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Retro Review Halloween Edition: Dick Breifer's Frankenstein

by Jason Laframboise on November 01, 2017


When I first started doing my retro reviews on this site there were two things I knew I wanted to cover. One is coming soon, but today the other one is coming straight at you, because it's my favourite time of the year!!! Halloween! There are thousands of horror comics that I could do, but there's only one that actually makes me smile just thinking of it, Dick Briefer's Frankenstein. So there are three different eras of the Prize Comics(the publisher of the stories)' Frankenstein. The first which I will cover to start, was a straight up horror book that segued into a super hero story.
We will start with the first appearance of the character, Prize Comics #7 from December of 1940. The story is written and drawn by Dick Briefer who is credited cleverly as Frank N. Stein. The story is billed as the new adventures of Frankenstein. We are set in 1930's and we get the origin story that you all know, Victor Frankenstein plunders body parts from grave sites to create life. The monster in this as drawn by Briefer is horrifying, though the back grounds are similar to the Universal horror Frankenstein, the monster is completely original. A misshapen face with the nose resting closer to his forehead is the trademark of the character. The monster goes berserk after people treat him as a freak. The scenes of the monster terrorising people are pretty great, my favourite has the monster bringing down a circus while riding an elephant is one of my 5 favourite pages ever in comics. The monster ends up in New York City, coincidence when Victor Frankenstein is visiting with his fiancee. We get another great page of the monster scaling the Statue of Liberty, where Victor and he tussle. Victor is about to fall but the monster saves his creator, not out of love but out of hatred, he wants to punish Victor for bringing him into a cruel world and that is how the story ends.



 
Where do we go from here? Well the horrific Frankenstein eventually gets another protagonist in the from of Denny"Bulldog" Dunsan who hunts the monster from Prize Comics #11 onward. We get a big crossover story in Prize Comics #24 with Bulldog teaming up with Prize Comics' super heroes Black Owl, Green Lama, Dr. Frost, Yank and Doodle, and the General and the Corporal.

 
In 1945 Dick Breifer took a huge left turn in tone for his Frankenstein stories and it became a cute cartoony parody of the horror books of the time. I am going to get into the first issue of the solo series in this iteration of the character, but first if you are unfamiliar with Golden Age Comics, let me just say that most books were huge in page count compared to today's comics, with most books featuring multiple stories. Frankenstein #1 has 3 solo stories of the character. I will only go into detail about the first story, which is an origin story.
 
In the story entitled Frankenstein's Creation. We start off with a bored mad scientist who wants nothing more than to break out of his funk, when his cat knocks over a copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and he is inspired to create his own monster  to let "loose on the world the most terrible beast man or animal has ever known". The mad scientist goes to an undertaker and gets his parts, makes his monster. So to make the monster evil he has created a serum that will make even a peaceful bunny into a an aggressive predator. (The cute little bunny beats up a cat). So we get the typical thunderstorm origin, with the monster's first motion being a sneeze. The scientist uses a champagne bottle to christen the creature Frankenstein, by smashing him over the head with the bottle, Ala a ship christening. So after a few days the scientist sends his creation to the nearby village to create havoc,and looting of course. Our mad scientist has a daydream of all the carnage his creation is no doubtedly causing. However the gentle creature is instead smelling flowers and playing with a lamb. He sees some pretty birds in a tree and decides that the things he is going to bring back to his father is flowers, birds(with the whole tree), and the lamb. The scientist realizes what his folly was, the serum that was supposed to cause aggression did not work because the creature would have already been a monster, so the serum did the opposite to him. So the mad scientist goes to inject him again, however the creatures new Lamb friend causes a fire, and soon an explosion. Frankenstein decides to save his lamb and birds first, and is too late to save his creator.

 
So that was the first stories of the first two versions of Dick Breifer's Frankenstein. The humorous Frankenstein is one of my favourite comic strips of all time. I just love the mixture of horror tropes and what is basically a cute animal story. It is genuinely funny and cute, I just love it so much. The strip lasted in Prize Comics until the end of the regular book with issue #68(the book continued on as Prize Western). Eventually the tides of comic taste changed again and with issue number 18 of the Frankenstein series Breifer returned to the horror stories of Frankenstein, which happened in 1952 and the book lasted in this format until Nov of 1954's issue number 33. The character had a run that lasted 14 years, all with the same creator. Frankenstein was another horror book that was a victim of the tough restrictions put on comics by the Comics Code Authority. After leaving his signature character behind Dick Breifer left the comics industry to work in the advertising industry.

 
This is a great series that if you ever get a chance to sit down and read you should. Lucky for you I am going to tell you how to get ahold of all these books! One of the best resources you can get is a hard cover book published in 2010 by Yoe Books entitled Dick Breifer's Frankenstein, and is available on Amazon! If you are okay reading comics on the computer you might be able to find them on archive.org but it does take some searching. These books are public domain so it is completely free to download and read in several places, my favourite is from my friends at www.comicbookplus.com which is a great place to read this series and thousands and thousands of classic golden age public domain comics. So do yourself a favour and read these classic stories.

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