Monday, 2 November 2015


Mention the name FRANKIE STEIN to people of a certain
age and images of KEN REID's maniacal, mental and marvellous
comic strip character from WHAM! comic in the 1960s spring to
mind.  My main memories of Frankie are from this period, but it's
strange to realize that PROFESSOR CUBE's creepy creation
enjoyed far more fame on his second stab at the big time in
the 1970s than he experienced on his first outing.

Frankie appeared in Wham! around 142 times between
'64 & '67, and six times in the '66-'71 Annuals, but his '70s ap-
pearances in IPC comics SHIVER & SHAKE and WHOOPEE!
(not including MONSTER FUN, where he was honorary editor)
far outnumber his earlier ODHAMS PRESS strips.  What's more,
Ken Reid only illustrated 121 of Frankie's 142 Wham! outings,
and only two of the six Annual stories, although, as far as the
'60s are concerned, he's still the artist mainly associated
with the strip in most readers' minds.

Although I bought Shiver & Shake and Whoopee! when
they first came out,  I didn't stay with them (apart from the
odd issue) throughout their run.  Casting my mind back, I recall
being pleased to see Frankie again, but I was a little disappointed
that Ken hadn't resumed illustrating the cartoon antics of his comic
creation.  (Excellent 'though his successor ROBERT NIXON un-
doubtedly was.)  I also wondered where Prof. Cube's 'real' son
MICKY had disappeared to, as - apart from Reid reprints -
he was absent from the '70s incarnation of the strip.

This led to a potentially perplexing situations on occasion,
as in a reprinted Reid story where Prof. Cube goes on holiday
and Micky accompanies him on the 'plane - with no mention as to
who he actually is.  Older, more street-smart readers could per-
haps be forgiven for wondering why Cube had apparently taken to
hanging around with a young boy - and was taking him on holiday.
Yes, you're right - that's probably just a cynical, world-weary
adult view of things - not something that would've crossed
the minds of more innocent readers back then.

It's also interesting to note that Micky was present in only
one of the last 16 Wham! strips, so it seems that he was in
the process of being phased out anyway - regarded, perhaps, as
surplus to requirements.  If so, then the '70s strips basically just
picked up where Wham! ones left off, and Micky's absence is
consequently less surprising than at first thought.

So for fans like me, it's Ken Reid's version of the character
that remains the definitive one, but the fact is - we're probably
in the minority.  To readers of the '70s, Frankie was an even big-
ger comic star for a longer period, and Robert Nixon is the artist
with whom Frankie is mainly associated.  Every '60s Frankie
strip would fit into one relatively thin volume, whereas his
'70s pages would fill two or three thicker ones, at least.

Having featured Ken's version of Frankie several times
in the past on this blog, it's now time to acknowledge Robert
Nixon's even more popular incarnation of the comical creature.
I've been reading through these '70s strips over the last few weeks
and Nixon's version of Frankie, 'though just as gormless as Reid's,
is more lovable - and probably more innocent.  They're an enjoy-
able read indeed, and make me wonder if the strip might've had
a longer run the first time around if Nixon's simpler style had
       been adopted from the start.  Who knows?      


Philip Crawley said...

Good though the Nixon Frankies are I'd have to say that, as you no doubt do as well, Ken Reid's original is the version that will forever be Frankie. Interesting how meta the whole thing is with characters from the strip talking to the editor of the comic the strip appears in! Like a cast member from a TV sitcom conferring with the producer or something. As an aside, to think schoolteachers used to be able to get away with assualting their students - glad those days are long gone!

Kid said...

To me, Ken Reid's Frankie is the definitive one, PC, but I've developed a growing appreciation for Robert Nixon's version. His Frankie was cuter and more likable for some reason. And you're right about schoolteachers, although now it's the pupils who assault them.

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