October 31, 2008

Halloween Repost
I Was a Pre-Teen Frankenstein

The following was first posted a year ago today. I am quite fond of this story because it’s true and I’m happy how it came out. I couldn’t possibly improve on it.

In the year since then, my readership here has quadrupled and then some, for which I am very grateful. I thought I might repost this, my Halloween story, for those of you who missed it the first time around.


A true story.

I grew up in the tough, blue-collar East End of Montreal. Back in the late 50s, when I was 8 or 10 years old, us kids owned the back alleys. The gravel backyards and the firetrap wood and corrugated steel sheds were our playground. One of our favorite spots was an old wooden garage, formerly a stable, with a rickety staircase that led to a wonderful low-ceilinged loft. That dark, dusty structure was our King Arthur castle where the Crusades were fought on summer weekdays. It was our frontier fort to attack or defend, depending on whether you were a cowboy or an indian that day. It was our Legionnaire’s stronghold, our haunted house and, of course, Frankenstein’s mountaintop lab.

One memorable afternoon, early autumn, one of the guys brought over a paper bag. It contained something that belonged to his older, teenage brother, the one with the ducktail and the cigarette pack rolled into his shirtsleeve. He had us swear up and down that we would never tell that he had brought out this treasure, on account that his brother would kill him for messing with his stuff.

We made a solemn oath of eternal silence, and my friend, satisfied, opened the bag and changed my life.

It was a homemade, papier-mache mask of the Frankenstein Monster from I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. His teen brother had seen the film and, impressed and enthusiastic, had come home and built himself a replica, luridly painted in yellows and greens, complete with a bulging, bloodshot, baseball-sized eyeball.

I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. We all did. We were awed.

The mask was passed around and handled reverently, like a sacred object. It was a heavy, full-face mask, half-an-inch thick, with a leather strap glued in so you could wear it, and chunks of sponge inside to protect your face. Each kid, in turn, got to try it on, and the moment it was attached to someone’s head, a single sparkling eye gazing at us from a narrow slit, the Frankenstein face came alive. Each kid, in turn, moved his head and growled, and suddenly, the Monster was among us.

When my turn came, my heart was pounding. I raised the mask to my face, someone tightened the strap. It was heavy and scratchy, and I could hear myself breathe inside the mask. I looked out through the one eyehole, and all my friends went “Ooooh!”. I moved my head and let out a low, menacing moan, and they all went “Aaaah!”.

The mask went to the next kid, and again we all reacted to it. When we were all done, the mask went back into the paper bag, and our friend raced home to stow it away before its disappearance was noted.

I thought about that mask a lot. I would have killed to have it. I suppose it rotted away, forgotten in it’s brown paper bag, eventually to be thrown out with all the useless junk of childhood.

I never looked at my friend’s teen brother the same way again. I thought of him forever after as an artist, a genius of sorts. He never knew, but I always felt that he had taught me something important: You Can Make Your Own.

I dug through Famous Monsters magazine for monster makeup tips. I mail-ordered the Dick Smith monster makeup magazine one-shot from Warren’s Captain Company. I was soon experimenting with plasticine, thick liquid latex and plaster. I learned how to use collodion for scars and mummy wrinkles. And so on, like all the Monster Kids of the 50s and 60s, growing up on Shock Theater and Aurora Monster Kits.

If my boyhood pals read this, I hope they don’t mind my spilling the big secret. I hope my friend from back then — where are you know? — doesn’t get into trouble with his older brother, after all these years, for messing with his stuff.

For me, it was a magical moment. I had been inducted into the Secret Brotherhood of Monsters, there in our secret hideout. The day I Was a Pre-Teen Frankenstein.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

October 30, 2008

Foolish Mortals Beware!

The spot where the Niagara river, carved by glaciers, drops a sudden, spectacular 167 feet was first reported 400 years ago by Samuel de Champlain, the explorer and founder of La Nouvelle France. In the early 1800s, daredevils were already leaping in or walking tightropes across the scenic Falls, well before tourists started showing up. The first barrel rider was a 63-year old schoolteacher who survived her perilous descent in 1901.

