like The Wizard of Id. Another familiar one was a western scenario, similar to Tumbleweeds or Redeye, with sheriffs, desperados and suchlike. But storylines (daily gags strung together with loose continuity) could take place anywhere from ancient Egypt to contemporary America. Frequently, they parallelled and made fun of whatever happened to be in the news.

O'Neal, whose other toon credits are mostly in magazine cartoons, remained on Short Ribs a decade and a half. In 1973, he turned it over to his assistant, Frank Hill, who continued it in a very similar style for the rest of its run, while O'Neal concentrated on advertising.

Eschewing regular characters may have been creatively satisfying for the cartoonist, but it wasn't a formula for commercial success. Short Ribs was one of those strips like Barnaby and King Aroo, which are loved by some but ignored by most. There were a couple of paperback reprints in the 1960s and a single comic book from Dell in 1962, but no other media spin-offs. The strip ended on Sunday, May 2, 1982.


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Text ©2005 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Newspaper Enterprise Association.