Author Interview: Sid Jacobson—From Richie Rich to Anne Frank

April 2011

Author and comic book creator
Sid Jacobson/Shure Jacobson
“I had an idea of how to do the book,” said Sid Jacobson, coauthor with Ernie Colón of Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography (check out our review). “I wanted to include the growth of Nazism and the Holocaust. I wanted the reader to know more than what the diary said. I want the reader to go into the concentration camps, to get...what it might feel like to be the hunted Jew.” a Jacobson remembers seeing the original.

Broadway play based on the diary in 1955 and, four years later, the film, and “being conscious of its growing popularity,” he said. “I always knew what Anne represents. To be selected for the graphic book...was an extraordinary honor.”

Jacobson is a successful editor, novelist, songwriter and cocreator of comic book characters Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost—even though, he said, “I can’t draw and I can’t read a note of music.” 

Jacobson, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1929, the same year as Anne Frank, began the graphic book project with Colón more than two years ago. The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam had read their best-selling graphic novel of the 9/11 Commission Report and contacted them to create the diary.

Anne began the diary around her 13th birthday, shortly before she and her family went into hiding. In it, she chronicled the two years they hid in the annex of the building that housed the Franks’ business in Amsterdam. Her father, Otto Frank, published her diary after the war.

To prepare for the book, Jacobson and Colón spent a week in Amsterdam with officials of the museum. “They took me to the neighborhood,” Jacobson said, “to the schools Anne and her sister attended, and we took the walk on the exact path the family followed from their home to their hideout.”

Using letters, photos and documents supplied by the Anne Frank House, Jacobson and Colón tried to make the work visually and historically accurate, from the Franks’ clothing to the Nazi uniforms to the layout of the apartment.

A journalism major at New York University, Jacobson’s first job was as copy boy on a short-lived New York tabloid, The Compass. Then came a six-month stint at The Morning Telegraph, a racing paper.

For a long time, Jacobson edited Harvey Comics for the Harvey brothers (fellow graduates of Abraham Lincoln High School) and got involved in producing children’s comics. He transformed Casper, a ghost licensed from Paramount Pictures, into Casper the Friendly Ghost, moving Casper’s home from a cemetery to a haunted house. Working his way up to editor in chief, Jacobson and illustrator Warren Kremer created Richie Rich, the only child of fantastically wealthy parents. Despite negative stereotypes associated with his incredible wealth, Richie is portrayed as kind and charitable.

Then Jacobson moved to Marvel Comics, where he started the Star Comics children’s line and served as executive editor of comic book versions of Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock.

Along the way, Jacobson found time to write popular songs that became big hits for Frankie Avalon, Dion and the Belmonts and Johnny Mathis. Jacobson also returned to his writing roots, publishing the novel Streets of Gold (Pocket), a story of two brothers who emigrate from a Russian shtetl to America—perhaps based on his parents’ experiences. Sports fans might enjoy his Pete Reiser biography subtitled The Rough-and-Tumble Career of the Perfect Ballplayer (MacFarland); the Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder spent a good deal of his time chasing fly balls into the left-field fence at Ebbets Field!

Jacobson lives in Los Angeles and Colón lives on Long Island, New York; they do most of their work over the computer. “We fell into doing these graphic books,” Jacobson said, “and they’re like a return to what I wanted to do originally. It’s a wonderful feeling, at this time
of life.”

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