Nowadays, thousands of visitors don plastic ponchos to experience the spray from Horseshoe Falls aboard The Maid of the Mist. It's not quite as thrilling as going over the precipice in a steel drum, but you won’t get your neck broken and, if you’re still looking for an adrenaline rush, you can head over to Clifton Hill, right there in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and submit your nerves to The House of Frankenstein.

The Clifton Hill strip is packed with wax museums, arcades, souvenir stores, mini-golf, thrill rides (including a Ferris Wheel), Ripley and Guinness attractions and theme restaurants, all done in Early Midway architecture. The House of Frankenstein is one of the area’s oldest tenants, first established 40-some years ago. It has shed most of its cheesier displays over the years, but it remains a traditional Haunted House attraction with dark rooms, creepy music, and a labyrinth populated with monster-masked performers lying in wait.

The vintage flyer seen here comes from the collection of Frankensteinia friend Brian Horrorwitz, monster fan, pop culture connoisseur and headbanging headman of the punkrocking Ubangis. “I went to this place in the early 1970s and it was awesome!” Brian writes. “My parents had to lie about my age so they'd let me in because I was too young. God bless 'em!

Foolish Mortals Beware! The brochure copy is pure carny pitch. Here, we are told, are Over 50 Scenes… Each One a Thrill in Action. You could visit The Twilight Zone, The Echo Cave and The Amazing Room of Rats! To get to a caged Frankenstein Monster, you had to climb 13 Haunted Steps dodging flickering candles, glowing crystal balls, howling dogs and a floating table. Waxworks — some of them come alive — included a Hunchback, a Body Snatcher and Torture Victims.

For those unimpressed with spookshow tricks, “Crime & Punishment” scenes provided voyeuristic tabloid thrills such as The Room of Death (How many ways can a man die? See with your own eyes!), and encounters with Bonnie and Clyde, The Boston Strangler and Charles Manson… All Caught in the Act of Murder!

The attractions in Niagara Falls have Disneyed up over the years. The cut-rate Curiosity Museums with their Fiji Mermaids are out of fashion and, compared to earlier incarnations, The House of Frankenstein has gone mainstream. There’s now a Burger King franchise on the block, with a giant, weather-beaten Frankenstein Monster on the roof.

This House of Frankenstein is still a fun ride, no doubt, but I, for one, would have loved to see it when it was new, in its papier mache heydays, with its simple gotcha scares and a giveaway flyer you could wrap around your face — Use tape or string to hold in place — and become your own Frankenstein Monster.

A fun visit to the Clifton Hills attractions, including the current House of Frankenstein.

With thanks to Brian Horrorwitz. Here’s Brian’s Trash Palace website, his Taking In The Trash blog, and The Official Ubangis Website.

UNGAWA, Brian!

October 28, 2008

Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein

Just in time for Halloween: This week, Dark Horse Books is releasing a new, 25th anniversary edition of Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein.

I am resisting the urge to post a ton of drawings from the book, but there is no monitor in existence large enough and sharp enough to accommodate the size and the fine details of Wrightson’s Frankenstein art. Images here are mere glimpses, very heavily cropped. You’ll have to seek out the book to fully appreciate the art.

Bernie Wrightson fell in love with Frankenstein, like most of us, through the magic of the Karloff movies. As a kid, he tried to read the novel, found it opaque, incomprehensible. As an illustrator and a comic book artist, Wrightson often drew Karloffian Frankensteins, and he would eventually contribute a memorable take on the character, the Patchwork Man, for the Swamp Thing comic he co-created with writer Len Wein. Then, one day, irresistibly drawn, Bernie Wrightson returned to the novel, to be captured, finally, by the depth and the sweep of it, and to make a momentous decision. He would illustrate the novel, faithfully, as written by Mary Shelley. A self-imposed challenge, a personal mission, the job would take seven years to complete.

The result, first published in 1983, is a masterpiece. There are no definitive illustrated versions of Frankenstein. Many artists have attempted the task, and all are interesting in their interpretations, but Wrightson’s version is magnificent by any standard and certainly stands with the best, up there with the genius of Lynd Ward’s woodcuts.

