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Monday, October 7, 2019

Frankenstein 1974 - a Review from Monsters Unleashed 8

Monsters Unleashed #8 (October 1974)
"Fever in the Freak House!"
Doug Moench-Val Mayerik

Through my journey across the land of black and white comics, which is pretty recent if you've been round here long enough to hear me tell, I have come to appreciate Doug Moench on a level with the best scribes in the business. I'd known of him a bit from the four color comics, but this man made his meat and potatoes in the Marvel magazines! Today's fare is no exception. Hop on board, as I begin a set of six spooky-themed posts this October, culminating on Halloween the last Thursday of the month.

One of the joys of my library of collected editions is the massive The Monster of Frankenstein trade paperback. In the Bronze Age, my encounters with the Monster were limited to two places: the Celestial Madonna saga that ran through the Avengers, and Marvel Team-Ups #36-37. I didn't buy the Monster's own mag, and as it has been documented (again) many times here, I never owned a single black and white magazine. So to have all of the Monster's Bronze Age adventures between two covers... to say I jumped at that purchase would be an understatement. I'm dropping you right in the middle of a longer narrative today, but I think after feasting your eyes on Val Mayerik's art you'll see why. Ready, set, go!

100-Word Review:
The Monster had found a friend, but now loses the man to Death, and then loses him completely as the floor drops out beneath them. Landing in what could only be called a dungeon, the Monster now faced an army of grotesques and their leader, their Master. Told that he, the Monster, would serve this new Master, Frankenstein’s creation lashed out. He was greeted by a gas grenade, which halted him and allowed the grotesques to bind him. Later, the Master’s minions were dispatched to kidnap the young, rich, and beautiful Julia Winters. Bringing her to the dungeon, the woman found that the Master was instead a man she’d spurned - which drove him over the edge of sanity.

The Good: I don't know if I have enough superlatives for the job Val Mayerik turned in on this one. Wow wow wow! If one had never laid eyes on Bernie Wrightson's work, then one might think this was some of the best art in the macabre genre to ever grace the printed page. It's not quite Wrightson-level, but it's darned close. I especially like the panel with the increasing anger of the Monster across three faces. Great stuff! Mayerik also excelled in depicting the grotesques - some deformed, some even with bits of hanging flesh. It's quite the gross out, but then that's the point. As Doug Moench's script progressed, the extreme ghoulishness of the supporting cast would prove a point.


And that point would be not unlike what we might think of Victor von Doom - sheer vanity and the misperception of beauty vs. ugly. That's of course, if you're in the "Vic has a small scar" camp; if you're in the "Vic's face was blown off" camp, then this does not apply. But here we end up with a James Sinoda, a young man spurned by the beautiful rich girl, whose only conclusion must be that he is ugly. Sinoda's mind snapped, his world turned upside down, and he put on a mask to hide his ugliness. He then surrounded himself with deformed humans - freaks - and became their leader. The reality is, Sinoda was quite handsome, and only his world vision had become ugly. While the ending was perhaps predictable, the getting-there was fun.

The Bad: In a broader sense, this story forced the Monster to the sidelines as an observer - a role not unlike what we'd often find in a Man-Thing tale. It didn't affect my enjoyment of the experience, but as the climax was approaching and the Monster remained restrained, I did think that this was going to end without him playing any major role. Turns out I was wrong - sort of. The Master was killed by his freaks, but the evidence would be destroyed due to the Monster's causing the building to collapse. Which then only set up the next chapter, with the Monster as accused of the kidnapping of Julia Winters.

I also have a beef with the removal of the Monster from his Victorian origins and placement into the then-contemporary world of 1974. Were the stories good? Yes indeed. Was the move necessary in order to craft good stories? Nope. I have also seen fans take issue with the removal of the Monster's ability to speak - I share those qualms. Does it make the writer work harder? Yes. Is it wholly necessary and does it move the character forward? I don't think so.


The Ugly: Nothing here today, except for the creations of Mayerik's imagination. Those were some groovy ghoulies!


  1. Hiya,

    Strangely enough, I was never that much of a fan of Mayerik's art when he completed it. Always felt that, like Mike Grell, he used several lines when one would have done.

    How many times did they use this plot? Handsome man hiding what he thought was a ugly face. Saw it in Werewolf by Night.



    1. Nice to hear from you, PFG!

      I guess I'd have to have you show me what you mean about too many lines, as I don't understand. But I'd sure be willing to learn!


  2. I rather like Mayerik's art - as you noted, he's right up there with Wrightson in crafting misshapen, grotesque people or creatures that are still compelling to look at.
    And it definitely looks good in black and white: I've got a bunch of his Man-Thing and Living Mummy stories in various Essentials volumes. I would definitely like to see more of his work from the b&w magazines.

    1. I agree about this looking great in B&W. There is a level of depth and texture found in the no-color magazines that isn't necessary had color been added. This story is amazing in it's detail.


  3. Agreeing with Edo here, most impressed with those Mayerik pages. I've only seen his work on Man-Thing, which is nice, but not as sharp as these examples. It must be the lack of color which can bring out the best in some artists: fuller linework and deeper modelling. Very nice stuff.

    I've still never read a Frankenstein tale, or a Mummy. Only Tomb of Dracula and Man-Thing (oh, and Swamp Thing, if you count DC). Man, I missed out on these b/w magazines.

    1. You and me both, my friend. The B&W magazines are definitely on my "if I had a time machine" shopping list!



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