Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Marvel Team-Up #36: Spider-Man and the Frankenstein Monster in "Once Upon A Time, In A Castle..."

Download Marvel Team-Up #36

Undoubtedly one of the oddest characters to appear regularly in comic books, the Frankenstein monster was created, in more ways than one, in 1818 in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. In the book Dr. Victor Frankenstein cobbled the monster together from parts he gathered and gave him life. The patchwork man proved indestructible, living throughout the nineteenth century in numerous reprints. He survived into the twentieth century, and in 1931 Universal Pictures adapted him to the screen. In 1940, the Frankenstein monster lurched into comic books to make the first of many appearances.

Artist/writer Dick Briefer introduced him in Prize Comics #7 (December 1940), modeling him after actor Boris Karloff, who'd appeared in three Frankenstein movies by then. Since the novel was in public domain and Karloff wasn't, Briefer was careful to state at the start of each comic-book episode that it was "suggested by the classic of Mary Shelley." He updated the story, gave it an American setting, and showed his hulking , dead-white monster rampaging through streamlined urban settings. Within a few months he began calling the monster Frankenstein, explaining "the name is universally accepted to be that of the ghastly creation."

A man with a strong though perverse sense of humor, Briefer gradually tired of doing all the ghastly stuff straight. By the middle 1940s, he had converted Frankenstein into a comedy feature. He kidded the whole horror genre, made fun of such current fads and foibles as quiz shows and crooners. The monster became the star of Prize and in 1945 also began appearing in a bimonthly magazine of his own. Briefer afterward admitted that the funny Frankenstein was the favorite of all his comic-book work. "I look back into the old comic mags of Frankenstein," he said, "and really marvel at most of the art and ideas and scripts that I turned out."

The humorous Frankenstein ended in the late 1940s, but the character came back in the early 1950s in a new, grim version that lasted until late in 1954. Also from the Prize Group, it was written and drawn by Briefer.

Back in 1945, Classics Illustrated had offered an adaptation of the novel. Packaged by the Jerry Iger shop, it had artwork by Bob Webb. In 1964, Dell issued a one-shot Frankenstein in their Movie Classics series, offering the Universal version with the slogan "The Monster Is Back!!!" Two years later, in an example of flop-oriented thinking, Dell introduced a new Frankenstein who was "the world's newest, greatest, and strangest superhero!" This unlikely combination of horror and heroics managed to struggle through only three quarterly issues.

Marvel came up with The Monster of Frankenstein in 1973—"The most famous, most fearsome MONSTER of all!" Drawn initially by Mike Ploog and later John Buscema and others, the magazine ended in 1975 after eighteen issues. The monster rose again in guest spots and comic-book novel adaptations.


Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inks: Vince Colletta
Colors: Al Wenzel
Letters: Charlotte Jetter

Click here to read the conclusion in Marvel Team-Up #37.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Amazing High Adventure #5: "My Brother's Keeper"

Download Amazing High Adventure #5

Amazing High Adventure is an anthology of stories that take place in times and settings not often seen in the comic book medium anymore. It's a chance to visit all manner of exotic locales, people and situations.

Experimental aircraft, spies, and childhood trauma combine in one soaring yarn crafted by one man army Ken Steacy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Doomsday +1 #6: "All The Beautiful People"

Download Doomsday +1 #6

In his more than thirty years as a popular comic book artist, John Byrne has drawn, and in some cases written, updated, and occasionally drastically modified, a great many major characters. These include Fantastic Four, Superman, Ghost Rider, X-Men, Daredevil, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Captain America. He has also created such features as Alpha Flight and Next Men. One of his recent projects was DC's 2003 twelve-part series, Generations 3.

Born in England and reared in Canada, Byrne did his first professional work for Charlton in 1974 on Space: 1999. He next moved to Marvel. After being in the business for over a decade, he decided his style needed renovating. "How could I draw if I didn't draw like Neal [Adams]?" he asked himself, referring to one of his idols and influences. The new style he developed was much looser, more touched with humor, and easily recognizable as being by nobody else but John Byrne.

You'll notice the credit for art reads 'Byrne Robotics.' Very simple reason: I didn't pencil that issue. I inked it, but the pencils were provided (with Charlton's permission) by an Art College crony (since deceased), Doug Bevan.

Oddly enough, I no longer remember WHY this was so. Doug was a painfully slow artist, so it certainly couldn't have been to help me out with deadlines! Perhaps he was strapped for cash.

Anyway, I redrew a lot of it, including the entire splash page, but a lot of Doug still shows thru.

—John Byrne, November 30, 2010

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