In large, panoramic, black and white drawings, engraved in busy pen and ink, Wrightson captures the scope, the scale of the story. It’s a wonderful tale to illustrate with its period costumes and majestic landscapes. Wrightson attacks it all in rigorous and dramatic detail. The action switches from Alpine glaciers to windswept fields, to fractured Arctic wastes. There’s a heavily rigged sea vessel plying under churning skies, a snowbound cemetery, a study stacked with an impossible number of books. There’s massive architecture, soaring windows with endless drapes and monumental doors 20 feet high.

Frankenstein’s primitive lab is literally bursting with hundreds of crowded bottles and retorts, strewn books and curled parchments spilling out of chests and off packing crates, baskets and nets full of instruments, discarded skulls, and the scientist’s grisly work lying on a rough slab under beams hung with pulleys and chains.

The detail is incredible, every scene rendered fully, down, it seems, to every blade of grass. And then there’s the true measure of the book: The interpretation of The Monster.

Wrightson follows Mary Shelley’s description to the letter. Here, personified, is the wretched giant whose skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing… his watery eyes… his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.

Wrightson’s death’s head Monster is perfectly realized, and then some: Wrightson is resolutely on script, accurate to Mary Shelley’s description, but there’s more here, there’s a clear connection to Wrightson’s original inspiration. Look closely; this Monster is “played” by Boris Karloff. The hooded eyes, that unmistakable lower lip. It’s Karloff all right. Wrightson, brilliantly, brings Karloff full circle, back to Mary Shelley.

Long out of print, hard and expensive to find, Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein is available again in a beautiful done hardcover from Dark Horse Press, with an introduction by Stephen King. Don’t miss this one.

The book arrives in comic shops on October 29 and it’s available right now through The Frankenstore.

Dark Horse Books, with preview pages. Also on Facebook.

A fan site with images.

Bernie Wrightson’s website.

October 27, 2008

James Dean Meets Frankenstein

This Rebel Without a Brain image was created by Jonathan Lapper (actually Greg Ferrara... see update below) — host of the extraordinary Cinema Styles blog — as part of his October Kill Fest series, a month-long celebration of horror films that is absolute required reading. Then again, Cinema Styles is required reading year-round, not just during Halloween season.

Cinema Styles careens through the ages of film, alighting here and there, isolating and observing a scene, a moment, reflecting on a genre, an actor, a filmmaker, taking notes, analyzing, considering and cogitating. Lapper is passionate and knowledgeable about movies, his observations are always fascinating, sometimes revelatory — and often funny, because they are honest and delightfully bang-on.

This month, just for eye candy Photoshop fun, Lapper turned a number of Hollywood stars into monsters. Alan Ladd is Bat Boy, there’s Marlon From The Black Lagoon, and Montgomery Clift makes a fine Wolfman. Turning the troubled James Dean into The Frankenstein Monster was inspired. In fact, Dean once played The Monster!

According to David J. Skal’s The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror, Dean appeared as The Monster in a high-school comedy revue called Goon With The Wind. The surviving photograph shows the young actor not as a hulking menace, or goofing off in makeup, but in character, channeling the sensitive, bewildered Monster as played by Karloff.

Dean certainly shows a familiarity, perhaps a love, for the classic movie Monster.

And speaking of love, Jonathan Lapper edited together a short, two minute montage of scenes from Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Bride of Frankenstein, set to music, as a heartfelt tribute to the classic monsters. It’s called The Beautiful Monsters. Go look, it’s a real Halloween treat.

Update: Some time after this was posted, Greg Ferrara dropped his “Jonathan Lapper” pseudonym for what we presume to be his true identity.

October 25, 2008

The Art of Frankenstein : Rob Kelly

Rob Kelly’s art is timeless. His graphics recall the bold, call-to-arms symbolism of WPA posters and the Deco geometry of Soviet Constructivism, yet they are resolutely fresh and modern. Explosive colors and dynamic typography make his digital editorial and advertising illustrations pop off the page.

Between assignments, the ever-experimenting Kelly creates faux movie posters and make-believe paperback covers that reveal a love for noir fiction and classic horror movies. The Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein posters shown here are just two of his excellent Universal Monsters series displayed on his abundantly illustrated website.

