Sunday, January 23, 2011

Retro-Review: Frankenstein #1, Part 1!

frankenstein01-00This time around, we start looking at Prize Comics' Frankenstein Comics #1! This series started in 1945, and was edited by Joe Genalo. At Prize, the Frankenstein monster (or simply, Frankenstein) began truly as a monster – in fact, at one point in his Prize Comics career, he battled several of Prize's own superheroes! – but then the series shifted tone, the monster was calmed down, and it went from being a horror comic to a humorous one, which is where we join Frankie's career! Of course, things go in cycles, and by the time this series ended after 33 issues, Frankenstein went back to his monstrous ways! Also by that time, the book only featured a lead Frankenstein story, with the remainder of the book filled with non-Frankenstein horror tales. But at this point, the full-length stories all feature Frankenstein, and there are four in all! The cover of this issue was drawn and inked by Dick Briefer, creator of this version of the monster.

Inside, the first story is “Frankenstein's Creation,” by Briefer. Let's just take a look at how Frankenstein is depicted here, shall we? Certainly, the flat-topped cranium is meant to echo the Universal version, as is the greenish skin... but there the resemblances (aside from basic clothing) end. Briefer's Frankenstein features a nose that's way too high up! Where the Universal Frankenstein's head seemed to have come from one “donor,” this version must've had ahead pieced together from a variety of parts or something! And don't forget those hands... good grief! Those of you who are familiar with Doc Savage's Amazing Five, I can't help but think that Renny's fists must look something like this... those things are huge! Add in shoulders that wouldn't have been out of place on the Hulk, and you have an epic monster, eh? And then there's the scientist. Anyone else reminded of Professor Farnsworth on Futurama (perhaps if he had been drawn by Harvey Kurtzman)?


frankenstein01_02So, the story opens up on a November night in an old castle, where a mad scientist is bored, trying to think of some super-evil experiment to perform! Suddenly, a book falls to the floor, thanks to his black cat! The scientist picks it up, and sees the volume is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Much like a bat flying into Bruce Wayne's study inspired him, this scientist is inspired by this book!

So, the scientist heads down to his local undertaker's, where he orders his parts: “Two eyes, two ears, a forehead, half a nose, some lungs, a stomach, a half pound of hair, black preferably... quarter pound of cream cheese – oops... that's on the wrong list!” The undertaker offers him a special on fresh liver, to boot! The undertaker even has all the parts organized in his file cabinet, with drawers helpfully labeled “Heads,” “Toe Nails,” “Fingers,” etc. Amazingly, all the parts fit into a very small package! But then, he wasn't exactly doing one-stop shopping, was he? He is a patient mad scientist, and realizes it will take some time to get all the parts. So, many months later, he's finished, and merely has to give it life! He pulls off the sheet to reveal his creation...


One is tempted to cry “Foul!” or even “Shenanigans!”, because the bandaged figure on the slab, while mighty and impressive, does not bear much of a resemblance to the frame of the monster we saw on the splash page! Anyway, the scientist needs to give it life... and intends his monster to be... “A fiend – a devil – a murdering beast, of course.” He plans to inject his special fiend serum into his creation, and helpfully demonstrates it for the readers by injecting a lab bunny! No sooner has the bunny gotten his shot than he bursts full of energy (not unlike Popeye after eating spinach... or would you believe Hoppy after saying “Shazam!” and being transformed into Captain Marvel Bunny?), and his new attitude scares the bejeebers out of the black cat, who tries to flee, but the rabbit catches up with him and clocks him soundly!


frankenstein01_05So, the scientist injects his serum into his creation, and then opens the skylight so that lightning will strike his machine, which brings the monster to life! And the monster's first living motion... is to sneeze violently! The scientist decides next to christen his monster Frankenstein... which he does with a champagne bottle! Days later, the scientist is relaxing in his tub with a toy boat, and muses to himself... “Frankenstein will soon be strong enough to ravage the world. Already, he walks, talks, and thinks. I am very proud of myself!” After finishing his bath, the scientist looks in on his creation, tells him he is his master, and to go forth amongst the people... and doesn't tell him what to do, assuming that the “evil mind and evil spirit I put into that body of yours will be your guide.” Commanding him to leave (and to bring back souvenirs), the scientist doesn't pay any more attention as Frankenstein walks out the exit of the castle, where his first thought is...

Of course, the scientist is not aware that Frankenstein just thinks his clothes itch... instead, he mentally pictures Frankenstein going on a rampage (which, if it weren't rendered so comically, could be quite horrific)! And what is Frankenstein doing? He's discovered sweet-smelling flowers, which he picks and sniffs before hearing the plaintive “baa” of a lamb, which he gently picks up and takes with him (the lamb licks his cheek appreciatively). Then Frankenstein sees some birds in a tree chirping, and holds his hand up, but they all fly away from his huge hand! So how does he get the birds he wants?

I must say, he appears to have very gently uprooted the tree, in order to not disturb the birds. Later, at the castle, the scientist gleefully awaits the return of Frankenstein, to hear about the rampage... and instead, he's shocked when the monster emerges with the flowers, lamb, and tree with birds! He would've brought a beautiful blonde girl, too, but she ran away. The scientist wonders why the serum didn't work, deciding that since he made Frankenstein a horrible being, the serum merely changed him to the opposite nature (or, as the scientist put it, “A veritable sissy.” So, he decides to give Frankenstein a second dose, first suggesting that the monster take a nap on the lab table. As the monster sleeps, the scientist is about to jab him, when the lamb, prancing around the lab, causes an accident!


The heat and smoke from the resulting fire wakes up the monster, and the scientist begs Frankenstein to save him, but the monster feels he should save the lamb and birds first, promising to come back for the scientist (who's now pleading that he's Frankenstein's friend... funny how a lab fire changes one's attitude, isn't it?). However, before Frankenstein can re-enter to save the scientist, the castle explodes into smithereens, the scientist with it. Frankenstein, only one day old, decides that he must find a new home.

The bottom third of this page features “something important,” basically a plea to the readers to buy war stamps and bonds as well as collect scrap paper (and comic books, probably one of the reasons Golden Age books are so scarce, eh?) for the war effort!

Now, having read the chapter on Frankenstein in “The Comic-Book Book,” I am well aware that this origin flat-out contradicts the previous origin for the monster, but apparently the readers didn't seem to mind. I do find it amusing how similar this Frankenstein is to how the Hulk was portrayed in the 1970s, at least so far as how both amazingly strong beings act around wildlife! I found this to be an enjoyable tale, plenty of humor (Okay, I didn't laugh out loud at any of it – it's very late at night as I'm writing this, and I don't want to wake anyone!), but there were certainly many things that made me smile, and that's good enough for me!

This is followed by a two-page filler, “Animal Crackers,” by Buster Green. I can't tell you anything about it other than that, because I'm doing this review from an eBook I got from Wowio back when you could get most anything for free (with some embedded advertising, naturally).

Next: Frankenstein in “The Ghouls and Vampires!”


  1. Don't forget Craig Yoe's book from last fall collecting the best of DICK BRIEFER'S FRANKENSTEIN. We also had a blogathon tie-in in which a bunch of blogs reprinted one of the Briefer tales online all on the same day so there's lots of this version of Frankenstein out there that can be googled up!

  2. How could I forget, when I was a part of it? The only reason it didn't get mentioned in this post was because this was actually written before the Fearful Frankenstein Friday was announced in the first place (yes, I do work that far ahead)!


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