Hey Franky! I’m Seein’ Double!”

Frankenstein 23 ReworkedWe’re com­ing up on another Hal­loween here, and it seems I’ve devel­oped some­thing of a tra­di­tion of doing some kind of Franken­stein piece when that hap­pens. Instead of doing just one this time though, you’ll see I got ambi­tious and actu­ally did two comic cover recreations/reinterpreta-tions. Which seemed appro­pri­ate, given the sub­ject mat­ter. I’ll explain.

If you ask most comics fans around my age which comics artist comes to mind first when they think of Frankenstein’s mon­ster, you’ll prob­a­bly get names like Bernie Wright­son or Mike Ploog. But fans whose aware­ness goes back a bit far­ther might give you another name: Dick Briefer.

Briefer’s asso­ci­a­tion with the char­ac­ter in print was not only longer than any­one else’s (run­ning from issue #7 of Prize Comics through #68, as well as 33 issues of his own mag­a­zine), but he did three dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the char­ac­ter! He started with a straight hor­ror ver­sion, spin­ning right out of Mary Shelley’s orig­i­nal Franken­stein story. Kind of a gutsy thing, to do an ongo­ing hor­ror fea­ture in a comic in those early days. From what I’ve read on the sub­ject thus far, there’s a good case to be made that it was the first of its kind.

Frankenstein #1 ReworkedThen later, in 1945 it was decided to retool the fea­ture as a humor­ous strip. The new, humor­ous Franky hit news­stands in Franken­stein #1. You might think it would be hard for some­one so involved with a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the char­ac­ter to retool their vision so dras­ti­cally, but Briefer did it. And the fans bought it.

That ver­sion ran its course in 1949, then in ’52 (when the ‘50s wave of hor­ror comics was under way), Briefer was called to bring the mon­ster back to life yet again! Pick­ing up after the last issue of his pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion with #18, Briefer brought back a more seri­ous ver­sion of the mon­ster. This new ver­sion though was not sim­ply a revival of Briefer’s ear­li­est ver­sion of the char­ac­ter. For one thing, the art I’ve seen thus far tends to be much more open for color. And the few sto­ries I’ve seen to date seem to play up more of the monster’s pathos than Briefer did back when he first worked with the character.

I must con­fess that only recently have I been learn­ing about Dick Briefer and his version(s) of Franken­stein, but it’s been fun learn­ing (I hope those who are more knowl­edge­able about this strip than I cur­rently am will for­give any inac­cu­ra­cies here). Thank­fully, though we no longer live in comics’ Golden Age, we do live in what could be con­sid­ered the Golden Age of comics reprints! Many old strips (like Franken­stein) that were pre­vi­ously inac­ces­si­ble unless you had lots of dis­pos­able funds to buy back issues, are now being col­lected and reprinted in qual­ity hard­cover edi­tions and trade paper­backs. A Briefer Franken­stein book is one of those that I would hope to lay hands on soon.

Oh, before I close, I guess I should get to specifics about what I did here. My Franken­stein #23 is a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of Briefer’s, and you can see his orig­i­nal here. Briefer’s orig­i­nal ver­sion of Franken­stein #1 can be seen here.

Happy Hal­loween!

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2 Responses to Hey Franky! I’m Seein’ Double!”

  1. Lyle Dodd says:

    The first thing I thought of when I saw the first draw­ing was Mike Ploog, I must admit. The sec­ond one I actu­ally think you give a lit­tle more inno­cence to the char­ac­ter than Briefer’s version.….that might be the result of the lit­tle smile you provide.

    Nice job.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks!
      After hav­ing seen the inte­rior art for a num­ber of sto­ries from the mid­dle (humor­ous) period, the exist­ing cover for #1 (cool as it is) felt a bit like a tran­si­tional image to me, halfway between hor­ror and humor. I decided that for my rein­ter­pre­ta­tion, going with a more open style (and even giv­ing Franky a lit­tle smile), kind of fit the spirit I was pick­ing up on from Briefer’s inte­rior work dur­ing this period.

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