Rob Kelly has been a great friend and supporter of this blog from day one, frequently posting comments and even contributing a delightful guest shot about the Dell Frankenstein comic of 1963. Inspired by a recent post of mine, Rob came up with an eye-popping would-be poster for Frankenstein Meets Shirley Temple — The Movie!

Of course, by the time Glenn Strange piled on the Monster makeup, Miss Temple was no longer a cutie-pie tot, but we’re on fantasy time here. As Rob says, “Roll with me on this”. We’re delighted to play along.

I love that Bill Bojangles Robinson puts in an appearance, possibly tap-dancing up and down the twisted staircase at the castle. Barrymore would make a great Burgomeister, Atwill no doubt returns as Inspector Krogh and Lugosi might be a sinister butler, or a red herring groundskeeper. Jean Yarbrough as director suggests this was a low budget effort.

Thanks, Rob, for letting me premiere your newest (and possibly silliest) poster on Frankensteinia!

Rob Kelly’s website, the Monster Poster page, and art blog.

Frankenstein Meets Shirley Temple
The Monster Lives! By Rob Kelly

October 22, 2008

Frankenstein Meets Doc Savage

When Bantam Books published The Man of Bronze in 1964, there was no telling how well Doc Savage, a hero of bygone Pulp magazines, would translate to paperbacks. It was an instant hit and over the next thirty years, all 181 novels would be reprinted, in single or omnibus paperbacks. Success, to a large degree, was attributable to the perfect casting of James Bama as cover artist.

Doc Savage — originally portrayed with tussled hair and rugged good looks by artist Walter Baumhofer — was recast by Bama as a grim, shirt-bursting superhero posing like Mr. Universe against a field of villains and monsters, with a mix of churning seascapes, dramatic mountains ranges and exploding volcanoes on the horizon. With striking colors, stark lighting, strong compositions and a hyperrealist eye for detail, Bama created a memorable and highly influential series of bracing adventure covers. “I did a good job on the series" Bama said, "because I believed in it.”

Bama’s Doc Savage covers have inspired graphic artist Keith Wilson to create a series of pastiche covers for untold, imaginary adventures “unavailable in Bantam editions wherever paperbacks are sold”. Combining art from the Doc covers with unrelated Bama paintings or various other sources, mostly film posters, Wilson has come up with a wonderful set of “might have been” Doc Savage paperbacks.

Wilson’s first try merged a Doc pose with Bama’s cover for a Frankenstein reprint to create The Monster Maker, a meeting of the bronze hero and Mary’s Monster that begs to be written. The game proved to be a lot of fun, and Wilson went on to mix Doc with all manner of monsters including Dracula, Dr. Jekyll, the Invisible Man, the Phantom of the Opera, and famous movie creatures the likes of Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad Cyclops, Godzilla, Gort and The Blob. Another Frankenstein title, Evil’s Bride, uses Bama’s Aurora kit box paintings of The Monster and a reclining Bride of Frankenstein.

See all 29 of Keith Wilson’s beautifully done fantasy covers, complete with back cover mockups and synopsis.

James Bama website and Wiki page.

Book: James Bama: American Realist, with an introduction by Harlan Ellison.

October 20, 2008

The Art of Frankenstein : Mike Hill

A masterful, life-sized sculpt, molded in silicone and meticulously detailed, brings Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein Monster to life. It’s as if someone had made high quality color photographs of the actor in Jack Pierce’s legendary makeup, all the way back then, in 1931.

The stunning likeness is the work of British-born, L.A.-based artist Mike Hill, whose favorite subjects run to comic book characters and the classic movie monsters.

Hill first got noticed for his model kits, including some excellent Hammer Films monsters, and a two-figure tribute showing Karloff posing with his Frankenstein Monster. Hill has gone on to create a number of astounding life-size busts for Sideshow Collectibles — including a now sold-out Karloff Monster — earning himself the admiration of his peers. Fellow 3D artist William Paquet calls Hill, “The best 1/1 sculptor in the biz.

Hill has also sculpted life-sized, full figure fibreglass statues of heroes like Batman and Superman, and a Karloff Frankenstein… in bronze!

