I am honored to have Thom Ryan, writer of the splendid Film of the Year blog, inaugurate the Frankensteinia Guest Blogger series. It was easy getting Thom to come aboard: He offered to contribute before I got around to ask. And here I was, ready to beg.
Thom looks back at The Invaders, issue no. 31 (1978), in which Marvel’s World War Two Superheroes meet The Nazi Frankenstein!
In the late 1970s, some thirty-odd years after the end of World War II, Marvel Comics Group published untold wartime exploits of their earliest characters Captain America, The Submariner and The Human Torch in a comic book titled The Invaders, the brainchild of long time Marvel scribe and editor Roy Thomas with artwork by Frank Robbins.
As a youth I devoured these stories, suffering the seemingly interminable month-long period between issues with extreme anticipation. Re-discovering my back issues in the attic the other day I spotted Frankenstein's Monster lashing out from the cover of issue thirty-one and wondered if the comic had ever been featured on Frankensteinia.
Most of the forty-one issues in the series see our heroes tackling Axis villains and rescuing people like Winston Churchill, King George VI and Stalin with World War II forming a thrilling backdrop. However, the August 1978 issue is the most unusual in the series--and one of my personal favorites--because guest writer Don Glut and guest artist Chic Stone bring our heroes face to face with a Nazified version of Doctor Frankenstein and his wretched monster in a story titled "Heil Frankenstein!"
Though set in 1941, the story is uncomplicated by the major events of the war. Within a restored Castle Frankenstein, Nazi scientist Basil Frankenstein, a descendent of Victor Frankenstein, and Dr. Kitagowa "Japan's finest surgeon" plan to use Basil's family secrets to create an army of undead soldiers with replaceable parts for the Axis war effort.
Investigating rumors of Nazi activity, grave robbing, and murder in the Swiss Alps, The Invaders come face to face with Frankenstein's first hideous creation dressed in some sort of Gestapo uniform. In typical comic book fashion the heroes engage the monster in battle, are defeated, captured, and face becoming material for Frankenstein's next experiment. Luckily, torch-bearing local villagers, fed up with the strange doings in the castle, attack en masse, and the Invaders manage to break free. In the ensuing melee, the Monster's "brain control implant" short circuits and he carries Frankenstein and Dr. Kitagowa off the steep walls of the castle to their doom, sacrificing himself in the process. The issue isn't notable for dramatic storytelling or realistic artwork; it's just straightforward comic book entertainment with a clever twist on the Frankenstein mythos.
I remember reading this issue as a kid and being particularly startled by Chic Stone's rendering of Frankenstein's monsters as uniformed, undead stormtroopers throwing grenades. Looks pretty tame by current comic standards, but this panel (see image below) draws a ghastly parallel with the true horror of the actual Nazi blitzkrieg.
Since Basil Frankenstein and his monster perished in issue thirty-one they weren't seen in the pages of The Invaders again, but a whole legion of Frankensteins have appeared in Marvel comics over the years. I also recall that the Monster starred in his own comic for a time appropriately titled, Monster of Frankenstein. Still, the Nazified version of the Monster seen in the pages of The Invaders has to be one of the more unusual iterations of our favorite tragic figure.
I urge you to visit Thom’s blog, Film of the Year, a fascinating chronological journey through film history. Read Thom’s appreciation of James Whale’s Frankenstein here.
Thom Ryan is a former systems administrator, database developer and video editor who now devotes himself to writing his blog, studying history, playing guitar, writing songs, hiking, camping and, of course, viewing films. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and a puppy.
I urge you to visit Thom’s blog, Film of the Year, a fascinating chronological journey through film history.
Read Thom’s appreciation of James Whale’s Frankenstein here.