FRANKIE DOODLEMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1934
Creator: Ben Batsford
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Frankie Doodle is most often compared to the Little Annies — Orphan and Rooney. But he didn't start out an itinerant orphan like them. In fact, he was part of a family strip, The Doodle Family, and (like Winky of The Ryatts) was the de facto star even tho it was supposedly about all of them. But the other Doodles were written
out shortly after the strip began, making him the title character of the comic all by himself.
The cartoonist, Ben Batsford (Doings of the Duffs) had been responsible for Little Annie Rooney just a few years before starting this strip, and he'd apparently gotten comfortable with doing stories about an orphan on the lam. Annie was running from her legal guardian, whose reason for being so avoidable was summed up by her name, Miss Meany. Frankie was running from his own heritage as heir to a fortune — provided he could keep it from his crooked lawyer, Mr. Shady, once Shady got his hands on the boy. Also blighting his life was Mrs. Krule, another name-tells-all character, whose orphanage he had to escape from time to time.
But there were good guys in his life, too. A cook, Ming Low, often gave him refuge in Chinatown. Much more important to his status as an orphan with world-spanning adventures was Captain Ku, an inscrutable but benevolent Chinese secret agent. Tho perennially younger than another adventuring orphan, Tim Tyler, Frankie managed to visit equally exotic locales with Ku's help.
The distributor of Batsford's comic was United Feature Syndicate, which also handled The Captain & the Kids, Tarzan and Ella Cinders. It started with the whole family in 1934, but by '35, Frankie was the sole titular hero.
Unlike a lot of comic strip heroes, Frankie never got into radio shows or Big Little Books. But he did last until the early days of comic books. Like a lot of United Feature stars, such as Nancy and Li'l Abner, his strips were reprinted in Sparkler Comics. In fact, before the regular series of Sparkler started, there were two that featured a single star. One was Jim Hardy. The other was Frankie.
But he failed to sustain reader interest. In 1938, the strip folded.