The one thing that will always surprise a newcomer to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is how different the original novel is to our perceived notion of the monster. That he’s a nameless creature, stitched together and brought to life in a misjudged scientific experiment, is fairly common knowledge. But his eloquence, physical dexterity and tragic nature is not so well known amongst those brought up on the shambling, mumbling, square-headed monster that Hollywood created.
This ‘Original Text’ version of the graphic novel pulls the dialogue from Shelley’s work but leaves artist Declan Shalvey to fill in her narrative. The story is also condensed somewhat, which was something of a surprise, since the Shakespeare plays that Classical Comics has adapted previously were unabridged. With Frankenstein, the condensation of the piece has inevitably left some areas of the book under-explained, particularly in lengthy monologues from the original. For example, we found ourselves needing to go back to the original source material (which you can handily read online courtesy of Project Gutenberg) to get more information on the period when the monster is learning how to speak by spying on the troubles of a family with their own tragic history. No doubt it’s a necessary evil of adapting a complex story like Frankenstein but this doesn’t make it any less disappointing.
Shalvey’s artwork is dark and brooding, keeping broadly within Shelley’s original remit when it comes to the monster. So gone are the electric shocks to bring him to life and the square head. But the artwork falls over, we felt, with the monsters eyes. Shelley suggests they “seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set,” but the monster has been given yellow glowing eyes, which certainly stands out on the page but isn’t quite authentic. This is, after all, supposed to be a monster brought back from the dead through science, not magic.
Overall though this is a solid adaptation that’s bound to bring more readers to the original, even if it’s to check on details that the book’s 128 pages haven’t quite spelled out. It’s as honest and faithful an adaptation of the book as you’re likely to find at the moment so, if you’ve fancied revisiting the story of Frankenstein and his monster, but want something more dynamic than the original, this is an great place to start.