Frank Cho, born Duk Hyun Cho, is a Korean-American comic strip and comic book writer and illustrator, known for his series Liberty Meadows, as well as for books such as Shanna the She-Devil, Mighty Avengers and Hulk for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. The artist is noted for his figure drawing, precise lines, and depiction of well-endowed women.
The second of three children, Cho was born near Seoul, Korea in 1971, but moved to the United States at the age of six, along with his brothers, Rino and Austin, and their parents, Kyu Hyuk Cho and Bok Hee Cho, who were in search of better economic opportunities. Cho was raised in Beltsville, Maryland.
His parents had college degrees, but because they did not speak English well, they took whatever jobs they could to support the family, with his mother working in a shoe factory, and his father as a carpenter during the day and a janitor at a Greyhound Bus station at night. Because money was scarce, Cho, who describes his latchkey childhood as “rough”, was relegated to finding his own extracurricular entertainment. When Cho was ten, his older brother, Rino, brought some comic books home, and Cho started copying the art. When a friend saw that Cho was able to reproduce the artwork without tracing them, he urged Cho to illustrate comics for a living. From that point on, with the exception of some basic art classes, Cho refined his abilities by himself without any formal training, finding influence in Depression-era comics as Prince Valiant and Li’l Abner, and in the work of artists such as Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Loomis, Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta.
After graduating from High Point High School in 1990, he attended Prince George’s Community College and was offered a scholarship to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, which he declined because he disliked the school’s academic focus. As Cho’s parents were not particularly supportive of Cho’s interest in art, he placated them by transferring to the University of Maryland School of Nursing, which he says was his parents’ idea. Cho would ultimately graduate with a B.S. in Nursing in 1996.
Cho got his start writing and drawing a cartoon strip called “Everything but the Kitchen Sink” in the weekly Prince George’s Community College Newspaper The Owl, where he was also comics editor. He then started drawing the daily strip University2 for The Diamondback, the student newspaper at the University of Maryland, College Park.
During his final year in college, in 1994 or 1995, Cho received his first professional comic book assignment, doing short stories for Penthouse Comix with Al Gross and Mark Wheatley. Cho conceived of a 6-part “raunchy sci-fi fantasy romp” called “The Body”, centering on an intergalactic female merchant, Katy Wyndon, who can transfer her mind into any of her “wardrobe bodies”, empty mindless vessels that she occupies to best suit her negotiations with the local alien races that she encounters while traveling the galaxy trading and seeking riches. According to Cho, he was only hired for the art chores, but ended up writing much of the humor in the story. The story was never published due to various reasons stemming from Penthouse Comix ’s financial troubles.
In 1999 Cho attracted controversy when, while serving as one of the jurors for the third annual Ignatz Awards, which are awarded to small press creators or creator-owned projects published by larger publishers, he nominated his own book Liberty Meadows. Writer Ed Brubaker, one of the original jurors and developers of the award, criticized that year’s jury for their lack of support and acknowledgement of independent works, and for allowing self-nomination. Brubaker also questioned whether the guidelines he and Expo board member Chris Oarr had developed for the Awards were provided to that year’s judges. The Comics Journal reacted to this by saying that this revealed some flaws in the Ignatz nomination system, but Cho defended his decision by explaining that few of the submissions he received as a judge were deserving of nomination, and that the Ignatz coordinator he consulted instructed him to use his own judgment, as there were no rules against self-nomination. Cho eventually won two Ignatz Awards that year for Outstanding Artist and Outstanding Comic, and although he did not cast the winning vote, he regrets his self-nomination as a mistake he would never again repeat.
After graduation, Cho adapted elements of this work for use in a professionally syndicated strip, Liberty Meadows. Cho signed a fifteen-year contract with Creators Syndicate, which he later realized was unusually long and, perhaps jokingly, blamed on having a bad lawyer. After five years of doing Liberty Meadows, Cho grew weary of the arguments with his editor over the censorship of the strip, as well as the pressure of the daily deadlines, and pulled the strip from syndication in December 2001, though he continued to print it uncensored in book form.
During the course of his work on Liberty Meadows, he also did occasional cover work or anthology work for other publishers. These included Ultimate Spider-Man Super Special for Marvel Comics in 2000, The Savage Dragon #100 and The Amazing Spider-Man #46 in 2002, Hellboy: Weird Tales #6 in 2003 and Invincible #14 in 2004. he then began doing full interior work on other Spider-Man books for Marvel, including issues #5 and 8 of Marvel Knights Spider-Man in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and The Astonishing Spider-Man #123, also in 2005.
Marvel Comics’ then-senior editor Axel Alonso, who had been impressed by Liberty Meadows, approached Cho about revamping the third-string character Shanna the She-Devil, a scantily clad jungle lady who first appeared in the early 1970s, as a college-educated defender of wildlife and opponent of firearms. Cho, seeing possibilities, recast Shanna in a seven-issue, 2005 miniseries as an Amazonian naïf, the product of a Nazi experiment with the power to kill dinosaurs with her bare hands but an unpredictable lack of morality. The miniseries was originally meant to feature uncensored nude drawings of the heroine, but Marvel later decided against this, and had Cho censor his already completed pages for the first five issues. However, Cho has indicated on his website that Marvel plans to release a hardcover collection under its MAX imprint which will contain the uncensored artwork. The book became a sleeper hit for Marvel, and to Cho’s subsequent projects for the publisher.
Cho then pencilled issues 14 and 15 of Marvel’s New Avengers in 2006, and illustrated the first six issues of Marvel Comics’ 2007 relaunch of Mighty Avengers with writer Brian Bendis. He is the plotter and cover artist of Dynamite Entertainment’s Jungle Girl. Cho drew issues 7–9 of Hulk, which were published in 2009. In 2010 – 2011, Cho illustrated writer Jeph Loeb’s run on New Ultimates for Marvel Comics. In 2011 he worked on the miniseries X-Men: Schism with writer Jason Aaron.
In January 2013, as an expansion of the Marvel NOW! initiative, Marvel premiered Savage Wolverine, a series written and illustrated by Cho that stars both Wolverine and co-stars Shanna the She-Devil and Amadeus Cho. The “Lost World”-type story that comprises the first five issues is intended to evoke a “classic adventure feel”, and is inspired by the Indiana Jones films and the pulp horror of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos.
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