Sunday, October 30, 2011

31 Days of Frankenstein: Do Not Build an Unwritten Graphic Treehouse

My schedule got away from me the last couple of days of October, mostly because of Halloween. I'm very sorry about that. I'm backdating these last two Frankenstein posts to keep myself organized. Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!

Graphic Classics, Volume 15: Fantasy Classics (2008)

If you've never read one of the Graphic Classics volumes, you're missing out. Most of them are themed around a single author; many of them horror-related like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Recently though, they've produced some genre-themed volumes like Adventure Classics, Science Fiction Classics, and Gothic Classics. Each volume features one or two popular stories as well as adaptations of lesser-known works, so reading them is always an educational experience. And since editor Tom Pomplun always chooses fantastic, stylish artists, they're as fun as they are informative.

There are two Frankenstein-related stories in Fantasy Classics, both written by my pal Rod Lott from Bookgasm and Flick Attack. The first is a short prologue in which Rod and artists Mark A Nelson tell the story of that night at Lake Geneva when Byron issued his famous challenge that inspired Mary Shelley to create her masterpiece. The second - illustrated by Skot Olsen - adapts the novel itself.

Nelson's style is literal and gothic, but Olsen has a humorous cartoonish look that's surprising for such a dark story. As someone who's seen a lot of adaptations of Frankenstein, I found it refreshing, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as someone's first exposure to the story. It's meant to be a new take on the familiar tale, leading the reader to discover Fantasy Classics' more obscure stories like L Frank Baum's "The Glass Dog" or Rappaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Unwritten #3 (2009)

The Unwritten is a comic book series about a man named Tom Taylor whose father wrote a series of Harry Potter-like books about his son, sort of the way AA Milne based Christopher Robin on his own boy. As an adult, Taylor makes a living doing convention appearances until events transpire to make him (and the world) question just how made up his dad's novels were.

By the third issue, Taylor is trying to learn more about his father's work and visits Villa Diodati, that Lake Geneva mansion where Mary Shelley dreamed up Frankenstein and - not coincidentally - Taylor's dad wrote his novels. It was also the last place Wilson Taylor had been seen before mysteriously disappearing at the height of his popularity. The Monster doesn't make an appearance in the story itself, but according to Chris Murphy at Comics Alliance, there's a short, illustrated scene from Frankenstein and Unwritten uses the Monster as an analogy for creations that slip out of their creators' control, much like Wilson Taylor's books appear to have done. I've been wanting to read The Unwritten since it was first announced and Murphy's article has revitalized that interest.

Do Not Build a Frankenstein (2009)

An important book. You wouldn't think that this is a message people still need to hear, but mad scientists are pretty dense. Hope it finally sinks in.

The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror" (2003-2010)

I think the first time The Simpsons directly spoofed Frankenstein was Treehouse of Horror XIV when Dr. Frink revived his dead father to disastrous consequences. That wasn't the only time the Monster's appeared on the show though.

In the opening for Treehouse of Horror XX, he tries to terrorize Springfield with some monster buddies and gets made fun of for being too old-fashioned. He, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy get new, hipper costumes (the Monster dresses up like Spongebob) and head to the Simpsons house for a costume party before getting busted by their wives. He showed up again in last year's Treehouse of Horror XXI, again in the opening sequence, during a spoof of The Office that featured various monsters working at Monster Mifflin.

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