Frankenstein Jr.: The Comic Book.


Original Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1966
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1966 was a transition year for Hanna-Barbera, the decade's leading producer of television animation. That year, Peter Potamus, typical …

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… funny stuff of the sort they'd been doing since the studio began, went from the relative obscurity of syndication to a prominent spot on ABC's Saturday schedule. But it was also the year they launched Space Ghost, an adventure character with relatively little in the way of humorous overtones. That same year, they launched a show called Frankenstein Jr. & the Impossibles, which was a little of both.

Frankenstein Jr., whose adventures were featured in the main segment of the show, was not, as the name implied, a close relative of Mary Shelley's famous creation. In fact he wasn't even an organic monster, assembled from human parts, but a mechanical one, assembled from transistors, diodes and the like — which made him more closely related to Gigantor, a Japanese cartoon that had debuted in the U.S. in January, 1966. (This fit right in with Hanna-Barbera's penchant for swiping the basic situations from other shows, e.g., Honeymooners/Flintstones, Sgt. Bilko/Top Cat.) (Another apparent response to Gigantor was Rankin/Bass's King Kong.)

The assembling was done by Professor Conroy, who built the 30-foot robot for his son Buzz. Buzz and Frankie had wonderful (but not entirely serious) adventures together, with Buzz at the controls and Frankie using his robotic powers (which included not just enormous strength but also the ability to fly, using his jet-propelled astro boots, and to shoot power beams from his fingers) to foil crimes of all sorts.

The other segment starred The Impossibles (no relation), a bunch of slapstick superheroes along the lines of Terrytoons' Mighty Heroes or DC Comics' Inferior Five.

The show debuted on CBS, on September 10, 1966. Frankie's voice was done by Ted Cassidy, who played Lurch the Butler on both the live-action Addams Family TV show, and the later cartoon version. Buzz Conroy was Dick Beals, who voiced Ralph Phillips for Warner Bros. and Davey (of Davey & Goliath) for Art Clokey Productions. Buzz's dad was John Stephenson, who narrated Ruff & Reddy and played Mr. Finkerton on Inch High, Private Eye.

It ran two seasons, which consisted of endless reruns of the same 18 half-hour shows. Along with the usual merchandising, Gold Key Comics adapted it into comic book form, with Frankie on the cover and The Impossibles in the rear pages, but only one issue came out. In 1976, the Frankenstein Jr. segments were sandwiched between two Space Ghost episodes; and the resulting Space Ghost/Frankenstein Jr. Show was broadcast on NBC. Later, they were packaged into a couple of superhero variety shows, most recently in the 1990s, when the segments ran on Cartoon Network.


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Text ©2003-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.