Looking to a range of illustrated editions, including those illustrated by Nino Carbe (1932), Lynd Ward (1934), Everett Henry (1934), Bernie Wrightson (1983) and Barry Moser (1984), this chapter considers the method by which illustrations impact on our reading of Frankenstein, and how they expand the visual lexicon of Frankenstein established by stage and film adaptations. This chapter argues that visual and narrative similarities across successive illustrated editions foster cultural consensus as to what ‘counts’ as Frankenstein, even as variations in illustrators’ style and emphasis result in editions with very different visual and ideological messages. This chapter posits that the consistencies and variations evident across successive illustrated editions matter less than their cumulative contribution to the Frankenstein adaptation network.
The Frankenstein Complex: when the text is more than a text
Dennis R. Cutchins and Dennis R. Perry
Frankenstein has a greater presence in popular media than any other single narrative over nearly two centuries, and its place in popular culture continues to grow. Adaptations of Shelley’s novel flow forth at an unparalleled rate. This sustained popularity may be a result of Shelley’s imaginative treatment of what it means to be human, her ambivalence towards science and technology, or simply because of her questions about creating a sentient being. Mikhail Bakhtin might have described Shelley’s creature as a ‘grotesque body’, one that is continually in the act of becoming something new. In any case, understanding the proliferation of Frankenstein adaptations demands a creative and broad approach because new adaptations are not simply the result of a relationship with Shelley’s novel, but are also the products of multiple relationships with other adaptations. In fact, every new adaptation of Frankenstein depends both on what we may term a Frankenstein Complex, located in the minds of individuals and made up of personal experiences, as well as on the Frankenstein Network, or the repository of Frankensteinian experiences available in the culture.
Responsibility and obedience in I, Robot and X-Men: First Class
In a sense, indirect adaptations of Frankenstein, such as those observed in I, Robot (2004) and X-Men: First Class (2011) have more freedom to complicate and modernise Shelley’s text, since these adaptations transpose her characters and conflicts into fresh contexts with multiple variations. In the films I, Robot and X-Men: First Class Shelley’s concept of creation expands from its common definition (creation out of nothing or out of pre-existing parts) to a broader sense that includes modification or influence. As indirect adaptations of Frankenstein, these films have the freedom to adumbrate a number of latent ethical questions that Shelley’s novel never fully articulates. Hence, such films take the conversation on Frankenstein in unexpected and novel directions.
Forbidden Planet, Frankenstein, and the atomic age
Dennis R. Perry
While Forbidden Planet draws on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with science standing in for magic, an equally important source during this time of atomic paranoia is Frankenstein, which exposes the Cold War context during the mid-1950s, tying Forbidden Planet to other films concerned with the contemporary debate on how atomic power is to be controlled, and who is to control it. This is a problem Forbidden Planet’s Krell race neglected to consider, and it led to their annihilation. This essay makes a case for the importance of Frankenstein and its popular-culture progeny as important intertexts of Forbidden Planet in terms of the ties between Frankenstein and his monster, atomic scientists and theirs, and Morbius and his id monster. All three pairs embody variants of a process associated with information networks called feedback loops, in these cases connecting creators and creations.
Frankenstein, neo-Victorian fiction, and the palimpsestuous literary past
Examining two pieces of revisionary historiographic metafiction, Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein and Paul Di Filippo’s ‘Hottentots’, this essay suggests that the special relationship existing between neo-Victorian fiction and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein owes a great deal to the manner in which adaptation functions in both. Neo-Victorian fiction, which places nineteenth-century characters and tropes within retrofuturistic settings, relies on the principle of the palimpsest. In a palimpsestuous multiple texts remain visible within the primary text, which re-visions earlier pieces of literature in much the same way that adaptations of Shelley’s novel do. Di Filippo’s and Ackroyd’s texts – both of which allude to, appropriate, or adapt Shelley’s Frankenstein – demonstrate how the ‘hideous progeny’ of Mary Shelley’s imagination becomes an embodiment of the palimpsestuous narrative production central to both neo-Victorian fiction and adaptation.
