31 Days of Frankenstein: Wolverine and the Missing Campfire

Campfire’s Frankenstein (2010)

Campfire’s adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles wasn’t particularly inspired and I feel the same way about their Frankenstein. But though there’s nothing new here for hardcore fans of the Monster or comics in general, it wouldn’t be a bad adaptation to hand someone who’s curious about Frankenstein, but intimidated by the prospect of reading the novel. It’s longer (and so, fuller in detail) than Steve Niles Little Books of Horror version and the art is closer than Fantasy Classics to what new readers might expect from the story. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it over those books to people who are familiar with Shelley’s tale and/or comics art, but for a novice audience, Campfire’s version gets the job done.

Days Missing #2 (2010)

Based on an unproduced Gene Roddenberry concept, Days Missing is about an alien who watches over humanity and intervenes when necessary to make historical course-corrections and ensure our species’ survival. In the second issue, the Steward visits the nineteenth century and prevents the creation of a real-life Frankenstein Monster. Mary Shelley’s around to witness it and though the Steward erases her memory of it, she carries the experience in her subconscious until that night at Villa Diodati. Days Missing is a great series that represents the best of what Roddenberry was about.

Wolverine and the X-Men (2012)

This is cheating in a couple of ways. Not only is it not out yet, it’s about a version we’ve already covered. I just think it’s cool that as I’m wrapping up this series, Marvel’s announcing the return of their version of the Monster to one of their major books. Not only that, but the book is an heir to the one in which the Monster (or a version of him) first appeared in the Marvel Universe. I don’t know if the Monster’s joining the team or just showing up for one story, but I’m excited to find out which.

And that finishes off this series. There were a ton of versions I left out, from the other version of Dracula vs Frankenstein (thanks to Mike DeStasio for emailing me about that one) and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter to Bikini Frankenstein and Blackenstein. We could easily do another 31 Days of Frankenstein next year if we wanted, but this year’s list gave me plenty of material to add to my reading list and viewing queue. Hopefully it did the same for you.

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31 Days of Frankenstein: Do Not Build an Unwritten Graphic Treehouse

My schedule got away from me the last couple of days of October, mostly because of Halloween. I’m very sorry about that. I’m backdating these last two Frankenstein posts to keep myself organized. Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!

Graphic Classics, Volume 15: Fantasy Classics (2008)

If you’ve never read one of the Graphic Classics volumes, you’re missing out. Most of them are themed around a single author; many of them horror-related like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Recently though, they’ve produced some genre-themed volumes like Adventure Classics, Science Fiction Classics, and Gothic Classics. Each volume features one or two popular stories as well as adaptations of lesser-known works, so reading them is always an educational experience. And since editor Tom Pomplun always chooses fantastic, stylish artists, they’re as fun as they are informative.

There are two Frankenstein-related stories in Fantasy Classics, both written by my pal Rod Lott from Bookgasm and Flick Attack. The first is a short prologue in which Rod and artists Mark A Nelson tell the story of that night at Lake Geneva when Byron issued his famous challenge that inspired Mary Shelley to create her masterpiece. The second – illustrated by Skot Olsen – adapts the novel itself.

Nelson’s style is literal and gothic, but Olsen has a humorous cartoonish look that’s surprising for such a dark story. As someone who’s seen a lot of adaptations of Frankenstein, I found it refreshing, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as someone’s first exposure to the story. It’s meant to be a new take on the familiar tale, leading the reader to discover Fantasy Classics‘ more obscure stories like L Frank Baum’s “The Glass Dog” or Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Unwritten #3 (2009)

The Unwritten is a comic book series about a man named Tom Taylor whose father wrote a series of Harry Potter-like books about his son, sort of the way AA Milne based Christopher Robin on his own boy. As an adult, Taylor makes a living doing convention appearances until events transpire to make him (and the world) question just how made up his dad’s novels were.

