Frankenstein: Monster Mash-Ups and Comics
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 Burlyman 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.
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.