Frankenstein meets H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’
Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock
In the contexts of Gothic texts as ‘corpse producing machines’ and the new post-humanist understandings of the significance of objects, commodities, and things, this essay explores Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and H.P. Lovecraft’s campy ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’ in terms of the way some bodies have always been closer to death and to thing-hood than others. It further prompts a question ignored in Frankenstein – do West’s mindlessly cannibalistic reanimated zombies have souls? According to Lovecraft’s infamous racist screed, West’s reanimations are alive only in the sense that the inhabitants of the New York slums are alive. Hence, both stories demonstrate that some bodies are considered more alive – less thing-like – than others, complicating the posthumanist ‘democracy of objects’ perspective.
Adapting Mary Shelley’s monster in superhero comic books
This chapter offers a brief history of Frankenstein adaptations in the comic book industry before examining three 1968 issues of The X-Men comic book series written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Don Heck. The first issue features the X-Men battling Frankenstein’s monster, but despite explicit references to Mary Shelley’s book and the presence of the monster, it bears little thematic or narrative connection to the original text. However, the subsequent two issues features an antagonist called Grotesk, the Sub-Human, and this story contains many more affinities with Shelley’s text. This chapter suggests that the influence of Frankenstein is surprisingly pervasive in the Marvel Universe.
Graphic children’s texts and the twenty-first-century monster
This chapter traces the evolution of the Frankenstein Monster’s image in children’s literature, particularly recent picture books by Jennifer Adams and Allison Oliver, Keith Graves, Patrick McDowell, and Neil Numberman and a film directed by Tim Burton. These texts reveal both the conflict between Gothic fiction and children’s literature as well as the conflation of the two modes in modern conceptions of the child as monster. In so doing, they engage the child’s anxiety about monstrosity, naughtiness, and aberrant desire; while some texts seek to tame and to normalise the monster’s unruly body, reassuring readers that abnormality is only temporary, Graves’s Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance and Burton’s Frankenweenie celebrate the enduring deviance and wonderful weirdness that continue to constitute monster and child alike.
The representation of incest in children’s literature
The chapter draws attention to the extreme unspeakability of incest in
children's literature and the rarity of texts either literally or
symbolically dealing with the topic. It analyses Crew and Scott’s picture
story book, In My Father’s Room (2000), in terms of the Bluebeard
fairy tale, with close attention to ways of seeing and being seen. This
disturbing text (marketed as a book for young children) plays a father’s
love for his daughter, manifested in his secret story-writing, against the
Bluebeard story of secrecy, multiple sexual partners and murder. The
boundaries of the unspeakable in literature for children have changed
markedly in the post-war era, particularly in terms of problem novels for a
young adult readership; but picture story books for younger readers remain
almost uniformly committed to a depiction of the loving nuclear family with
mother, father and child or children, where childhood naughtiness is the
worst evil that can be encountered; incestuous behaviours by a father are
barely mentionable and the incestuous mother unthinkable.
The crisis of masculinity in Ian McEwan’s early fiction
Ian McEwan’s early fiction delves into the dark drives and desires of
ordinary men and women, revealing disturbing realities about the human
psyche. McEwan’s psychological probing of deeply disturbed characters
reveals how it is often the mundane feelings of inadequacy or failure that
compel seemingly ‘normal’ people to commit horrific acts of sexual violence.
Within selected short stories in First Love, Last Rites (1975) and
In Between the Sheets (1978), and his first novelThe Cement
Garden (1978), McEwan horrifies his audience by representing insidious
evils that occur through the actions and in the minds of seemingly ordinary
men. Reading McEwan’s portrayals of ‘manliness’ is shocking and disturbing
not only in his portrayals of rape and incest, but also in the seemingly
normal occurrence of sadomasochism, produced and supported by traditional