Mike Hill’s website carries a gallery of his work that will take your breath away.

Sideshow Collectibles’ Silver Screen Edition Frankenstein, by Mike Hill. Explore the Sideshow site for more of Hill’s work.

October 18, 2008

El Castillo de los monstruos (1958)

In the Mexican cinema of the Fifties and Sixties, monster movies and comedies were good box-office, and combining the two genres was common practice. This week (October 15, to be exact) marked the fiftieth anniversary of the release of El Castillo de los monstruos, one of the more satisfying of the Monster Rally comedies in the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein mold.

Headlining is Antonio “Clavillazo” Espino, a popular comic decked out in a baggy suit and upturned hat. The plot is straightforward: Clavillazo must rescue his sweetheart from the title’s fog-shrouded Castle of Monsters, occupied by a Who’s Who of classic menaces. There’s a hypnotic Mad Scientist and his scar-faced assistant. There’s a Werewolf, a Beast Man in a cage, a Mummy, and a Black Lagoon creature that turns into a tuna when defeated. The Frankenstein Monster, with stitched forehead and neck bolts, serves as a Lurch-like butler. The standout is the Dracula character, played by the great German Robles, fresh off his two Count Lavud films, El Vampiro (1957) and El Ataúd del Vampiro (1958).

There are no real scares here. These are Halloween Monsters, arms raised in Boo position, shambling along at a leisurely pace. Clavillazo’s forte is the ability to energetically argue himself out of a tight situation, but he’s also comfortable with slapstick, notably in a scene where he tethers dangerously on the edge of an alligator pit, and a nice trick momentarily rattling Robles’ dignified Vampire by making a monster face of his own.

El Castillo de los monstruos is a Monster Kid era Valentine, a kind-hearted comedy where the spirit of the Universal classics echoes in the production values, the shadowy sets, the solemn soundtrack orchestrations and the venerable crew of assembled Bogeymen.

Unseen in North America for nearly half a century, the film is now freely available in its entirety on YouTube, in nine parts.

Check out the opening sequence, in Part One, to get a feel for this one. If you want to get to the monsters, go directly to Part 7.

Frankenstein Gets Knocked Off
Frankenstein 1958

October 15, 2008

The Art of Frankenstein : C.W.Wells

Philadelphia-based artist C.W.Wells recycles and repurposes doll parts and discarded action figures, mixing in scale figure accessories and her own ceramic creations, assembling her constructions into enigmatic dreamscapes.

The effect recalls the broken toy figurines in the films of Jan Svankmajer or the Brothers Quay. Carefully lit and photographed, the damaged characters that populate Wells’ tabletop tableaus seem to pose with the same wounded solemnity as subjects in a Diane Arbus photograph.

Frankenstein, an evocation of recombined body parts, is a recurring character in Wells’ work, it’s melancholic porcelain face attached to all manner of bodies. Family Portrait, seen here, is at once disturbing and darkly humorous.

C.W.Wells’ work can be seen in her massive “Snailbooty” Flickr gallery, where every image surprises and defies you to decode its secrets. Here is the Frankenstein-tagged gallery.

Frankenstein: Mortal Toys
The Art of Frankenstein: Chris Sickels

October 13, 2008

The Covers of Frankenstein : Monster-Size Hulk No.1

In comic shops this week, Marvel’s Hulk collides with The Frankenstein Monster, a case of the gamma-green superhero acknowledging its roots.

The Hulk was created by a red-hot Stan Lee and the indefatigable Jack Kirby in a fury of creativity that launched Marvel Comics in the early sixties. A panoply of new heroes and rejigged Golden Age characters connected with a new generation of readers, challenging the reign of DC Comics and making their Superman and Batman books look corny.

Artist Kirby often referenced classic movies in his work, displaying an obvious love for the Universal monsters of the thirties and forties, and writer Lee has cheerfully acknowledged the direct influence of Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein Monster in the creation of The Hulk as a misunderstood monster. Jekyll & Hyde’s powers of transformation were thrown into the mix, making scientist Bruce Banner into his own monster.

