We’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.
Then 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.