Continuing with our celebration of Frankenstein’s Monster as an honorary zombie we, of course, must start with the source material itself. The first edition of Mary Shelly’s seminal novel was published in 1818. It wasn’t until the second edition, however, that the author’s name would actually appear on the book (after which many of the negative reviews would focus on her gender rather than the material). The novel faced mixed reviews upon release, but caught the public imagination and was popularized across Europe through theatrical adaptations.
The absolute best version of the novel is via Bernie Wrightson’s Frankstein, first published in 1983. Wrightson, a comic legend, is best known as co-creator of the beloved character, Swamp Thing, and for the definitive illustrated editions of many Stephen King novels such as “The Stand” and “Cycle of the Werewolf”. “Frankenstein” was a labor of love for him and is widely considered the definitive visualization of Shelly’s work.
The staggering, obsessive, level of detail in his pen-and-ink work is obvious and gets much of the deserved praise. It’s an amazing technical achievement that forces you to reexamine your ideas about the limits of human ability. Wrightson’s real genius, in my opinion, is his attention to the literary detail, however. Every other artist, writer, director or actor that has ever worked with the story has adapted Shelly’s work into their own visions. While this can be successful, and we’ll explore some of those variations in the coming weeks, Wrightson joyfully incorporated Shelly’s original vision into every aspect of his work.
As you read through the edition you’ll linger for long minutes over the illustrations that so perfectly reflect the unfolding story. This is Shelly’s Frankenstein brought to visual life via Wrightson’s art. He lavished his attention and skill on bringing her Frankenstein to life rather than one inspired by her. In 2012 Wrightson began work on his personal vision of the Frankenstein story in “Frankenstein: Alive, Alive“, a sequel that continues Shelly’s story. It’s just as amazing as you’d expect it to be.