By the third issue, Taylor is trying to learn more about his father’s work and visits Villa Diodati, that Lake Geneva mansion where Mary Shelley dreamed up Frankenstein and – not coincidentally – Taylor’s dad wrote his novels. It was also the last place Wilson Taylor had been seen before mysteriously disappearing at the height of his popularity. The Monster doesn’t make an appearance in the story itself, but according to Chris Murphy at Comics Alliance, there’s a short, illustrated scene from Frankenstein and Unwritten uses the Monster as an analogy for creations that slip out of their creators’ control, much like Wilson Taylor’s books appear to have done. I’ve been wanting to read The Unwritten since it was first announced and Murphy’s article has revitalized that interest.

Do Not Build a Frankenstein (2009)

An important book. You wouldn’t think that this is a message people still need to hear, but mad scientists are pretty dense. Hope it finally sinks in.

The Simpsons: “Treehouse of Horror” (2003-2010)

I think the first time The Simpsons directly spoofed Frankenstein was Treehouse of Horror XIV when Dr. Frink revived his dead father to disastrous consequences. That wasn’t the only time the Monster’s appeared on the show though.

In the opening for Treehouse of Horror XX, he tries to terrorize Springfield with some monster buddies and gets made fun of for being too old-fashioned. He, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy get new, hipper costumes (the Monster dresses up like Spongebob) and head to the Simpsons house for a costume party before getting busted by their wives. He showed up again in last year’s Treehouse of Horror XXI, again in the opening sequence, during a spoof of The Office that featured various monsters working at Monster Mifflin.

31 Days of Frankenstein: Big Book of Narcissa Malfoy vs the Wolfman

Big Book of Horror (2006)

In 2005, Steve Niles teamed up with three different artists to create a series of children’s books based on classic horror literature. He and Ted McKeever did War of the Worlds, he worked with Richard Sala to adapt Dracula, and his partner on Frankenstein was Scott Morse. They called the series Little Books of Horror and collected them the following year in a Big Book of Horror volume.

The Frankenstein adaptation is very faithful and from a writing standpoint, it’s my favorite in the series. There’s not enough room to include everything – the blind hermit’s gone, for example – but some of Niles’ cuts make the story easier on kids. For example, I certainly appreciated for my son’s sake that the book doesn’t mention that Frankenstein’s murdered brother was just a young boy. That doesn’t change the focus of the story, it just tones it down a little for younger readers. It’s a great adaptation for kids and Morse’s artwork is stylishly gorgeous.

Frankenstein (2007)

This British TV movie is another updating of the story to modern times. This time around, it’s Dr. Victoria Frankenstein (played by Draco’s mom from Harry Potter) who’s performing the experiments, trying to clone seriously sick, eight-year-old William (her son, not brother, in this version) in order to create a ready organ donor for him. The experiments go wrong and the clone develops into a monster.

What’s interesting about this version is that the gender swap isn’t arbitrary. Lady Frankenstein did the same thing, but the point seemed to be the sort of feminist message that women could be mad scientists too. In this version, Victoria Frankenstein is neither as mad nor as irresponsible as her literary counterpart. She’s unethical in the way she conducts her research, but with her son’s life at stake, her moral lapse is something audiences can sympathize with if not endorse. And once she realizes the consequences of her actions – that she’s accidentally brought to life a new creation – she takes responsibility for it and tries to nurture it.

Whether or not it’s something that can be nurtured is another question. One that the film apparently (I haven’t seen it) leaves unanswered. That’s disappointing, because making a decision about that could have been a fascinating commentary on Shelley’s novel. Frankensteinia has a round-up of reviews about it, none of which are promising.

(This version sounds close enough to Splice that I’m sort of sorry I didn’t include that movie on my list, but instead of adding it, I’ll just point you to my review of it. It’s not a Frankenstein adaptation, but it’s very much a Frankenstein movie. I ultimately didn’t care for it, but it does some things very very well in the first two acts.)

Frankenstein vs the Wolf Man in 3D (2008)

This 20-minute film was created entirely on home computers and the animation reflects the limitations of that equipment, but it’s very much worth watching. The Monster’s look is all Universal, but his heart and intelligence are Mary Shelley’s. That’s a fascinating juxtaposition since the Universal version has almost always been portrayed as slow and stupid. The almost-exception to that was in Bride of Frankenstein when the Monster was beginning to learn speech, but that development was discarded when James Whale left the series. It’s cool to see what might have been had they continued on that path.

