Sitting in my desk are 3 different versions of comic books with Frankenstein monster as the main character.
I was going to write a review on each one, but instead I decided to make a quick entry on the history of this character and his relevance to comics.
I reserve the right to write the detailed individual reviews at a later date.
The Frankenstein monster is a complex and dramatic figure that has hounded the pages of literature and fiction since Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley created it in that famed holiday retreat she took with her later-to-be-husband and lord Byron at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. As most of you know, and if not, do the Wikipedia thing to get the details, the whole story came up to Mary in a dream, during the rainy summer of 1816. That was called the “Year Without a Summer”, as the world was locked in a long cold volcanic winter caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815.
I read the book for the first time when I was 13 or 14. I found it (at the time) excessive in atmosphere, and lacking is freights, but alas, I wasn’t able to envision its creation and its repercussions to the world in the proper context.
You see, Frankenstein; or the modern Prometheus, could be considered among the first items of literary modern science fiction. And it was written by a woman. A young woman. How is that for girl power?? And for Nerdy Girl Power??
Anyway, I recommend that if you haven’t read the original novel, you wait till you are sure that you are in the right mind frame to pick it up, otherwise it will likely pass you unappreciated.
The one thing you have to do before you pick it up is force yourself to forget any movie Hollywood may have made and you may have seen prior to the masterpiece done in 1994 titled simply Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh and with Robert DeNiro. The rest are very interesting films in of themselves, with different redeeming qualities, but none is worthy of the source material, except the one mentioned before.
But turning to comics, I have to admit that we may have an embarrassment of riches.
Lets see… we should maybe start by the Bronce Age Frankenstein Monster, published by Marvel, back in 1973, in the aptly titled The Monster of Frankenstein comic. It only ran for 18 issues and fans had to jump among different titles to read his adventures, cause Marvel pushed it into Monsters Unleashed magazine, and made the character do cross-overs with other Marvel capes.
There are stories about how the Marvel editor insisted on the art taking a different direction from the movies to avoid legal issues, and Mike Plogg obliged brilliantly.
The first four issiues of the collections were dedicated to retalling the original novel. Glorious art was provided by Mike Plogg, who at the time spearheaded also other horror Marvel titles, like Werewolf By Night. At some point in the collection, Marvel decided to bring the monster to present time, and they did so, letting it trade punches and grunts with Jack Russel and his hairy alter ego in Werewolf by Night, and appearing thanks to the amazing art of Val MAYERIK in Monsters Unleashed #6 and 7.
Art students, try to pick up those issues and be prepared for some mesmerizing art full of heart ambiance and perspective.
But in the US the Frankenstein monster had already been published by Dell in the 1950’s, and the more obscure but trivia-interesting version that writer-artist Dick Briefer for Prize Comics 1940 to 1954. The first version represents what comics historians call American comic books’ first ongoing horror feature.
And then we should also mention the Neal Adams book Monsters, where Neal manages to bring together The Vampire, The Werewolf and The Frankenstein creature in all their glory and threads a tale of intrigue and … whatever! Who cares! The art is Neal Adams!!!
Leaving nostalgia behind and moving onto more contemporary times I will later be reviewing Frankenstein’s Womb, a Graphic Novella by Warren Ellis published by Avatar press in 2009, and Frankenstein, published by Moonstone in 2002, both very worthy reads on their own, albeit of different nature.
Maybe later we should continue reminiscing about other monsters, what do you think?