5 hours ago
Monday, October 25, 2010
Famous Monsters: Frankenstein
With Halloween drawing nigh, I thought I’d take a look at the iconic Universal monsters and what inspiration can be found to freshen up their traditional protrayals in gaming. Since vampires (particularly Dracula) have gotten a lot of virtual ink in the blogosphere of late, I figured I’d with start with the vice-president of the monster club, Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein, to his friends.
I suppose you could call his type “a construct” or a “golem.” It’s not really an archetype that seems to fire people's imaginations to the degree the vampire does. No series of sexed up urban fantasies for the ladies about a hunky dude made from stitched together corpse pieces (at least not that I’m aware of).
Frankenstein’s Mobster, where a slain cop in a city overrun by crime becomes a “made man”--literally. Grant Morrison offered up a more over-the-top, pulpy adventurer Frankenstein as part of his Seven Soldiers line. Somewhat similar (though less over-the-top) was the Wachowski Brothers’ alt-history, Doc Frankenstein.
I should point out combining Frankenstein with pulpy elements didn't start with these recent comics. The Utley and Waldrop novellette "Black as Pit, From Pole to Pole" (1977) has Frankenstein wandering into the Pellucidar-esque Hollow Earth. Dell comics made him a superhero back in the sixties.
Perhaps the best way to reimagine Frankenstein is in terms of what he's come to represent. Critics of genetic engineering and the like are always invoking his name. Splice is just the most recent riff on this sort of (post-)modern Prometheus.
How can this all be related to gaming? Well, the flesh golem of AD&D’s Monster Manual is the classic movie Frankenstein, and most sci-fi/conspiracy games do a riff on the more modern science-fear inspired Frankensteins. It would be cool, though, to see a more intelligent, villainous Frankie. Something along the lines of his original portrayal. Something less "stand-in for fears of man overstepping his place," and more singular menace.
Jess Nevins argues in Fantastic Victoriana that Shelley’s protrayal of the monster has a tinge of Yellow Peril to it, and I think he’s right. Maybe Frankenstein with a Fu Manchu spin would be the way to go? Let’s let the guy with bolts in his head have some soliloquies instead of just grunts.
Addendum: Check out Jim Shelley's Flashback Universe blog for a couple of comics panels of Frankenstein fighting a dinosaur, and a pictorial overview of various comic versions of the monster. Great minds think alike!