Tonight: Frankenstein on the big screen

Totally doing this tonight. It’ll be David’s first time seeing these movies.

I was about his age when the children’s museum in my hometown ran a Halloween showing of Son of Frankenstein. That was my first time seeing any of the classic Frankenstein films and I can still remember the experience.

If you’re interested in checking out a showing near you, Fathom Events has details.

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31 Days of Dracula | Drak Pack (1980)

Sporting mostly the same premise as Monster Squad, this Hanna Barbera cartoon lasted a couple of seasons on CBS Saturday mornings. Drak, Frankie, and Howler are all descendants of classic monsters and are “dedicated to reversing the evil image of their forefathers” by becoming superheroes. Unlike the Monster Squad characters though, these three have secret identities as high school students.

When trouble appears – usually in the form of the supervillain group, O.G.R.E. – the trio gives each other the Drak Whack and transforms into monster form. They have a flying, amphibious car and superpowers. Drak’s a telekinetic shape-changer, Frankie’s super strong with electrical powers, and Howler has a sonic howl and super breath. The group also receives direction from Drak’s great-uncle, Dracula himself (whom they call “Big D”).

O.G.R.E. (Organization for Generally Rotten Enterprises) is made up of Doctor Dred, Toad, Fly, Mummyman (who controls his bandages and uses them as weapons), and Vampira (another shape shifter).

31 Days of Dracula | Monster Squad (1976)

I know that for children of the ’80s, Monster Squad is a movie where a bunch of kids fight Dracula (Duncan Regehr) and his monster pals. For ’70s kids though, it was a Saturday morning TV show in which Gopher from Love Boat brings to life some wax statues of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man.

Just like in Dell’s Dracula comic, the statues decide to make up for the misdeeds of their namesakes by fighting crime as superheroes. They had utility belts, a Monster Van, codenames (Dracula was “Nightflyer”; the other two were “Green Machine” and “Furball”), and battled villains like Julie Newmar as Ultra Witch. Dracula was played by Henry Polic II in the classic Lugosi manner.

Pull List | Rethinking single-issue comics

Atomic Robo: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1

I recently started buying single issues of comics again. Not because I feel like I’m hurting the industry by trade-waiting (I don’t), but because it’s more fun that way. A lot of writers and publishers are making obvious efforts to create a more rewarding experience out of buying single-issues.

The trouble is that I’ve just started adding series to my pull list willy-nilly without giving a lot of thought to what I’m doing. That’s where this post comes in. I’m going to start assessing what I’m buying every week and make some choices. I need some limits, not only for budget reasons, but also to protect my time.

I’ve decided that a pull list of 20 series is pretty reasonable. That works out to about five, individual issues a week: a little over an hour of reading time and between $15 and $20. It doesn’t include graphic novels and series that read better in collected form (BPRD, for instance). I’ll have to assess those separately.

Saga #4

Last week, the single issues I bought were (in alphabetical order):

All-Star Western
Atomic Robo
Aquaman
Courtney Crumrin
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE 
Saga
The Spider

Of those seven, I know that I want four on my final list of 20.

I’ve been a fan of Atomic Robo since it started and though I also want the collections on my shelf where they’re easy to get to, it’s a comic that’s really made to be read as single issues. I resisted buying both versions, but it always hurts me when I pass up the monthly version on the shelves. That tells me something.

Courtney Crumrin is another series I’m going to want to keep buying. I love Ted Naifeh’s work in general and it’s great to be able to read about his terrifying, but so-cool, little witch girl on a regular schedule. Plus, the individual issues feel like complete units, even though they’re parts of a larger story.

Courtney Crumrin #3

I just decided last week to check out Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staple’s Saga instead of waiting for the collection. I’m glad I did, because it reminded me how much I enjoyed getting a new installment of a BKV comic every month. This one is a space opera with fantasy and horror elements and there’s a huge feeling that absolutely anything can happen from month to month. It’s a brand new universe that needs exploring.

Finally, David Liss and Colton Worley’s The Spider is a fantastic pulp-superhero series that I don’t want to wait for.

The other three series are all on the bubble for various reasons. I really liked Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE when Jeff Lemire was writing it, and loved Matt Kindt’s first issue for what it was. The problem is that Kindt changed some things in a way that jolted me a little. It’s a speed bump I expect to be able to get over, but it shook my confidence some.

The Spider #2

I’m also generally enjoying Aquaman (I’m behind on it, but catching up), but I’m not fully sold on it yet. I’m tired of the constant reminder that Aquaman’s a pop-culture joke and the series’ defensiveness about that. There was also a fill-in issue in which Mera is sexually harassed in an unbelievable, ridiculous way just so she can show how tough she is by beating the guy up. In other words, the comic feels desperate; like it has to cheat in order to make its heroes seem cool. On the other hand, Aquaman’s teamed up with a jungle girl, so that’s pretty great.

I’m almost positive I’m done with All-Star Western. It keeps retelling the same story in different ways and after ten issues, I’m looking for something new. As I keep adding series to my 20 every week, I expect All-Star Western to fall off the list pretty quickly.

Here’s how I rank these seven:

  1. Atomic Robo
  2. Saga
  3. Courtney Crumrin
  4. The Spider
  5. Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE
  6. Aquaman
  7. All-Star Western

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.

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.