Halloween Horror: Gris Grimly's Frankenstein

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....

I've always been a fan of Frankenstein, partly because I've always been a Mary Shelley fan. So, when we hit October, the month of the monsters, I couldn't help reading Gris Grimly's adaptation of Shelley's work. Grimly has worked on a lot of classic adaptations, like works by Poe, and has partnered up with the inestimable Neil Gaiman. Even knowing this, I was a little nervous. Adaptations of classics always give me a pause.

I was quite pleased with this for a number of reasons.

Grimly's adaptation draws heavily on the original text of Frankenstein. With the exception of some dialogue incorporated into the panels, the text is exclusively from Shelley's work.  The work was drawn in three "volumes" and as the narrative goes on, the artwork is incorporated more and more into the actual storytelling. The book is published by HarperCollins, so I wasn't surprised to see that it was very heavy on text narration, and I was pleased when actual actions were shown by the artwork. I wish that the art had been a bit more central to the storytelling, but I think this would be perfect for someone who wants to get a flavor of the classic or for a younger reader. The illustrations and panels go quite a way to show and explain the more esoteric writing style.

The art itself is kind of Tim Burton-esque. This is fitting and was a fairly pleasant combination. It was stellar, though, when Grimly has a radical style shift. As the perspective changes from Frankenstein to Frankenstein's Monster, the illustrations strip down. They become a more simplistic black and white, developing back into the main style as Frankenstein's Monster gains awareness and language. I couldn't get over how elegant a choice that this was. It was such a great stylistic communication.

Grisly's choice to accentuate the original text rather than supplant it was very cool. I liked the idea that the adaptation held a lot of the actual story. In particular, I kept thinking how approachable this would be from a teaching perspective. As a former literacy teacher, the classics are very intimidating, and younger readers are often put off by the wordings and older writing style. I think that Grimly's abridged and illustrated version makes the classic style very approachable. It also adds a sense of modernity by using a  fairly familiar artistic style.

Despite my desire for more artwork integration, I was very pleased with this story and Grimly's approach.  I think this is absolutely a solid good-for-all story. It's designed to delight not just fans of the story, but to expand how you read the story for a new age. Most of all, I think it's a great family read. It's got the challenge for adults and the pictures to help the kids along.