Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein
Written & Illustrated by Dick Briefer
Edited by Craig Yoe & Clizia Gussoni
The Chilling Archives of Horror Comics (#1)
IDW Publishing, 2010
In this day and age, and even back in the 40s and early 1950s when this title was published, Frankenstein can be a boring fandom given our familiarity with Karloff’s rendition unless the author gives it an angle. Briefer succeeded in making the Monster fun both in comedy and in horror.
For the first three episodes of Frankenstein that appeared in Prize Comics #7-9, Briefer built upon the creature’s lust for revenge. How horrifying to have an undead thing dedicate itself, not to killing you, but to ensuring that you will be in an emotional hell, tortured for the rest of your days.
I spared you to live– to live in misery also– to watch and see the suffering and grief that I, your creation, will cause the human race. You will chase me, but never get me! I go now, always haunting and tormenting you!
Those three issues stand apart, as Frankenstein next becomes the classic, hateful monster we know and love, and the adventures are similar to that of Marvel’s Frankenstein Monster, though drawn more simply, and with far more surrealism.
This collection is far from the complete series, but provides choice, key episodes that afford the reader a taste of Briefer’s personal visions of the monster. Frankenstein was a recurring chapter in Prize Comics for years. He appeared in shorts among stories of other heroes like The Green Lama, Doctor Frost, and The Black Owl.
In Prize Comics #53, Franky becomes more cartoonish, and the stories become comedy, much in the vein of Charles Addams. The chapters are still well-written, now with the psychedelic taste of the ‘60s Harvey comics like Spooky and Hot Stuff. Briefer loved this version best, as do many fans. It is certainly a different character than the monster that traveled with us in the pages of Prize Comics #9-52, and a different feel altogether. At this point in time, the lovable monster got his own Title.
The stories are fabulous, and we see with the first issue Briefer’s take on The Bride and the “Manimals,” as well as a femme fatale siren. In the stories chosen by Yoe Books, we don’t see much here of his friends the Ghouls, Ghosts, and Vampires, but exploring that relationship properly would require an additional volume.
The Creature returns to horrifying after Frankenstein #17. Yoe gives us a story named “Tomb of the Living Dead” where the monster faces off against a race of zombies, A retake on The Bride, (this time with a more gruesome twist,) and a story showing the monster’s kinder side when it befriends two boys who, in return, save it from an angry mob of modern villagers. The story about a female monster was one of the best written, with palpable suspense and a pretty horrifying rendition of a psychopathic mate. The book finishes up with a touching tale about a cursed tree and the monster’s care for it.
The book’s introduction tells us a bit about Briefer, the myriad nom-de-plumes he wrote under, and his other works such as The Bronze Terror, a hero named Real American, (which was ground-breaking in its Native American protagonist, but still a horrible reflection of the time in which it was written.) I do wish there had been more about Briefer’s life story and what was behind each of the changes in the monster’s disposition.
Being the first of the Chilling Archives of Horror Comics series of reprint anthologies, I was impressed not only with the choice of stories, but in the quality of the binding, ink, and paper chosen for the reprints. Though the stories may be available online, it is just not as enjoyable or readable as holding pages in the hand. These editions are produced by someone with a love of the genre, and it shows.
Prize Comics #7-52,
“Merry Monster” Frankenstein
Prize Comics #53-68
Here is a fantastic funny Frankenstein story from Prize Comics #68 that was not included in the Yoe compilation. Enjoy!
The Monster of Frankenstein:
The Complete 1950s Horror Comic
Edited by Jacobs, Robinson & Rabins
Idea Men Productions, 2006
Billed as Complete, the IMP reprint of Briefer’s work includes the tales of the grouchy version of Frankenstein’s Monster that appeared in the Frankenstein title. It is presented in black and white. While color was essential to the cartoon rendition of the monster, this Monster plays well in black line. (Unfortunately the resolution is fuzzy because this was not reproduced in pre-colored black-line ink, but comes from its color publications now simply printed without color.) Nonetheless, I am grateful for this chance to read the entire narrative at once in paper copy.
There is another story where the monster finds female companionship beside the psychopathic “She-Monster”. Of course, a cursed being can never find happiness, and the tale brings us to the edge of tears. The Monster takes on a skeleton collector in “The Ghoul”, and he creates his own timeless tribute to beauty in “The Beautiful Dead”, a chilling tale of priceless macabre irony.
The Monster also travels through literature as he lives a rendition of Pygmalion in “The Monster & the Statue”, Moby Dick in “Battle of the Monsters”, and “Frankenstein and the Plant” reprises Little Shop of Horrors, (that itself can be traced back to a 1932 story called “Green Thoughts”, by John Collier and ultimately to the H.G. Wells story “The flowering of the Strange Orchid” (1894)… or perhaps Briefer was influenced by a contemporary version, “The Hybrid” on an episode of the old time radio show Nightmare that aired in 1954, the same year of the Frankenstein issue’s publication.)
This was released in paperback, standard graphic novel format, and offers a readable, continuous exploration of Briefer’s talent.