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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, June 2, 2016

NEAR-MYTHS: "NEW ADVENTURES OF FRANKENSTEIN" (PRIZE COMICS #7, 1940)

I've referred a couple of times to Golden Age artist Dick Briefer having produced two distinct versions of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Monster. As it happens, the two distinct versions also provide examples of the "near myth" and the fully developed "mythcomic."




In terms of taste, I prefer Briefer's first Monster; a balls-to-the-wall extravaganza of apocalyptic violence. The original Shelley novel only suggests the destruction that her Monster might wreak upon humankind, for the author is more concerned with using the creature as the reflection of Frankenstein's own weird ambivalence to his friends and family. The creature is his creator's demonic alter ego, killing the people Frankenstein ought to value. The early adaptations and extensions of the novel also tend to keep the Monster's victims confined to the scientist's immediate community.
But in comic books, which were sold largely through the mode of kinetic violence,  Briefer's Monster became a horrific counterpart to outlaw-heroes like the Sub-Mariner, becoming a large-scale scourge of humanity. 

The first story duplicates the salient points of the first two Universal films, except that now Doctor Frankenstein creates his hideous horror in the early 1940s. The Monster escapes his creator, finds himself reviled by humankind, has a brief taste of friendship with a blind man, and then dedicates himself to making Frankenstein suffer. But unlike Shelley's original, this abomination doesn't go after his creator's nearest and dearest.



Since Doctor Frankenstein disappeared after the first few issues, the Monster-- who was eventually called by his creator's name-- simply transferred his creator-hatred to all of humanity. As I've read the entire series through digital reproductions, I can say that this psychological motivation is the only myth-motif in the first Franken-series, and everything else is largely just crazed scenes of violence. Most of the time Briefer didn't seem interested in exploring psychological complexities, either in the "serious" or "funny" versions of his monster. 

Though I prefer the primitive abandon of Briefer's first take on Shelley's literary myth, Briefer himself preferred the second, humorous version. And though a lot of these stories are fairly simple fare, only in the "funny Franky" series did Briefer produce the complexity of a genuine mythcomic.

The original debut story can be read here.

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