Frankenstein, as written by author Mary Shelley, was arguably the first ever science-fiction story. The character, as helmed in 1818, is now almost 200 years old. In turn, Frankenstein is one of the few characters or stories that everyone ought to know, regardless of their age, background or interest in literature. Even if the average person fails to realize that the original novel’s doctor was who was actually named Frankenstein.
As implied by this new title from Reel Art Press — a publisher known for its special, often-heavy, and usually-colorful coffee table books — Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years is a comprehensive look at the character’s origins up through present day. Author Christopher Frayling is an authoritative figure within the worlds of Gothic fiction and horror. He is an award-winning broadcaster and writer, previously the Rector of London’s Royal College Of Art for 13 years and the Chairman of the Arts Council Of England. If Wikipedia is correct, Frayling was knighted in the year 2000 for his services to art and design education.
If you are a hoarder of all things Frankenstein, this book is an essential addition to your collection. The first 111 pages alternate between narrative and images. From Page 112 forward, as the start of Chapter 6’s “visual celebration,” the book switches to an all-visual format. For me, personally, Chapter 6 is the highlight. It features content related to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Frankenweenie, MAD Magazine, The Simpsons, The Flintstones, and Abbott & Costello alike, showing the long-staying prominence of Frankenstein within pop culture.
But if there is one complaint about this section, which keeps the book from being a 10 out of 10, it is the lack of Frankenstein mentions in music. Alice Cooper had “Feed My Frankenstein,” Edgar Winter recorded “Frankenstein,” The Misfits had plenty of Frankenstein-related references in their music, and so forth. A few pages of concert posters, music releases, or still live photos could have fixed that. But at the very least, Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years is filled with history and reinforced the long-term appeal and influence of one of horror’s forefathers.
Written by: Christopher Frayling
Publisher: Reel Art Press (October 24, 2017)
Format/Length: Hardcover, 208 pages
Check out the YouTube video “1931: Dracula, Frankenstein and the origin of Universal Horror”.