I’ve always been more of a fan of the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein film than the actually novel by Mary Shelley. Of course I saw the movie long before I read the novel so that iconic image of the monster was burned into my brain. It wasn’t until high school when I first read the novel. I knew it wasn’t like the movie but I didn’t know how much they differed. The book was dense and verbose with language that seemed like english but was written in a way that seemed so foreign to me. This wasn’t a horror story, or at least it seemed that way to me. What always struck me about the movie was that the monster wasn’t really the villain. It was all those jerks with the pitchforks and torches chasing him around. He was just a victim of circumstance trying to make his way in a world where he is truly an outsider. Karloff’s portrayal of the monster is legendary and I sympathized much more with that version than the revenge driven mass murdering monster of the novel.
I had read Frankenstein and didn’t much like it. Later in my 20’s I picked it up again and tried to look at it from older eyes. While I found it more enjoyable the second time through it was still a dense and marathon like read. Maybe I would just have to come to terms with the fact I don’t like the book. My favorite version of the book is of course the Bernie Wrightson illustrated version. While I own that version, I have never read it. I just look at the awe inspiring drawings by Wrightson and question what I’m doing with my life. In fact, I would rather read all the other interpretations of Frankenstein than to have revisited the original novel again.
That is until I found out Gris Grimly was doing an adaption of it. Not only was he illustrating the novel but he was doing it in a comic book format from the original unedited text. For those of you not familiar with Grimly’s work he’s a fantastic horror illustrator and filmmaker who has done adaptions of Sleepy Hollow, some Poe stories and his short movie, Cannibal Flesh Riot is one of my favorite movies. He is even rumored to be involved in an animated Pinocchio with Guilermo Del Toro and Nick Cave (which may be on hold). How awesome does that sound? So needlessly to say, I was going to read Frankenstein once more.
The art, it goes without saying, is amazing. Grimly puts his own gothic, punk, steam punk spin on things which make for a fascinating compliment to the story. Every page is immaculately crafted and you can really see where the 4 years he spent on this thing went (if you are curious he had a production blog up for the making of the book here which was fascinating to follow). What his art really brings out from the story, for me at least, was Victor. I hadn’t really given him much thought as the monster, even in the novel, always eclipsed him in my mind. But this is Victor’s story and Grimly makes that plainly obvious. The pain and torture he causes himself by the creation of his monster is right in your face with Grimly’s art and it really brings the whole story together. Reading it again I found it to be much more enjoyable accompanied by his art.
I don’t think I will ever be able to fully enjoy the novel as it is without some sort of artwork along with it. While Wrightson’s Frankenstein is a masterpiece, Grimly’s take is almost an entirely other monster. His skill may not trump Wrightson (who by the way wrote the introduction to Grimly’s) but being a close second to him is not a bad place to be.
If you are a fan of Frankenstein or like me never really got into the novel, check out Gris Grimly’s take on it. It truly breaths some new life into the work and is a feast for the eyes.