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SECRET ORIGINS OF FRANKENSTEIN - CHAPTER 4 of 18
The Monster Illustrated

Mary Shelley passed away in 1851 at age at age 53, and since then there have been countless printings of Frankenstein, with most editions containing illustrations showing the most dramatic scenes in the story. Over the years, an incredible array of talented artists have visualized the novel in every conceivable style, from realistic to abstract to almost cartoony. Below, an 1831 edition of the book...
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XSome of the most influential illustrations of the story were done in 1936 by Lynd Ward, a woodcut artist who was the son of Methodist minister (Ward's self-portrait pictured right).

An accomplished illustrator, Ward worked in numerous mediums, including watercolor, oil, brush and ink, lithography and mezzotint, and has he provided artwork for over a hundred children's books.

Below are some examples of Ward's highly-detailed Frankenstein woodcuts, showing the title spread, the monster's night time visitation to his creator, and his puzzlement upon seeing his own reflection in water...
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Comic books have adapted Frankenstein many times. Here are two panels from one of the first attempts, Classics Illustrated #26 (June 1949), adaptation by Ruth A. Roche, art by Robert Hayward Webb and Ann Brewster...
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Since Frankenstein was first published, was always taken for granted that new editions would constantly be coming out, and that new artists would constantly be offering their own take on the story. It went without saying that no single artist could ever create DEFINITIVE illustrations for the book. Something like that just wasn't possible, and everyone knew it.

Then came Berni.
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Bernie Wrightson, that is. At first, Wrightson drew the Monster for fan magazines. His early versions of the Monster have a square forehead and a fleece vest like the one seen in Son of Frankenstein. The panel below, done in 1967, was published in Berni Wrightson: A Look Back. Beautiful as it is, it offers only a hint of the glory to come.
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Berni did this gag cartoon for Spa Fon #5 in September 1969.
("Spa Fon" is Venutian for "Oh my God!")...
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Next came Wrightson's big break -- DC's Swamp Thing. May I say something? If you don't OWN this series in some form, you are sadly lacking. If you have not READ this series in your life, you are missing something truly great. Finally, if you do not LOVE this series, there is something wrong with you mentally. Nuff said.

Plots for early issues were based on monster movies, including this stunning full page featuring Swampy and the "Un-Men," a gaggle of Island Dr. Moreau-type creatures, from Swamp Thing #4, page 8, a story titled "The Man Who Wanted Forever."
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THIS is Wrightson's "Wolf Man," from Swamp Thing #4, page 8, "Monster on the Moors."
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Ghoulish goons from Swamp Thing #10, page 8, "The Man Who Would Not Die."
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Swamp Thing #3 (March 1973) featured a Frankenstein-like monster called the Patchwork Man. Below, two panels of Wrightson's original art for the story. Berni is clearly channeling the fleece-vested Karloffian Monster from Son of Frankenstein, even down to the sunken right cheek.
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Below, a horrifying page from "The Patchwork Man."
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Meanwhile, over in The Phantom Stranger, Mike Kaluta was offering HIS rendition of "The Spawn of Frankenstein." Below, the cover PS #26, September 1973.
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Jim Aparo's monsterrific splash page for the story...
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MARVELOUS MONSTER

In the early Seventies, Marvel started a new Monster of Frankenstein series featuring beautiful art by then-newcomer Mike Ploog. Here's Ploog's original art for the first issue's cover, dated January 1973...
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Below, an interior panel from Marvel's Monster of Frankenstein #4...
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Here's Ploog's pencil recreation of the cover of Monster of Frankenstein #6.
(The published version is shown under the recreation.)
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Below, Monster of Frankenstein #1, 2 and 6, all by Mike Ploog. Issue six shows the title's new logo, which returns that famous family name to top billing.
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BELOW: Mike Ploog's recent recreation of MOF #1, as well as his recreation of his first cover of Marvel's great Werewolf By Night series. Better than the originals!
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Neal's version of the creature appeared in Neal Adams Monsters...
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XTHEN CAME BERNI

It all came together in 1983, when Marvel Comics published Mary Shelley's Frankenstein illustrated by Berni Wrightson, cover pictured right.

According to Berni Wrightson, "I've always had a thing for Frankenstein, and it was a labor of love. It was not an assignment, it was not a job. I would do the drawings in-between paying gigs, when I had enough to be caught up with bills and groceries and what-not. I would take three days here, a week there, to work on the Frankenstein volume. It took about six years."

BELOW: First edition cover, 1983 (scan courtesy of Michael Frank).
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STEVEN KING SAYS...

"Mary Shelly's romance of the Modern Prometheus is done great justice by these illustrations. They capture intent and mood, these forty-some pen and ink studies. Wrightson's art enhances Mary Shelly's story, and Mary Shelly's story enhances Berni Wrightson's art."

-- from the introduction by Stephen King


"I wanted the book to look like an antique," Wrightson said, "to have the feeling of woodcuts or steel engravings."

BELOW:
Five of Berni Wrightson's incredible Frankenstein illustrations, along with the quotes from the novel which appeared under every plate. Drink them in!

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Amazing, are they not? And that's only a few! There are dozens and dozens more just like them. Frankenstein by Berni Wrightson. It's not just good, or even great. The word I like to use is DEFINITIVE.

The story of Frankenstein has been adapted in every media yet invented. No one can predict what new forms of media will be created in the centuries to come. But in my opinion, we can be sure of one thing. No matter what they come up with next, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein illustrated by Berni Wrightson is NOT going to be surpassed.


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BELOW: Three-minute Berni Wrightson interview from a BBC documentary on Frankenstein!
Hear Berni speak! Watch Berni draw the Monster! It's there, waiting for you to click it. Why are you still reading?
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