Drake was born in New York, New York and started drawing cartoons at the age of 12, when a bout of scarlet fever had him confined to bed. During his illness, he recalled, "The talk balloons got larger and larger and the pictures got smaller and smaller." Bent upon becoming a scriptwriter, he studied Journalism at the University of Missouri and later New York University. In his 50-plus-year writing career, he created numerous notable comics titles and received 5 industry awards. He also wrote several film scripts and songs and the books and lyrics for musicals. He was married to Lillian Levy of Brooklyn, New York for 52 years upon her passing in 2004 and left a daughter, Pamela, and two granddaughters, Anastasia and Tatiana, upon his passing in 2007.
Drake is notable for co-creating It Rhymes with Lust, perhaps the first American graphic novel ever published, in 1950, with Matt Baker, the first African-American comics artist to gain prominence in mainstream comics.
The first appearance of the Doom Patrol pre-dated that of the X-Men by a scant three months. The vague similarity in concept (group of misfits led by a mysterious wheel-chair bound genius, and similarly named enemies (Brotherhood of Evil and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants)) has led to speculation as to the relation between them, if any.
According to Comic Coverage: Which Came First: The Mutant or The Freak?, creator Arnold Drake felt:
- "...I’ve become more and more convinced that (Stan Lee) knowingly stole The X-Men from The Doom Patrol. Over the years I learned that an awful lot of writers and artists were working surreptitiously between (Marvel and DC). Therefore from when I first brought the idea into (DC editor) Murray Boltinoff’s office, it would’ve been easy for someone to walk over and hear that (I was) working on a story about a bunch of reluctant superheroes who are led by a man in a wheelchair. So over the years I began to feel that Stan had more lead time than I realized. He may well have had four, five or even six months."
Drake also created Stanley and His Monster, a long-running feature in the 'Fox and the Crow' magazine, which he scripted while at DC.
He also wrote issues of Marvel Comics' X-Men and Fantastic Four in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and created The Guardians of the Galaxy with artist Gene Colan.
Drake was also notable during his tenure at DC Comics for writing running story lines for the Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis humor magazines. DC Comics halted production on those titles shortly after he went to Marvel Comics in the late 1960's.
Drake received many awards for his contributions to the comics industry over the years, including 2 Alley Awards in 1967, an Inkpot Award in 1999, the first annual Bill Finger Award in 2005, and a posthumous Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame Award in 2008.
Drake also was screenwriter and director of THE FLESH EATERS, a horror movie released in 1962 (which also boasts a song written by Arnold, "Pete's Beat," playing over the opening credits), and WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR, starring Sal Mineo and Juliet Prowse, a thriller released in 1966. He also wrote the book and lyrics to two children's musicals, "SMART ALEC," a portrait of Alexander Graham Bell, and "YOU'LL NEVER GET IT OFF THE GROUND" about the Wright Brothers, as well as a musical celebrating Gilbert and Sullivan entitled "G&S, OR THE OILS OF ARABY," the music to which was written by his brother, acclaimed songwriter Ervin Drake. Drake was previewing a musical he had written, "HARRY WARREN'S LULLABY OF BROADWAY" in New York City shortly before a similar musical opened on 42nd Street entitled, of course, 42ND STREET.