Thursday 25th December 2014,
Comic Booked

Frankenstein: Monster Mash-Ups and Comics

Comic Booked Guest Writer 07/17/2011 Reviews

Frankenstein’s Monster first appeared in Mary Shelley’s famous novel almost two hundred years ago, though you wouldn’t know it to look at the shelves in your local comic store. Appearing simultaneously in books tying in to two major comic crossovers (both Flashpoint and Fear Itself), ol’ neckbolt head’s never been more popular. Although presumably it helps that the character is in the public domain, a fact that no doubt also lies behind the recent wave of literary horror mash-ups such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Of course Alan Moore was there first with his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, featuring a Mr Hyde who bore a strong resemblance to Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk, just as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby may well have drawn inspiration from Shelley’s monster! Mash-ups are not as new a trend as we may think after all!

Marvel and DC have had a long history with the Monster. There was also a recent series from the now-defunct Doc Frankenstein Burly Man EntertainmentBurlyman Entertainment, the comic company owned by the Wachowskis. However, Doc Frankenstein shared some of the flaws of their well-known Matrix series (as well as, arguably, their adaptation of V for Vendetta) – sledgehammer-subtle political commentary that undermined the excellent art from Steve Skroce. Still, the Wachowskis understood one aspect of Shelley’s creation that has eluded many previous adaptations. The Monster is not the mute, childish creature of the defining James Whale films, but rather an articulate and passionate antagonist.

When ‘Agent Frankenstein of S.H.A.D.E.’ appeared in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis series, it was clear the Scotsman understood that it was necessary to return to the character some of the passion and intelligence that had been lost in the years following the publication of Shelley’s novel. The look of the character finally leaves behind Boris Karloff’s lumbering form, with Doug Mahnke’s redesign giving him the appearance of a necro-Byronic hero, an undead dandy with a sword.

Jeff Lemire‘s contribution to DC’s Flashpoint crossover impressively blends many of the elements touched on above. Flashpoint: Frankenstein & the Creatures of the Unknown has the Monster teamed up with a Wolfman, an overbearing vampire and a female Creature of the Black Lagoon, a combination that riffs both on the classic DC Creature Comandos team, as well as the Universal horror films that inspired that title. Lemire’s script also retains the more poetic and articulate Monster from the Seven Soldiers series, here awakened to fight Nazis instead of the Sheeda invaders. To round all of that off, the book is reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series, and possesses a similar sense of fun, although Lemire concentrates on the comic book history he has chosen to reinvent instead of the mythological leanings of the Dark Horse franchise.

Frankenstein Jeff Lemire

However, what is most promising about Lemire’s take is that he has also just reintroduced the Bride into the DCU with the second issue of this miniseries. What’s more, the cover of his post-Flashpoint Frankenstein ongoing shows that the mash-up of James Whale’s Bride and the goddess Kali (Grant Morrison’s head must be a wonderful place to live) will continue to star along Frankenstein in his future DC adventures.

September cannot come soon enough.

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  1. Jason Franks 07/17/2011 at 3:26 pm

    Always my favourite of the classic screen monsters.

    I recently watched CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, with Peter Cushing (1957). Christopher Lee, in the role of the Monster, doesn't have a single line of dialogue. I can't even remember Robert DeNiro's monster from Kenneth Branagh's most recent installment.

    I enjoyed DOC FRANKENSTEIN pretty well, but yeah–not exactly subtle, was it? FRANKENSTEIN was, I thought, one of the best of the Seven Soldiers books, some of which were excellent, and some of which were not. Am I mistaken in thinking that the Bride appeared in that as well?

    • Emmet OCuana 07/17/2011 at 7:32 pm

      Oh the early Hammer films are the best. Love them, especially Vampire Circus, which was the first horror film I ever saw and left me all confused by its mixture of scares and titillation.

      God love 'em, those were more innocent days.

      Frankie as a liberal lover and fighter was a great idea, but wow did the Wachowskis belabour the point. Imaginative and fun, yes, but the excesses of the book crippled it. What has happened to Steve Skroce? I haven't seen anything from him in a while.

      Yes The Bride is Grant's creation – which is why I made that crack about being inside his head. She's fantastic and I'd love to see her get a higher profile in the DCU (Frankie too, but his girl is just cool).

      • Jason Franks 07/20/2011 at 11:40 pm

        Well, I guess 'subtle' was never the Wachkowski Siblings' strong point. (Note: no longer brothers).

        Steve Skroce has probably gone back to doing concept art for da movies–I was a bit surprised to see him back in comics for Doc Frankenstein, I admit.

        It's our loss.

        • Emmet OCuana 07/21/2011 at 3:05 am

          You'll note I specifically referred to them as the Wachowskis throughout. I hope they recover the career momentum they lost after The Matrix sequels some day.

  2. John I. 07/17/2011 at 6:38 pm

    Frankenstein fighting Nazis strikes me as a violation. Granted, I haven't read the series and I don't have a direct take on how it's done,. It is coming from a common Teutonic origin. (Heck, it's claimed that Darmstadt is the inspiration for the original novel). The notion that Frankenstein could be of Teutonic origin while combating Nazis bear some exploration. I haven't read the series. It could be hit or miss, but I am inspired to check it out.

    • Emmet OCuana 07/17/2011 at 7:39 pm

      I am not sure I understand what you mean by violation. I subscribe to the Mel Brooks school of ridiculing Nazism instead of regarding it with some kind of shocked awe. Having Frankenstein slicing and dicing gestappo was an amusing enough sequence – it is only a short one. As it is DC have had to bend over backwards to explain why the JSA didn't resolve WWII in a thrice with that whole idea of the Spear of Destiny. Lemire dispenses with that pretence by having Shelley's creation bulldoze his way into Hitler's bunker.

      I'm not sure Frankenstein's Monster would be regarded as Teutonic either, certainly not in the sense intended by the Nazis. He is described as having been knitted together from the corpses of humans and animals and so would not have been regarded as 'pure'. If anything Nazism is a natural enemy of Frankenstein given their views on race.

    • Jordamus Prime 07/18/2011 at 12:52 am

      To put it in the most basic sense- Picture Hellboy if it starred Frankenstien and the main hero had a different attitude.

      • Emmet OCuana 07/18/2011 at 3:20 am

        Yeah Lemire himself described it this way –

        I remember describing it as We3 meets Hellboy. And they really liked that. So that's how it happened.

        • Jordamus Prime 07/18/2011 at 10:09 am

          I thought it was great too, I actually had zero interest in reading it but I ended up recieving a copy to check out, and I loved it. I'm really looking forward to it this fall!

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