First off, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it. Second, I know I’m late to the party (again,) but 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein. Hell, The Morgan Library has an entire exhibit devoted to this (it’s actually really awesome.) So, I decided to get in on this action by reading Junji Ito’s manga version of it (and buy the 1818 version of the book. What? It’s for historical/scholarly reasons.)
For those unfamiliar with Junji, Ito, he’s considered to be the king of horror manga and his artwork will give you nightmares. Hell, I still can’t look at spirals without freaking out because I read Uzumaki. And that same artwork of his on full display here. While the nightmare fuel he’s known for isn’t that high here, there are still images that will give you nightmares. One of them is the monster. Remember, the monster is supposed to made out of random body parts and sewn together. There are panels that show the monster in some seriously scary ways which is how he is supposed to be.
Everything else, it just looks normal. He does manage to drawn Western people that actually do look Western. Before you go on and say, “it’s manga,” look at how he draws Japanese people. They clearly look Japanese.
As for how the Ito adapts the story, he adapted the 1818 version (Frankenstein shows more free will and Elizabeth is Frankenstein’s cousin who he marries.) It’s also different from the movie versions which people are familiar with (no Igor, no castle with a giant lab where Frankenstein uses lightning to bring him to life. Also, the monster learns how to talk normally rather than just grunt and say random words.) This version is scarier than the movie versions because the monster shows high intelligence. Combine that with high strength and Frankenstein is helpless.
While Shelly’s words may not be on display here, Ito does manage to bring her story to life in a way even literature snobs would enjoy. Trust me, if there was anyone who’s able to make this work as a comic while still being true to what Shelly intended, it’s Ito. In fact, Ito did a lot more to make me want to read the original novel than any movie version or teacher. Now you know how to make me read literature.
Do yourself a favor and read Junji Ito’s comic adaptation of Frankenstein. His artwork combined with the 1818 version of the work makes this worth reading for anyone, even diehard Frankenstein fans. I always say, just because it’s a comic, doesn’t mean it has no literary merit. You’d be surprised at what a comic can do that a novel can’t do.