They're Alive! 7 comic book interpretations of Frankenstein's Monster

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May 25, 2017

The best new comic debut of the week was undoubtedly Victor LaValle's Destroyer from BOOM! Studios, a modern reimagining and continuation of the Frankenstein story created by Mary Shelley nearly 200 years ago. It's a fantastic comic book — and if you'd like to know more about it, you can check out Syfy Wire's interview with writer Victor LaValle — that carries on a tradition of reinvention when it comes to the monster's portrayal in comic books.

People can't stop picking apart the story of Frankenstein and his Monster — a new Bride of Frankenstein movie was just announced this week — but it's not really a surprise. Shelley's Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus not only changed the way that people wrote horror, it's also one of the foundational works of science fiction. Like the good doctor himself, writers keep going back to take the story apart and put it back together again, taking the pieces they liked of previous interpretations, sewing them onto others and creating a new patchwork all their own.

Nowhere is this truer than in comic books. There have been several incarnations of the creation and its creator within the Marvel and DC Universes and outside of them. These 7 comic book versions of Frankenstein and his monster vary wildly in tone and faithfulness, from humor to horror and adaptations to homages, but they are all to die — and return — for.

Check out the monstrous list, and then be sure to let us know your favorite Frankenstein monsters — shout-out to Frankenberry — in the comments below.

Marvel

Everyone from Dracula to Santa Claus exist in the Marvel Universe, so it would be a shame if Frankenstein's Monster didn't join in the fun! After a handful of not-quite-official appearances in Marvel books, he got his own series in 1973 entitled The Monster of Frankenstein by Ghost Rider co-creators Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog. The series started with a four-issue adaptation of the book before telling the story of the monster being preserved and then revived and his subsequent adventures in the modern day. Alongside Tomb of Dracula and Werewolf by Night, this series heralded a bold new age of horror for the publisher and inhabited a whole new corner of the Marvel Universe.

Prize Comics

This is the earliest version on this list and began with an updated New York-based adaptation of the novel by Dick Briefer in 1940, which continued to follow the monster after the end into stories they called New Adventures of Frankenstein. The monster fought Nazis in Europe for a while before returning home to his own series, which took a much more humorous tone. It reverted back to horror after a couple years and ended up running over 30 issues in all. This interpretation was kind of all over the place but it's probably the best known from the Golden Age.

Alive, Alive!

When you think comics and Frankenstein, the next thing that pops into your head is probably Bernie Wrightson. The masterful comic book artist, who sadly passed away in March, labored for the better part of a decade on an utterly stunning series of illustrations that accompanied a new printing of the original novel in 1983. The illustrations are unprecedented in their detail and attention to accuracy to the novel's descriptions, and decades later in 2012, Wrightson returned to illustrate the character again in Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, a comic book series that follows the monster after the end of the book, written by 30 Days of Night scribe Steve Niles. Unfortunately, due to the artist's declining health, the series only had three issues released before his tragic death.

Howling Commando

The Howling Commandos was the name of Nick Fury's squad back in World War II, but it was not the last group to hold the name. Much later, there was a S.H.I.E.L.D. unit of the same name made up entirely of monsters intended to deal with paranormal threats, and of course Frankenstein's Monster had to be part of the crew ... but not how you'd think. Simply going by 'Frank,' he was actually a clone of the original (how a creature made up of more than one person can be cloned is a mystery) with some key differences, most notably a huge gun and a mace where his hands should be. Not the most creatively inspired version of the creature, but certainly one of the most fun.

Underground

If there is a comic book universe the Frankenstein mythos absolutely has to be in, it’s Hellboy's. The red-headed, doom-handed investigator of the supernatural encountered the monster in Hellboy: House of the Living Dead as a fairly faithful-to-the-novel version and then was given his own miniseries entitled Frankenstein Underground by Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck. As you might guess, the series sees the monster fleeing underground, where he finds a lost subterranean civilization and becomes caught up in their terrible secrets. It's both a faithful version of the character and a uniquely Hellboy-style story, making it a satisfying stand-alone read.

Madman

If you've not read Madman, or have only seen him in his superhero outfit, this may seem a bit odd and is certainly the biggest step away from the character on this list. But Madman is basically a more bubbly and esoteric version of Frankenstein's monster, but with a superhero spin. Madman's name is Frank Einstein, a pun which shouldn't need explaining, and he was revived from a car accident by two scientists, awaking with no memories of his previous life and looking a bit scarred and pale. However, he's super strong and durable and has some vague psychic abilities, so he puts them to use as Madman! Mike Allred's beloved superhero character is over a quarter century old and certainly a lot more psychedelic and goofy than the Mary Shelley novel, but he certainly struggles with the same crises of identity and questions of humanity raised in the book.

Seven Soldiers

In 2006, Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke revived Frankenstein as part of the interconnected series called Seven Soldiers. In it, the monster wears dated clothing and wields a huge pistol and a sword, but otherwise looks like a classic Frankenstein monster. He fights a psychic kid, goes to Mars, teams up with his Bride and battles the forces of the Sheeda alongside six other superheroes ... and a few years later he was given his own series, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., as part of the New 52 initiative. This series saw him team up again with his Bride and other monsters to fight the paranormal and it lasted 16 issues. He later was a member of Justice League Dark and has most recently appeared in the Rebirth Superman series.