Away in a Manger

As we enter the Christmas week of a second strange year in a row, I wanted to share with you my official Christmas card for 2021. The art itself was created with watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil – a little handmade touch in this digital world of ours.

Away in a Manger is one of the most popular Christmas hymns ever written. Strangely enough, its origin is one of dubious distinction, for it is unclear as to who are the authors.

The first publication of the poem was in 1882 by an anonymous author, and only included the first two stanzas. Confusion reined as to authorship, because the lyrics were titled Luther’s Cradle Song, saying that the poem was written by Martin Luther for his children in the 1500s. Perhaps this was just a fanciful claim by “Anonymous” to lend importance to the words, because there has never been found any version written in Luther’s native German predating this American publication. People read it, believed it, and perpetuated the false Luther authorship idea in continued publications for many years. In 1892, the third and final stanza was published with attribution once again falsely going to Luther. Others later laid claim to writing the third stanza, so the authorship continued to be muddy.

Musically, this song has been performed in dozens of settings, however, just two continue to remain popular to this day. The version that starts on a high note and is sung by many in the United States was published in 1887 by James R. Murray who falsely claimed Martin Luther also wrote the tune. By 1914, the melody was attributed to someone named Carl Meuller, a man who is otherwise unknown to history. So, even with this, we really don’t know who the composer is!

The other popular melody we know today that starts on a deeper note was written by William J. Kirkpatrick and first published in 1895. It is his version that carried this Christmas song beyond America’s borders to become beloved around the world.

Kirkpatrick was born in Ireland, and later moved to America where he settled in the Philadelphia area, eventually becoming involved in being a church organist and composer for the Methodist Episcopal denomination. Whether written on his own or with writing partner John R. Sweney, Kirkpatrick published many hymns that richly live on to this day such as ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Blessed Be Thy Name, Will Your Anchor Hold, A Wonderful Savior is Jesus My Lord, Redeemed, O To Be Like Thee, Lead Me to Calvary, We Have an Anchor, and My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.

William J. Kirkpatrick passed away in 1921 while working on a new hymn at his desk. This past August, I visited his grave at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery near Philadelphia.

If only we all could leave behind such a legacy.


Adoration of the vermin.

Christmas Coal

Apparently Santa doesn’t have much love for discrimination.


So much for the Green New Deal. That’s his 38th bag!


A very Merry Christmas to ALL – no matter what your private health choices are!

John MacArthur

The time of lockdown here during 2020 has got to be the strangest societal experience of our collective lifetime. One of the stranger of the restrictions placed upon us by our government has been the suspension of religious freedom despite stores being open, restaurants being open, open beaches, massive public demonstrations, political rallies, and even air travel where everyone breathes the same recycled air for hours on end.

Well, we have acquiesced, and have reverted to watching our churches online. All of our preachers have inadvertently become televangelists. During this time of uncertainty, I have been thankful for the biblical wisdom my own pastor has released upon us week after week, backing everything he says with what is written in the Bible, spoken in a calm, easily understood manner.

My pastor is John MacArthur. My church is Grace Community Church.


Believe it or not, this is my sermon notes.


You know, back in the day, I used to sit in services doodling while listening. For me, doodling was always a way to help me stay awake during a long talk, business meeting, sermon, or otherwise. It helped me focus on what was being said. Unfortunately, in church I was a distraction to those around me who would watch me doodle instead of listening themselves. So, I stopped.

With church being online only these days, I’ve gone back to doodling during the sermons. While some doodles are random, a few Sundays back I found myself doodling my pastor from the computer screen. Later, I took the inked drawing into Photoshop to add some quick color.

I’m not much of a portrait artist, but caricatures flow from my hand from time to time. So, this was drawn with the utmost respect.

Beetle Bailey

Today is my pop’s birthday, the man who most influenced me to be a cartoonist even though he may never have realized it.

When I was a kid, my father loved comics. He’d come home from his job in the business world, and we’d get down on the floor and he would read the newspaper funnies to me every day before I knew how to read. He loved comic strips like Nancy, Peanuts, and Beetle Bailey.


My pop reading the funnies to my little brother and me back in the 1970s.


What my dad liked, I liked. Back in January of this year, I came across this great piece I created in my youth. I love how this image of Sarge, a character created for newspaper comics, is surrounded by a background of newsprint. I also love how it looks like it wasn’t finished, yet it looks kind of cool in this unfinished state.


I believe I was nine years old when I made this.


Due to becoming a cartoonist myself as an adult, I ended up becoming friends with Mort Walker, the creator of Beetle Bailey, and was able to introduce my pop to the legendary cartoonist. Dad enjoyed meeting my cartooning heroes. Maybe, in a way, they were Dad’s heroes, too.

Dad passed away last September, but his influence lives on. I’m still a cartoonist.

We’re Closed!

With the whole world shutting down, does the Wuhan Virus really care all that much? It’s gonna do what it’s gonna do….