Kirby rendered the character as a boxy brute with a telltale neanderthal brow and a flattened skull. In the first issue of The Incredible Hulk, in May 1962, the monster’s skin is inconsistently grey, a glitch due to mechanical color separation and the crude four-color and newsprint presses of the day. The problem was solved with the next issue when The Hulk was made a solid green.

A Halloween treat from Marvel Comics, Monster-Size Hulk #1 features a number of writers, artists and monster guest characters. The Frankenstein tale was penned by Jeff Parker and illustrated by Gabriel Hardman. The cover, shown here, is by Guisseppe Cammuncoli. The issue ships October 15.

Sample pages from the issue on Comicmonsters.com, and writer Jeff Parker featured on Newsarama.com.

October 10, 2008

La Maschera di Frankenstein

A superb painted poster for the Italian release — retitled “The Mask of Frankenstein” — of Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).

Curiously, intriguingly, tension is created by posing the hand upside down, as if The Monster had its back to the window it was pushing open. Blood, an escapee’s broken chains and a dead tree heighten the morbid effect.

A wonderful image found on the generally “NSFW” Undead Film Critic blog.

Update: The artist has been identified as Luigi Martinati. Here’s a short bio and another Frankenstein poster by Martinati. 

October 8, 2008

Frankenstein Meets Shirley Temple

Cartoonist Roger Langridge produces illustrations, children’s books, and comics in a surprisingly wide range of flavors, at ease with everything from mainstream characters like Batman, Spiderman and Judge Dredd, all the way to mindbendingly alternative and very personal creations such as the brilliant, bittersweet and utterly hilarious adventures of “the thinking man’s idiot”, Fred The Clown.

Langridge’s influences are just as diverse. His humor has elements of Buster Keaton’s deadpan comedy, W.C.Fields’s caustic wit, Marx Brothers zaniness and Goon Show lunacy. His art blenderizes everything from Windsor McKay to Robert Crumb, by way of Chuck Jones and Elzie Segar.

In the early 90’s, Langridge created the unusual, absurd and exhilarating Frankenstein Meets Shirley Temple, a stream of altered consciousness strip that paired a woolgathering Monster with little Shirley as a pint-sized wisecracker. The author called it “spontaneous drivel”.

The strip anticipates Langridge’s later, more accomplished work. If anything, Langridge has since learned how to compress and refine his strips to their pure essentials, but Frankenstein Meets Shirley Temple still packs a pie in the face. It’s funny and fearlessly foolish.

The entire run of Frankenstein Meets Shirley Temple — in five short chapters — is yours to read online.

Go look, and learn about the great interconnectedness of all creation. Unless you’re dreaming all of this right now.

Read the complete Frankenstein Meets Shirley Temple.

Lose yourself (or just your mind) on Roger Langridge’s fabulous website, featuring links to interviews with the artist.

Roger Langridge’s blog.

Fred The Clown collection from Fantagraphics.

October 7, 2008

Frankenstein Day

Today, October 7, 2008, is Frankenstein Day at the prestigious Bodleian Library of Oxford University, England.

The event celebrates the launching of The Original Frankenstein, a new and revolutionary edition of the novel edited by Charles E. Robinson. Manuscript pages in Mary Shelley’s own hand will be displayed (and a lock of her hair, too), and Mr. Robinson and guest Brian Aldiss, author of Frankenstein Unbound, will be speaking.

Charles E. Robinson, a Professor of English at the University of Delaware, is one of the premier scholars of Frankenstein, having meticulously studied the original Mary Shelley manuscript, cross-referencing contemporary accounts and Mary’s correspondence to determine the process and order of the writing of various drafts of the novel and the corrections and editing performed on it by Mary’s husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Robinson’s groundbreaking research yielded a book, The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelley’s Manuscript Novel, 1816-17, in 1996.

Now, with The Original Frankenstein, Robinson has undertaken to reassemble Mary’s original manuscript, the first version as written in 1817, entirely in her own hand, before her husband Percy began his editorial interventions and annotations.

The result, according to an Oxford University communiqué, is “a more rapidly paced novel… we hear Mary’s genuine voice which sounds to us more modern, more immediately colloquial than her husband’s learned, more polished style.

