On this day, 13 April 1974: Shiver and Shake
On this day, 13 April 1974 … Frankie Stein’s great fun – both he and his ‘dad’ Professor Cube are terrific characters, and Robert Nixon’s slapstick artwork is often laugh-out-loud hilarious – but it’s only just struck me how dark the basic concept of the strip is. Essentially, it’s a weekly dippy dose of attempted prolicide. The brilliant Kazoop!! blog goes into much more detail on Frankie here, including a great scan of his earlier incarnation drawn by Ken Reid in 1960s Wham!, and is admirably understanding, almost forgiving, in his psychoanalysis of Cube – but as maniacal evil geniuses go, his is a hard case to defend.
Which is all fantastic! It’s this darker undertone that very often makes for greatness in comics, and it’s a recurring strength of British comics and the very best of British humour in particular. I was about to ask ‘Would it be made this way if it was new today?’, but actually I think that’s just lazy thinking; certainly the 1970s seem to have been an especially strong period for dark humour in children’s comics, but there’s so much diversity and outstanding creative talent out there that yes, I could easily imagine Frankie Stein being made by someone somewhere today. There’s a challenge – who’s going to bring back this brilliant character?
Talking of dark, and talking of Ken Reid, there’s another of his rich Creepy Creations on the back cover of this Shiver and Shake. The Hand, Scream Inn (I love the constant presence of the eyeballs watching from the shadows, like ghastly whispery sound effects – so simple yet so disturbing!), Lolly Pop, Grimly Feendish (who’s rather like Gru from Despicable Me), Horrornation St and Sweeny Toddler are all aces too, and this issues has the ‘origins’ first episodes of both Blunder Puss and The Ghost’s Revenge.