Thursday, October 16, 2014

Frankenstein: The Monster is Back!

In the early 1960s, Dell's licensing agreement with Universal Pictures included a one-shot adaptation of Frankenstein, the 1931 silver screen classic that starred Boris Karloff. The story begins as a loose re-telling of the film, but then heads in a very different direction once Victor Frankenstein decides to showcase his creation at a scientific convention in New York City (which hints of both King Kong and Dracula). Along the way, the doctor turns the Creature into an unwilling lackey, forcing him to kill anyone (or any animal!) that gets in his way. Yet the end of the story comes full circle, when it appears as though Frankenstein's creation has been destroyed. If nothing else, the cover art by Vic Prezio is quite stunning!

Two years later, Dell continued the series with a second issue that picks up 100 years after the original story. Considering the Creature looks completely different from the earlier incarnation, it's likely the licensing agreement with Universal had ended by then. Or, they had decided to gentrify the monster in order to put it more in line with two other superhero series that were on the way: Dracula, which followed the adventures of one of the Count's descendants (who wasn't a vampire); and Werewolf, which was about a super spy who had a pet wolf as a sidekick (and had absolutely nothing to do with werewolves).

The story begins with "Frankenstein" waking up in the doctor's decrepit castle, which is now in the United States and just outside of a major American urban centre--called Metropole City! (This is just one many references that are reminiscent of Superman.) He's awakened by a sudden bolt of lightning that pierced through the crumbling rooftop to jar him back to life--what are the odds? Anyway, he's already dressed in a red jumpsuit, which perhaps was quite forward-thinking of the doctor. Soon his memories begin to trickle back, and over the next two months, Frankenstein spends his days hiding in the castle, while venturing out at night under the cover of darkness--and he's shocked by what he sees. The world has become a foreboding place, where a creature like him will never be accepted. Good thing he happens across a bunch of latex masks!

With his identity hidden--and adopting the name Frank Stone--he gains the courage to wander about during the daylight hours. Fate intervenes when he immediately witnesses an automobile accident, saving an elderly (and wealthy) man in the process. Good thing, because when the old man soon dies of natural causes, he leaves his entire fortune to Frank! This new playboy lifestyle comes complete with a stately mansion, as well as a butler named William--and is a handy addition to his secret identity (which adds Batman to the list of influences here).

His goals are quite lofty, with plans to eradicate crime the world over. The first major super-villain he faces is called Mr. Freek, a man who's very short in stature--so he causes all sorts of mayhem whilst riding on the shoulders of Bruto, the largest gorilla in the world! There's no need to spend any more time on this silly story, except to mention that Frank is soon hounded by Miss Ann Thrope, a busybody who's convinced that he's the green-skinned, do-good monster that's been running around town--and will do anything to prove it!

Much like the other Dell monster superhero series, Frankenstein lasted only three issues (discounting the ostensibly unrelated adaptation of the film).

31 Days of Horror (2014 Edition) continues tomorrow...


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