Mary Shelley’s authorship has always been questioned to some degree, starting with the book’s publication in 1818, author anonymous, but quickly attributed to Percy by some reviewers. Last year, John Lauritsen’s The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein controversially argued for Percy’s blanket authorship, reducing Mary’s contribution to that of a mere secretary. With The Original Frankenstein, editor Robinson presents both the published version and the reconstructed original manuscript to demonstrate that Frankenstein was, indeed, Mary’s book.

The Original Frankenstein is available directly from the Bodleian Book Shop.

Here is the announcement page for Frankenstein Day.

With thanks to Susan Tyler Hitchcock of Monster Sightings for the heads up.

The Great Frankenstein Controversy
Happy Birthday, Mary Shelley

October 6, 2008

The Covers of Frankenstein : 1931 Photoplay Edition

Boris Karloff’s green head floats over the swooshing title and a luminous, redheaded victim on the movie poster-like dust jacket for the 1931 American edition of Mary Shelley’s novel. The art deco illustration is by Nathan Machtey.

Publishers Grosset & Dunlap struck a cross-promotion deal with Universal Pictures, releasing the book as a “Photoplay Edition” illustrated with a handful of stills from the James Whale film. Booksellers were urged to promote film showings at the local Bijou and theaters would reciprocate with lobby displays of the book.

Today, because of its direct connection to the movie, Grosset & Dunlap’s 1931 Frankenstein — though not scarce — is a highly desirable collector’s title. If the book comes complete with the very rare original dust jacket (as opposed to a facsimile jacket), it’s value rises dramatically.

Besides Frankenstein, the company’s horror movie tie-ins included London After Midnight (1927), Dracula (1931), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and a novelization of King Kong (1933).

The Rue Morgue cover art features a composition similar to Frankenstein’s, complete with recumbent redhead.

The Selling of Frankenstein

October 3, 2008


Animator and Graphic Designer Bob Renzas brings the goofy cereal mascot Frankenberry a full, frootloop circle back to its inspirational origins. The illustration is based on a 1931 photograph of makeupman Jack Pierce and his assistant transforming Boris Karloff for his signature role. Now, instead, they are serving the Borisberry Monster his breakfast.

With porthole-rimmed eyes, antenna ears and a pressure gauge sticking out of its big marshmallow head, the most shocking thing about Frankenberry was its hot pink complexion.

Launched at Halloween, in 1971, the character was cover boy and pitch man for a “super sweet” strawberry-flavored cereal, part of a monster-themed group of kid’s breakfast confections created by General Mills. Fun Fact Of The Day: The recipe was changed when a dye used in the original formula caused children’s poop to turn pink!

A generation of sugar-fueled kids fondly remember the animated TV commercials featuring Frankenberry and his counterpart, Count Chocula, voiced as Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi by Bob McFadden and Larry Kenney.

McFadden also did Milton The Monster for ABC in the late 60s, and he voiced Baron Frankenstein, the Frankenstein Monster and Igor in a 1972 Rankin-Bass animated TV Special called The Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters.

Nearly fifty years on, the exuberantly silly mascot has survived, outpacing its foodstuff roots as a cult figure. Frankenberry merchandizing includes bobblehead banks, toy cars, pillows and an adult-size Halloween costume.

See more of Bob Renzas’ lively work on his blog, and a couple of websites: Art Wanted and Animal Qwakers Productions.

YouTube carries a number of vintage Frankenberry TV commercials.

October 1, 2008

Halloween Countdown 2008

It’s October, and the Great Halloween Countdown of 2008 has begun!

Bloggers all over the blogging blogosphere are posting monster and Halloween related goodies all month long. Some of them have even committed to posting every day! I can’t meet that kind of rhythm on Frankensteinia, but I do keep a daily schedule on my other blog, Monster Crazy. Be sure to pop over there and have a look!

I want to thank Jon Knutson of Random Acts of Geekery for inviting me to participate in this year’s Halloween Countdown.

A complete and very impressive list of participants appears on John Rozum’s blog. There’ll be tons of spooky fun posted all this month, just click away and enjoy. It’s a great way to discover new blogs, too!

Illustration: The rare, highly sought, 1960s Frankenstein Halloween Bucket.