With everything shutting down here in the United States, and from what I hear, in other countries, too, the plight of the Griswold family from National Lampoon’s Vacation seemed like a natural fit. That poor Coronavirus has travelled all the way from Wuhan, China to come to America, only to find the country closed. Nothing is going to stop it from having some fun.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t get a BB gun at a sporting goods store and start having too much fun at our expense.

September 11

On this morning in 2001, I was getting ready for the day.
I turned on the television that morning to watch the news with the volume off while I was trying to call my father at his workplace. It was my regular day of the week to do so. I saw images of the first tower smoking, and without the volume on, I was wondering what movie we were getting a sneak peek of. The phone at my father’s office was giving me the busy signal, something that NEVER happened because I call into a corporate switchboard. Weird. As I try dialing again, I see a plane fly into the second tower. It was at that point I realized I’m probably not watching a trailer for a movie, and then it was obvious why the phone droned on with a busy signal. The whole world was trying to call loved ones in the New York area.
My father worked in an office building across the Hudson River in Jersey City that had a clear view of the tragedy taking place. I ended up reaching my father much later in the day, and as it turned out, he was out on the road that morning for work purposes, and was nowhere near the city. I sighed in relief.
Taken on the NJ side of the Hudson, this is my father in October of 1998.
Several hours later, I did go to work on time out here in California, but obviously the whole country was concerned with what happened in New York and Washington D.C. that morning. Nobody was doing much work.
Everyone was concerned, especially when no one knew exactly what was up. There was a wash of misinformation going around as reporters speculated on things while trying to sort out the facts. Eventually, we did learn that it was carried out by Middle Eastern terrorists. One idea that trickled forth later in the day was that the very possible next targets were the propaganda machines that spread forth the message of Western decadence – Hollywood movie studios. I worked for the Walt Disney Studios. WE were possible targets. We were sent home early.
Obviously that was a terrible day. Those of you who lived through it probably remember, as I do, where you were and what you were doing when we learned of those events. Some of us might even have been there. I learned a few days later that a man who grew up in the house behind my childhood home had perished at the Pentagon. The tragedy struck home.
Ecclesiastes 9:12 tells us that no one knows when our time is up, but the Bible does give hope about how to use the time we have in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

50th Anniversary

I generally don’t get too personal here on the ol’ blog, but today is a mighty special day in the Frye family. On this day in 1968, my parents were joined together in holy matrimony.

I wanted to do something a bit special for their 50th anniversary. I hope they don’t mind, but I decided to interpret their 1967 engagement photo in my own little way. A time when I could only possibly have been a mere twinkle in their eyes as they prepared to spend their lives together.

The Merchant Marine and the nurse gave birth to a cartoonist. They’ve been wondering ever since where they went wrong.

As my own experiences have taught me, that had to have been a HUGE decision for them to make. I often marvel at how two total strangers from different upbringings can find each other and choose to craft a life together – a life that will undoubtedly have many ups and many downs.

Through thick and thin, and always with an eye towards the Lord, my parents have come through the ups and downs that 50 years together have presented. They have four children who love them, and love the Lord because of them. They have two sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law who are grateful to them for the children they taught and nurtured. And they have nine grandsons, all in varying stages of awareness of what their 50 years mean to our family.

Sure, they were smiling then, but that was because they had no idea what their son was going to do with this photo in 51 years.

Due to some mitigating circumstances, we all gathered together on their 49th anniversary last year. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t all be there to jump up from behind doors and couches to surprise them today on the day.

To my folks, thank you for always putting Christ first, and training up your children in the way we should go, so that when we reach your age, we will not depart from Him. (Proverbs 22:6) I love you.

Al Hirschfeld’s 115th Birthday!

June 21, 2018 marks the 115th birthday of one of America’s greatest artists, Al Hirschfeld.
With what seemed like just a few simple lines on white paper, Hirschfeld made it look easy to capture the best and the brightest in our society as he wielded his pen. He vacationed with Charlie Chaplin (a story he told me himself), had Marlene Dietrich over to his brownstone for breakfast, created movie posters for the Marx Brothers and Judy Garland, album covers for folks like Frank Sinatra, Aerosmith and everyone in between, inspired the Genie in Disney’s “Aladdin” and a sequence in “Fantasia 2000,” and drew just about everyone who appeared on Broadway in his lifetime.
Every day Al traveled up three flights of stairs to his studio that overlooked the bustling streets of uptown Manhattan to create more inked goodness. It was those same three flights of stairs I would traverse on my annual visits to the master when traveling back east for the Christmas holiday. As you’d near the top step of the last flight, you could see Al sitting in his famous barber chair at his well-worn desk hard at work on his next masterpiece.

I’m not sure why he dedicated his wall to me, but I sure was flattered!


Yes, I was honored to know Al, and am forever grateful for those visits to chat about what’s new, and to hope a little of his artistry would flow through his arm into mine when we shook hands. It’s hard to believe that he passed 15 years ago, just a few months shy of his 100th birthday. Here is a picture that hangs in my studio of one time when my brother and I stopped in to Al’s studio.

Of his desk, I asked Al why there were such deep grooves in the wood. He replied, “Well, I find that it is helpful once in a while, to cut a piece of paper.”