Roger Bollen was the writer and illustrator of the "Animal Crackers" syndicated comic strip, artist of dozens of children's books and producer of television shows.

Bollen, who lived in Chagrin Falls, was a prolific creator who started out in newspaper comics strips and went on to illustrate more than 50 children's books with his second wife, Marilyn Sadler. He later created shows for the Disney Channel that included "Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century," "Handy Manny" and an animated version of "Animal Crackers."

Bollen was born in East Cleveland and graduated from Shaw High School and Kent State University, where he was given the Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Art in 2000.

Tom Batiuk, creator of the Funky Winkerbean comic strip, said Bollen was a friend and inspiration.

"When I was in college at Kent State, I got his phone number,"  Batiuk said. "I called and said I wanted to meet him and ask his advice on the comic business. He refused. I called again and he refused. I called a third time and he said okay. He later told me he always turns down people the first two times to make sure they are serious."

Batiuk said Bollen offered excellent advice and became a good friend.

"He was a very funny guy. He always made me laugh," Batiuk said. "At one point he was doing three strips at once. I later was also doing three strips at once and he called and said 'Hey, you don't have to copy everything I do.'"

His first comic strip was "Animal Crackers," a series set around a group of animals living in a jungle called "Freeborn." The strip appeared in The Plain Dealer for many years.

Bollen lived in several cities in the Greater Cleveland area, including Moreland Hills, Shaker Heights and Kirtland Hills.

It was in Kirtland Hills that he suffered a setback when a fire damaged his new studio in his half-million dollar estate in 1991, destroying much of his art. Even more art was lost when workers tried to repair damages from the first fire and accidentally started a second blaze.

Bollen also created the strip "Catfish" with Gary Peterman, and "Funny Business," which were also syndicated.

His daughter said he stopped writing and drawing "Animal Crackers" in 1992 because "he just got tired of it and wanted to work on television."

He soon got his wish when "Animal Crackers" moved to television from 1997-99. He created a live action show for girls on the Disney Channel called "Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century" in 1999 and followed it with a show for young boys called "Handy Manny,"which ran for 34 episodes from 2006-09.

The more than 50 children's books he illustrated with his former wife, Marilyn Sadler as the writer, include the series "P.J. Funnybunny" and "Alistair's Elephant" and many more.

Roger Bollen died in 2015 at the age of 74. 

Works by Roger Bollen