Tuesday, January 27

The Frankenstein Monster

I've been on a bit of a Frankenstein kick lately, Mighty Marvel style!

I've been reading the Marvel Essentials THE MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN trade paperback and have to say I've really been enjoying it. I never had a chance to read these comics in their original format, which was published from 1973-1975. The original comic books were printed in color, but this book, as with all the Essentials line, is printed in black and white. This series, however, unlike Marvel's Tomb of Dracula series, really does work better in color, and it's a shame they haven't been collected together in that format. That said, it is still a great opportunity to enjoy a collection of stories that I otherwise probably never would get a chance to read.

The book was originally titled THE MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN, but starting with issue #6 they changed it to THE FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER. The storyline continued despite the slight name change, which I doubt readers even noticed or cared much about it, truth to tell.

Issues 1 - 11 were written by Gary Friedrich, who kept the series fairly faithful to the source material, Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein. Doug Moench takes over the writing from issues 12-17, and the final issue of the original run was written by Bill Mantlo. Pencils and inks were done by Mike Ploog, John Buscema, John Verpoorten, Bob Brown, Jil Kane and Val Mayerik. The series was edited by Swamp Thing writer Len Wein.

The main character is, as stated in the title, the Monster of Frankenstein. He is frozen in a block of ice and is found by a descendent of Robert Walton, the ship captain from the original novel to whom the story is told. The first couple of issues are basically Mary Shelley's novel told from the creature's perspective. It explains the monster's survival from the end of that novel and continues his further adventures. The early issues are really good, and the creature in these is a tragic character as in the novel, who is torn between survival and the need for human companionship, which he is forever denied due to his inhuman origin and hideous looks.

This series started off strong, but kind of degenerated into a murky mess as it went along. Somewhere along the way the comic loses focus and the character changes from a sympathetic character to a super powerful killing machine bent on the murder of every member of the Frankenstein lineage.

It was during the Doug Moench run of the series that the book jumps off track for me. The monster loses his ability to speak, which throws off much of his humanity. Perhaps he wanted to make the monster more like the Universal version. But with the loss of his speaking ability the monster also apparantly loses intelligence, and becomes little more than a super strong brute. He also becomes increasingly more powerful - where earlier in the series a single rifle blast almost kills him, he later becomes completely impervious to bullets.

The monster is brought into current times during the Moench run by means of being frozen in a block of ice (for the second time). The book runs even more off track for me at this point, as he is really out of place in modern soceity and the monster's motivation become even more muddled. He is just a dumb brute, and little of the humanity that makes him so appealing early on exists in the later creature.

Despite all this, I have to say I am still enjoying the series. I am about three quarters of the way through the book, and look forward to finishing out the series. Included in this collection are the original series issues 1-18, GIANT-SIZE WEREWOLF #2 (a crossover issue), and stories from MONSTERS UNLEASHED #2 and #4-10 which all feature the Monster.

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