The story in Frankenstein vs the Wolfman is very good too. It has the Monster teaming up with some other orphans to fight the werewolf who’s menacing the town. It’s a simple idea, but there’s a lot of heart in it.

31 Days of Frankenstein: Seven Soldiers Forever Make a Sandwich

Frankenstein Now and Forever (2005)

I’ve mentioned before my favorite line in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: “I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine; a rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.” There are a lot of themes in the book, but that’s the one that speaks to me most, because it expresses a kind of profound loneliness that I suspect most people have felt at one time or another. I know I have.

Swiss cartoonist Baladi’s Frankenstein Now and Forever is the story of a couple of lonely girls – roommates, but not friends – who live in modern-day Geneva, Victor Frankenstein’s hometown. While struggling with their own feelings of monstrousness, the girls discover a discarded box with an old copy of Frankenstein in it. Though the Monster begins to haunt one of the girls’ dreams and the other thinks it holds clues about a missing boyfriend, this isn’t a supernatural story. It is however a horror tale. The horror is completely mundane and ordinary, but all the more frightening because of it. Highly recommended.

Seven Soldiers (2006)

There were several cool things about Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers project, starting with the unique format of being a self-contained crossover that wasn’t meant to drive up sales on existing titles or launch any new ones. It was a crossover event for people who were tired of the commercial cynicism of crossover events. And then there were the titles themselves.

All were enjoyable, but my favorite (you’ll be shocked to hear) was Frankenstein. It wasn’t the first time the Monster had appeared in a DC comic. That would be Detective Comics #145, in which Batman and Robin are transported to the past to help a time-traveling professor get out of the mess he’s gotten into while trying to verify the truth of Mary Shelley’s story. The Monster was resurrected in the ’70s as Spawn of Frankenstein, a back-up series in The Phantom Stranger that eventually led to team-ups in the main part of the book and even a battle with Superman.

Morrison ignored all that though to create a new, pulp-inspired, monster-hunting version of the character who eventually joined SHADE (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive), a US government organization that assesses and contains supernatural threats. After Seven Soliders, the Monster made brief appearances in Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, and Blackest Night before landing his own Flashpoint series, Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown. That in turn led into the current, New 52 series, Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE by Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli. I also highly recommend that one, but for completely different reasons than Now and Forever.

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (2006)

Actually a book of illustrated poems about the everyday troubles of being a monster (Dracula goes to the dentist, the Wolf Man cleans house, the Phantom of the Opera gets a song stuck in his head, etc.), but you see who gets the title and cover.

31 Days of Frankenstein: Reborn Creature from Blood Cove

Frankenstein Reborn (2005)

You know you’ve arrived when The Asylum decides you’re worth ripping off. And though you can’t really “rip off” a public domain story like Frankenstein, SyFy’s favorite studio decided it was worth adapting the year after Van Helsing, Hallmark, and Dean Koontz all did versions. Probably not a coincidence.

Like Wake the Dead, Frankenstein Reborn places the story in a modern setting. It makes some different choices from Steve Niles’ version though, making Victor Frank older and using nanotechnology in the creation of the Monster. It’s also got a heavy (and reportedly intentional) Hammer vibe going on.

Frankenstein vs. the Creature from Blood Cove (2005)

Frankenstein vs the Creature from Blood Cove is a deliberate, black-and-white homage to the horror movies of the ’50s. In it, crazy Dr Lazaroff first makes a Creature from the Black Lagoon-like gill man. When it escapes, the doctor figures that the only rational thing to do is to find and revive the body of Frankenstein’s Monster, bend it to his will, and have the Monster attack the Creature. I haven’t even seen this movie and I’m already sort of in love with Dr Lazaroff.

There also seems to be a werewolf, but I’ve got no idea how he fits into all this.

The creature designs are all pretty cool. I mean, they’re all rubber masks and suits, but the designs are great, including the extremely Shelley-ready Frankenstein’s Monster. I’ve got to see this one.

