Wil Panganiban’s Frank and Steinway is an entertaining and amusing comic strip built around the premise that Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula were laid off by the movie studio and forced to seek other employment. They end up as roommates in the style of The Odd Couple, working at a Starbucks and trying to keep afloat in hard times. Panganiban is currently running a Kickstarter campaign in order to finance publication of a second book of his collected strips, “Curse of the Vampire Panda.”
Frank and Steinway began as a webcomic in 2010, syndicated on GoComics; in 2015, Panganiban added a Patreon campaign. I first became aware of Frank and Steinway a few years ago when Panganiban joined the Comic Art Professional Society (CAPS), a Los Angeles-based social group for cartoonists, of which I am currently Vice-President. I finally decided that this Kickstarter was a good excuse to write a review for for the strip, even though we’re generally reluctant to promote our friends and their projects here. So, full disclosure: Wil Panganiban is a friend of mine, though I make it a policy to not promote stuff I don’t like, even for friends.
Having spent a few years unemployed after being unceremoniously laid off at the beginning of the 2008 global economic meltdown, I appreciated the setup for Frank and Steinway; here are two guys who have worked hard for decades to build careers, only to find themselves cut loose. It felt very familiar, and the appealing art and funny sequences and dialog amused me. For instance, Dracula learns that he had sold the right to his name to the studio years prior, so now he goes by Frank, while Frankenstein’s monster never had a name, so he chose to name himself after a grand piano because he liked it.
The characters are the famous movie monsters, but they also portrayed themselves in all those movies, making for a clever opportunity for meta-comedy, commenting on the tropes of monster films, celebrity, and the working world.
In addition to the two named in the title, the strip has a recurring cast of characters who add to the fun. There’s Tamira, the cute girl next door who leaves Steinway tongue-tied; Wolfie, the werewolf who occasionally takes up residence on the sofa; the guys in apartment 3M (a pirate and a ninja); and Chelsea, the Woodchuck Scout who is relentlessly aggressive at cookie sales and eventually becomes part of their circle. Other monstrous creatures also pass through, including zombies, mummies, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Frank and Steinway is an example the classic gag-a-day comic strip with a recurring cast of characters, in which humor is rooted in the interaction and conflicts between the different personalities; in recent years, this format has declined in popularity due to the decline of the daily newspaper and the rise of comics built around random gags with no recurring characters, following in the footsteps of Gary Larsen’s The Far Side. Panganiban delivers a consistent stream of laughs; had he created the strip prior to the 1990s, it would be a mainstay of the comics world today.
The Frank and Steinway Kickstarter campaign ends on May 1, so now’s the time to get on board.
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