October 22, 2010

Celebrating Dick Briefer's Frankenstein

Yauuggghhh! It’s Frightful Frankenstein Friday! Join the mob as we pick up our torches and chase down Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein!

Today, I’m joining fifteen fellow bloggers in celebration of Craig Yoe’s new book about legendary artist Dick Briefer and his extraordinary Frankenstein comics, published between 1940 and 1954.

Click through the links for reviews, reflections and, best of all, a selection of classic Briefer Frankenstein episodes! But beware…. If you’ve never read a Briefer Frankenstein before, you are in for a real treat, whether its one of his gruesome horror version, or the surprising “Merry Monster” version. I’m guessing you’ll love them both, and you’ll be a fan forever more.

Here are the participating blogs:

And Everything Else Too

Blog of Frankenstein

Cartoon Snap!


Four-Color Shadows

Magic Carpet Burn

Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine

Random Acts of Geekery


Sequential Crush

Stephen Bissette’s Myrant

The Big Blog of Kids Comics

The Comic Book Bin

The Fabuleous Fifties

The Horrors of It All

The ITCH Blog

For my own contribution to Frightful Frankenstein Friday, in the spirit of Book Month on Frankensteinia, I asked Craig Yoe to speak about his book and his love for Briefer’s art.

The ridiculously talented Mr. Yoe is an artist and writer, art director, toy designer, and formerly a creative director and VP with The Muppets. As a writer, editor and comics historian, Yoe has published a number of important books such as Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails, George Herriman’s Krazy & Ignatz in Tiger Tea, The Art of Steve Ditko, and Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman Co-Creator Joe Shuster, just to name a few. Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein, published by Yoe Books and IDW Publishing, is out NOW.

Here’s Craig…

When Dick Briefer died in 1980 I drew a picture of his Frankenstein with a tear in his eye running past his monster’s upturned and misplaced nose for the Comic Buyer's Guide newspaper. I said in the copy that accompanied my cartoon that I was not only sad about the artist’s passing, but also that so few people knew of Dick Briefer or his genius. It has taken me a long time, but at last I'm doing my part to help rectify that with a full color hardback book, Dick Briefer's Frankenstein (Yoe Books/IDW), about the monster and the man behind him. Though it does go into depth about the artist's colorful life, mostly the book proves Briefer’s genius by just reprinting a crypt full of comics as evidence.

Briefer was of two minds. The cartoonist drew a horrific version of Frankenstein during the horror comics craze of the 50s. The stories were dark, grim and foreboding. But, before that he drew a humorous Merry Monster version that was lighthearted, nutty, and wacky. Think The Munsters or The Addams Family--kooky and creepy, altogether ooky. This was the version Briefer himself preferred. Actually, when I was putting together the book I discovered that there was a THIRD version. The early 1940s original stories in Prize Comics, starting in issue #7 were almost a synthesis of the two known styles. At least art-wise. These seminal stories were gritty, but the art had a bit of that boffo, gusto, and bravado of the early Golden Age comics that had a simple cartoony flair, almost humorous, approach. Those comic books are trez expensive. I had to almost beg a collector to scan his valuable and fragile inaugural Frankenstein stories for me. So I am thrilled to present the fascinating rare first three Frankenstein stories in the book.

So there are three styles of Dick Briefer's to chose from and adopt as a fave. In early reviews of the book people are already stating which ones they grok the most. Me, I love them all, but I'm going with Briefer in that I dig his all-out funny take on Frankenstein the best. When I became the Creative Director/VPGM of the Muppets I was versed about the appeal that the Sesame Street lovable monsters like Bert and Ernie and the Cookie Monster have. Jim Henson himself explained to me that kids fear monsters, but that the Muppets, warm and friendly and silly and approachable, human-like, helped the young set deal with their childhood fear of monstersunder the bed. I think as adults we never outgrow our fear of the Monsters of Life. Maybe they are no longer the things-that-go-bump-in-the-night variety of monsters. But, as adults there are monsters like Politicians, Left Wing and Right Wing TV Commentators, Corporation CEOs, Bill Collectors, War Profiteers, Heads of Insurance Companies that keep us awake at night--they TRULY horrific and real threats! So a fun, approachable, lovable Monster like Briefer's Funny Franky with his peculiar proboscis can help give us some relief and help us face ghosts and ghouls whether we're snot-nosed kids or a full-grown relatively clean-nosed adult human beings.

Or the Frankenstein comics by Briefer can just be a great read. We do have to remember that, in the words of the great R. Crumb that “’It’s is only lines on paper, folks!” There doesn't have to be a Deep Reason to like Dick Briefer's Frankenstein. In fact, ultimately I'm going to avoid any really deep scholarly dissection of the Monster here as I did in the book, too. Briefer's Frankenstein, like Shelley's, was a man of many parts and I'm not going to take them apart in my La-BOORRR-a-TORY today and kill him in the process.

I'm only going to ask you to have a grand time reading all the great Dick Briefer comics on all the great blogs participating in Frightful Frankenstein Friday. I deeply thank Pierre, with his frightfully fantastic Frankensteinia blog, for giving me this little soapbox today. Now start reading the on-line comics, and order my book, Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein, if you like what you see. I think you'll scream with delight!

Thanks Craig!


Mykal said...

Excellent review and post. I really enjoyed the thoughts from Craig Yoe on Briefer and his creation(s). Very nice job.

Christopher said...

great review..enjoyed that! ;o)