31 Days of Frankenstein: Wake the Fables of Doc Adams

Fables #29 (2004)

One of the great things about Bill Willingham’s Fables series is its ability to jump genres whenever it wants, like in this horror/war flashback tale. In it, the Big Bad “Bigby” Wolf leads a squad of WWII soldiers in a mission to take out some Nazis in Frankenstein’s Castle. Turns out, the evil scientists are studying the Creature in hopes of making some monsters of their own. Bigby tries to stop them and Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man all over again.

Doc Frankenstein (2004)

In this series written by the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix), the Monster lives through the end of Mary Shelley’s novel, takes his creator’s name, earns a degree, and moves through history as a fundamentalist-fighting liberal. Though the Wachowskis wrote it, Doc Frankenstein was actually created by Steve Skroce (who draws the comic) and Geoff Darrow (Hard Boiled, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot; also conceptual designs on The Matrix).

The series promoted itself as being about “the Messiah of Science who has returned to save our world from the Monsters currently running it.” It’s an interesting and valid take, if strident and on-the-nose.

Neal Adams’ Monsters (2004)

Essentially Neal Adams’ take on the Universal House movies, Monsters has Dracula coercing Frankenstein’s nephew into building a new Monster by holding the man’s fiance hostage. There’s also a werewolf, but I don’t want to spoil that part as it’s one of the cooler bits in the story. It’s not a perfect comic, but Adams’ creature designs are cool and there’s also a lengthy sketchbook section with examples of Adams’ work on various horror films like From Beyond and The Funhouse.

Wake the Dead (2004)

Wake the Dead is Steve Niles’ modern-day retelling of the Frankenstein story with extremely gruesome artwork by Chee. It’s an interesting experiment in that it puts the story in a contemporary setting. My favorite part is that it keeps Victor as a college student. I usually forget how young he was supposed to be, instead thinking of him mostly as the Baron. The comic’s set to be adapted into a film starring Haley Joel Osment.

Though it’s bold, Wake the Dead isn’t my favorite of Niles’ adaptations of Shelley’s novel. We’ll get to that one this weekend.

31 Days of Frankenstein: Koontz’s Van Gossing

Van Helsing (2004)

Ten years after Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 2004 was the Year of the Monster. There are seven items from that year in this list (three movies and four comics) and I’ve got no recollection what the catalyst was.

Van Helsing should have been an awesome movie. It’s got Hugh Jackman being all Hugh Jackmany, Kate Beckinsale kicking ass, and the Unholy Trinity of Movie Monsters all in the same film. But never underestimate the power of a lame story (Van Helsing is really an angel!) or director Stephen Sommers’ willingness to use cheap CGI in inappropriate ways.

Its version of the Monster is a simple, raging brute, but actor Shuler Hensley went on to play a much more fun version of the character in the Broadway adaptation of Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein.

Frankenstein (2004)

I’ve mentioned some other, reportedly faithful adaptations this month, but Hallmark’s version is the most faithful I’ve actually seen for myself. It’s an excellent adaptation with only two flaws: William Hurt (Professor Waldman) doing a German accent and Luke Goss’ Monster isn’t hideous enough. He’s very faithful to Shelley’s description, but (cool scowl notwithstanding) the makeup department didn’t create a believable reason for the other characters to be frightened by him. As I wrote when I first saw it, “he looked and sounded like a nice young man with a skin condition.”

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein (2004)

When Dean Koontz helped create and then disassociated himself from USA’s Frankenstein (with Martin Scorsese as an executive producer), I assumed it must be pretty terrible. Surprisingly, I liked it quite a bit.

Like Hallmark’s version, the Monster’s too pretty, but the concept is cool. Doctor Frankenstein – or rather, Shelley’s inspiration for creating the character – is continuing his quest to create the perfect human and discarding any flawed creations along the way. When one of those creations goes on a killing spree, detectives Parker Posey and Adam Goldberg investigate, as does the mad doctor’s original Creature (Vincent Perez).

When Koontz left the project, he teamed up instead with various writers to create a book series more in line with his vision (there’s also a comics adaptation of that series). I still need to read those, because I’m curious to see what he thinks the flaws are in the filmed version and how he fixes them.