A very real imaginary friend

Curio & Co. looks at the role of imaginary friends in classic comic Frank and His Friend. Curio and co. www.curioandco.com

The beloved doll from Frank and His Friend proves to be the best friend a kid could have.

The classic newspaper comic Frank and His Friend, created by artist Clarence ‘Otis’ Dooley, is about many things: childhood, adventure, avoiding broccoli. But mostly, it’s about friendship. And Frank is a terrific friend. He’s patient and loyal, good at keeping secrets, and never argues. Of course, it helps that Frank can’t talk.

Frank is a rather world-weary rag doll. If he seems a little skeptical of his Friend’s plans, that’s only because Frank remembers all too well the peril he has found himself in on past adventures. So many of the plans go awry, and Frank finds himself dropped into thorny bushes, mud, or – worse – a bath.

Reading the Frank and His Friend comics, you might be tempted to say “Poor Frank.” He is certainly subjected to a lot of untested ideas or questionable plans all in the name of adventure. He is even put into danger on purpose, all the better to secure a daring and heroic rescue. But through it all, it seems clear that Frank is happy to sacrifice himself time and time again – all in the name of friendship.

Whether or not Frank is real is definitely a matter of some debate. Many of the jokes in Frank and His Friend hinge on the fact that Frank really is an inanimate object and cannot do any of the things his friend has planned for him or has blamed Frank for. But so often in one of the comics Frank’s pose seems to have changed (perhaps only because from the natural shifting of the beans he’s stuffed with) and we find him slumped into a new position that seems to offer a comment on the scene around him.

And it’s this back and forth that makes Frank such an interesting character. He is both the real Frank and the imaginary one, allowing us as readers to be both the adult looking back on our own childhood and the child experiencing it all again first hand.