#Newcomicsday is 9/2
We, as a culture, revisit established ideas and concepts on a regular basis. There are over twenty James Bond films, for example, and they range from tonally similar to one another to drastically different. The thing that makes a difference is the talent involved with the production. Every human being is different, and together we're capable of infinite unique variations on an idea. Those variations are what keeps us coming back to these stories. Being presented with something familiar gets us in the door, so to speak, and the twist is what makes us fall in love.
In the case of Megan Levens & Jamie S. Rich's MADAME FRANKENSTEIN, which features covers by Joelle Jones, tones by Nick Filardi, and letters by Crank!, the familiar is present in that the story is a riff on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The twist is that this time, the story takes place in 1932, and instead of merely building a sentient creature, the scientist in question is attempting to create his own perfect dream woman.
This weekend, in concert with this Close Read, we're offering MADAME FRANKENSTEIN #1 free. If you like what you see, the MADAME FRANKENSTEIN collected edition is on sale now.
The original Frankenstein has plenty of meat to chew over when you're done reading. There is the question of whether Victor Frankenstein was guilty of hubris when he created his monster, for instance. The idea that there are certain things humankind is not meant to attempt to take control of plays a part, along with the terror of parenthood, creation anxiety, and even a fear of the new. Even if you set all that aside, the core of the story is still Man vs Monster, a tale that has thrilled and terrified humanity for thousands of years.
None of this is any surprise to anyone who knows the Frankenstein story, even if only through horror or action movies. The story is one that is very malleable, and by moving the setting to 1932 and changing the gender of the creature, Levens and Rich introduced even more fertile ground to explore. 1932 is just twelve years after the passing of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave some women the right to vote, and on the cusp of the worst stage of the Great Depression. They've always mattered, but gender roles, class, and cultural perception were at an interesting place in those days, and that proves true in MADAME FRANKENSTEIN.
Vincent Krall, our Doctor, reanimates the corpse of the love of his life and names her Gail, after Galatea. Before he revives her, he mentions how pleased he is that her accidental death didn't damage her face too much. Even before the revival, MADAME FRANKENSTEIN is pushing buttons. If you consider a corpse to be a body bereft of everything that made it a person—life, memory, personality, and so on—then a corpse is literally an object.
By reanimating her, you could say that Krall is objectifying his love. Once she's back to life, she's pre-verbal and amnesiac, a blank slate that he then proceeds to teach, train, and discipline as he sees fit. Gail has little agency of her own, at least at first, and Krall takes advantage of this fact by attempting to mold her into his ideal woman. Back up for a moment—wouldn't someone reanimating the love of his life want the love of his life, not a simulacrum?
MADAME FRANKENSTEIN is a smart comic, one that will have you asking questions even as you're enjoying what's going on in the story. It isn't just about the plight of women in the '30s, like Frankenstein wasn't just about man playing God or man vs monster. That's merely one aspect of MADAME FRANKENSTEIN, one of several twists that make the familiar feel fresh and new. Rich and Levens took a story we all enjoy and threw a new spin on things, one that re-contextualizes the ideas in the original and introduces new concepts into the mix.
MADAME FRANKENSTEIN is a complete story in one trade paperback. MADAME FRANKENSTEIN #1 is free this weekend.