Frank and His Friend

Frank and His Friend was a popular newspaper comic in the late 1970s and early 1980s, featuring an inventive and enthusiastic unnamed child and his rag doll named Frank. The comic was created by Clarence 'Otis' Dooley and syndicated by Button Features. At its height of popularity, the characters graced everything from lunchboxes and t-shirts to bed sheets and wallpaper. In 1982, creator Clarence ‘Otis’ Dooley was even in negotiations with Benday Studios to bring Frank and His Friend to television sets in an animated series. (Although the deal ultimately fell through when the studio folded as a result of heavy investment into the North American laser disc market, much of the pre-production work still exists.)

Before getting his big break, Dooley worked for a number of years illustrating hog oilers for Cudworth-Hooper's successful line of agricultural and industrial equipment. While not exactly a comedy training ground (though 'hog oiler' sounds like a pretty hilarious piece of equipment), working for Cudworth-Hooper allowed Dooley to hone his drafting skills and keep working with his drawing tools.

After getting his big break to create the comic strip Frank and His Friend, Dooley was quoted as saying that he would never buy any Cudworth-Hooper appliances for the family home. "Not once I've seen how they're made," he said.

In 1982, creator Clarence ‘Otis’ Dooley was in negotiations with Benday Studios to bring Frank and His Friend to television sets in an animated series. (Although the deal ultimately fell through when the studio folded as a result of heavy investment into the North American LaserDisc market, much of the pre-production work still exists.)


Too Many Ideas, Too Little Time

Thinking about those 52 images in Finding Frank and his Friend that were previously unpublished really gets us wondering about why Otis Dooley set them aside.  We asked Dooley’s son Lance about it at the book’s presentation this summer:

 “You know, we never saw the same thing that he saw in his work.  Sometimes he’d complain about a particular image and toss it in the trash.  Once he started over, maybe he’d change a line here or shade things differently – so subtle that we couldn’t really see what was different.  But afterward we could tell he was right…

But why he chose to put these aside – I just don’t know.  My Dad had so many ideas and so many concepts that he wanted use, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he just thought these didn’t quite come up to the next idea he had in his head.”

Grown-ups in Frank and His Friend

If they’re not with us, they’re against us.

In the world of Frank and His Friend, relatives come in only two categories: Those bearing gifts or cookies, and those that require everyone to wear their uncomfortable Sunday Best.

Although the main characters are often seen addressing the audience as a parent or relative, Frank and His Friend are most often alone, and the adults are left to our imagination. The aftermath of adults’ actions is shown – Frank and His Friend sitting out a punishment in the corner, perhaps, or covered in Grandma’s lipstick. But the two characters are in the kid world, where adults are on the sidelines.

And since adults aren’t part of the day-to-day dreaming and playtime of children, in Frank and His Friend they are reduced to the most basic of characters. No teachers, since the child isn’t quite school age, and no babysitters. That leaves only parents and relatives, and aside from parents, these family members are old enough that their ability to relate to children has somewhat diminished. They don’t get down on the floor to crawl around and play with Frank and His Friend, but instead communicate through the supposed desire of the child (cookies), or their own (cheek-pinching).

And just like life, sometimes those cookies cost more than they’re advertised.

Clarence 'Otis' Dooley: Always Drawing

“My Dad was always drawing. Even when he wasn’t working. He would draw at the dinner table or waiting in line at the Post Office. The only time he wasn’t drawing, actually, was when us kids were drawing. He loved sitting down with us when we had the coloring books and crayons and big pieces of butcher paper out. But he rarely drew with us then. He just kind of sat staring at us… marveling at what we produced. He always said that drawings by kids were so much better designed and more free. Of course, we just thought he was crazy.”

Lance Dooley, son of Clarence ‘Otis’ Dooley

Frank and His Friend: Inspiration from the Dooley Household

“We didn’t get in trouble a lot as kids, but we were…pretty spirited. I can remember one time my Mom had her Sandusky Women’s Musical Appreciation Society and Bunco Club meeting at our house, and Jamie and I wanted to show off our new gymnastic skills – I think the Olympics were going on at the time. Jamie went into a cartwheel and the cape – we were wearing Superman capes for dramatic effect – caught the edge of a serving tray of Mrs. Plunderton’s low-sodium, high-fiber, no sugar, whole-wheat raisin cookies, which all tumbled onto the patio floor. My Mom was probably pleased – the cookies were horrible – but what could she do? She had to give us some kind of punishment on Mrs. Plunderton’s account.”

Lance Dooley, son of Clarence ‘Otis’ Dooley

Making a Name for Yourself

“I’m really surprised that my Dad never published this idea.

On the one hand, it pretty clearly addresses the question of which one was Frank.  For my Dad, Frank was always the doll, and always the only one with a name. The newspapers always wanted to run contests for people to get to name the child, but my Dad always shut those down. He was insistent that the child was everyone.

But even more than the name issue, this one touches on my Dad’s dislike for society telling people they had to make a name for themselves. I can remember my Dad saying, ‘Don’t worry about making a name for yourself. Just worry about making a life for yourself.’”

Lance Dooley, son of Clarence ‘Otis’ Dooley

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