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Frankenstein

Mary’s Monster

In honor of Halloween and the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, I choose Mary’s Monster, a poetic and beautifully evocative book about Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, the author of the classic 1818 novel. This fictionalized biography by Lita Judge details Mary’s life from childhood onward and is told in free verse.

Mary was born into a literary family- mother Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer while her father William Godwin was a political philosopher. Her mother died when Mary was an infant, also leaving an older half sister. William remarried, which brought step siblings into the family, in addition to having a son with his second wife. Failed business ventures and an unhappy family life plunged the family into poverty and discord. Mary was sent to live with family friends in Scotland for two years, and when she returned as a teenager, tensions at home were still high.

Soon after returning she met Percy Bysshe Shelley, a young poet from a rich family who seemed enamored with Mary’s scholarly family, and her father and step-mother hoped he would help them with some debts. Quickly Percy convinced Mary that his marriage to his pregnant wife Harriet was over, and he seduced her easily. Step-sister Claire is also taken in by his words, while the rest of the family is scandalized by Mary and Percy’s affair. The two girls steal away with Percy and head first to Paris, then around Europe.

But words don’t pay the bills, and the trio are soon destitute with Mary pregnant. Shunned by her family, she delivers a daughter but the baby soon dies, and Mary is heartbroken. Throughout the next few years, Mary endures Percy’s whims, with him dallying with Claire and him stringing along his wife Harriet until she commits suicide. Two more children are born and die during their travels, with only their fourth child, a son, surviving to adulthood.

During this time Percy, Mary and Claire visit Lord Byron in Geneva, Switzerland, and the famous challenge is issued for them all to create a horror story. The genesis of the story takes root, and Mary begins her magnum opus. Mary takes threads of despair from her own life and weaves them together with biting political and society commentary to create the Frankenstein masterpiece. Despite his many flaws Percy encourages Mary to write and believes she has just as much right to be creative and write as he does. It is only after Percy’s accidental sailing death a few years later, leaving Mary a widow at twenty four with a young son, does Mary claim ownership of the Gothic story that had originally been published anonymously.

Dark and lovely, the art brings Mary to life, just as Mary brought the creature Frankenstein to life. Judge’s moody black and white watercolor illustrations, paired with the sensuous verses, effectively show the ideals and passions that ruled Mary and Percy. Mary’s tumultuous life helped shape her into a masterful writer, and led her to create an unforgettable novel. She and her creature won’t soon be forgotten.

-Nancy

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The Legion of Monsters

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with the 1975 first (and only) issue of The Legion of Monsters?

A few years ago I was at the Naperville Graham Crackers comic book store with my husband when I admired a fantastically kitschy painting of three monsters. My awesome husband then surprised me with the picture at my next birthday, and I proudly put it up in my living room every October. When I put up a photograph of the painting on my wall on Twitter, Graham Crackers noticed and told me that it was based off the classic Legion of Monsters cover and they sent over a copy to the DeKalb store for me.

Pulling out the musty magazine out of it’s plastic covering was a walk through another era and I loved it! There were four stories along with a letter from the editor, a monster movie update and gloriously dated ads.

The Frankenstein Monster: The Monster and the Masque  Story: Doug Moench Art: Val Mayerik, Dan Adkins & Pablo Marcos

Frankenstein is just lounging around some city alleys when he sees a beautiful women running by on her way to a Halloween party. Following her in, all the sexy revelers assume he is in costume and talk to him and offer him alcohol. Cynthia believes him to be the strong silent type and dances with him. But he is later fooled by her murderous husband and the murder is pinned on him. Well, Frankenstein won’t stand for that!

The Manphibian: Vengeance Crude Plot: Marc Wolfman Script: Tony Isabella Art: Dave Cockrum & Sam Grainger

A rip off of the Swamp Thing, two aliens emerge from an oil rig, after being trapped for eons. One is clearly the villian, having killed the other’s mate years ago, and he is bent on destruction. The other tries to save a woman who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, but both manphibians are hunted by the oil rig workers as well as the owner of the oil company. Both monsters escape, but the hunt is on…

The Flies Script: Gerry Conway Art & Plot: Paul Kirschner & Ralph Reese

A “freak” formally from a circus sideshow has taken up residence on the outskirts of a town. Some boys and men taunt him as he collects garbage to bring back to his shack where he cares for flies, and he finally snaps when one of the boys sneaks into his home and destroys his fly friends. When a police officer checks for the missing boy, he is horrified as to what Chuckles did for revenge. The art reminds me Mad magazine, for it is deliberately caricature like.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Death, Be Thou Proud! Writer: Roy Thomas Art: Dick Giordano

A long prologue covers previous chapters (found in other magazines) and then advances the story of Lucy as she was being converted into a vampire, and how Dr. Van Helsing and the men who loved her tried to save her. Appropriately Gothic looking, this story begged for more chapters.

In addition to the epic stories, the ads that skewed towards males are cringe worthy now. So many mail in advertisements, but they were that era’s pop-up ads that we have on our computers today. This was such a fun read, and I want to thank Graham Crackers for bringing it to my attention!

-Nancy

*I copied the magazine pictures from a review on Marvel University (scroll down quite a bit to find it).

 

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