Frankenstein #2, September 1966

The first issue of Dell’s Frankenstein was a fairly standard adaptation of the book/movie, however, with this second issue things took a decidedly odd turn…

The success of Stan Lee’s Marvel comics meant that super-heroes were big news again, and all the publishers wanted in on the action — even if they had no track record with costumed characters. During the 1940s and 50s Dell was a hugely successful publisher specialising mainly in licenced product such as Disney characters and movie tie-ins. Dell’s product was beautifully produced, though the actual content was packaged by Western Publishing which also held the majority of the licences. Things were going so well in fact that the company didn’t bother subscribing to the Comics Code Authority in the wake of the horror comics clamp-down of the mid-50s. Instead, the comics carried the promise that “Dell Comics are good comics” on the inside of every cover.

In the early 1960s Western and Dell parted company, and both continued to publish comics — Western as Gold Key, and Dell under its own banner. Western got the better end of the deal and went from strength to strength for the next decade or so, while Dell, it’s fair to say, struggled. Western had the writers, the artists and a wealth of experience in creating comics, Dell… didn’t. The ill-fated attempt to turn the “big three” classic monsters into super-heroes is sadly indicative of a company having lost its way.

So, Frankenstein #2: A bolt of lightning strikes a derelict castle and awakens the slumbering Frankenstein monster. A hundred years have passed while he slept, and the sight of his green-hued head in a mirror startles him: he has no memory of who he is. He puts on a flesh coloured mask and goes out into the wide world for a look around. In order to protect his identitiy he decides to call himself Frank Stone.

No, seriously.

He discovers that he has super strength when he rescues the elderly Henry Knickerbocker from a car crash. Knickerbocker dies anyway, but not before he’s left his rescuer all his vast fortune. Lucky, eh? Now able to masquerade as a millionaire playboy, Frankenstein — sorry, Frank Stone — goes on a one-monster crusade against crime, protecting Metropole City from all who would do it ill.

One such miscreant is Mr Freek and his evil pet gorilla, Bruto. In a tense showdown Frankenstein battles the huge gorilla to rescue his newly-acquired butler, William. Oddly, with William safe, Frankenstein elects to let Freek go, no questions asked. The mad scientist and his pet just sail off into the sunset as Frankenstein and William wave them off.

Later, at a society do, Frank meets the delectable, but nosy, Miss Ann Thrope (!). Determined to prove her suspicion that Frank is “the monster they call Frankenstein”, she throws herself off a roof, hoping Frank will, er, reveal himself. He’s too canny for that however, and she’s left to write up her thoughts in a private diary. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Mr Freek vows revenge..!

Don Segall (not the Dirty Harry movie director — at least, I hope not!) wrote this mess and it was given the illustrative quality it deserved by Tony Tallarico, a talent much beloved by all bad comic fans everywhere. It’s got a monster, super-powers, a secret identity, a butler and a suspicious chick who’ll stop at nothing to prove Frank is more than he seems. Original stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The worst comic ever? Nah. Soon we’ll be looking at Dell’s other super-heroes: Dracula and the Werewolf!

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid…

©2010 Dell Publishing/the respective copyright holders