The “Gentle Giant” era of Dick Briefer’s classic Frankenstein series ended with the 17th issue of the character’s eponymous magazine. It would be three years before Briefer’s take on the monster would appear again, and at that point the series shifted into a pure horror mode to capitalize on the popularity of EC-styled comic books.
Perhaps sensing the end was near, the final issue of the “funny” Frankenstein is a bit darker than previous installments. The stories downplay the goofy surrealism of earlier stories and focus on the “lighter side” of murder and mayhem.
It’s a tribute to Briefer’s talent that he pulls off such a difficult feat. Much like his monstrous creation, Briefer was truly one of a kind.
The Thirteen Days Of Halloween continue with “Voice Of His Conscience.” The story originally appeared in Frankenstein Comics # 17 (Prize Comics, January-February 1949).
The story was written and drawn by Briefer.
If you’d like to read more of Briefer’s Frankenstein, I dedicated a week to his three distinct takes on the character a few years ago.
Coming tomorrow: One of cinema’s original scream queens!
If Dick Briefer worked in the modern comic-book industry, Internet fandom would probably condemn the writer-artist for his overly stylized, cartoony style.
As those familiar with Briefer’s Frankenstein can attest, however, the legendary creator was just as proficient at straight-up horror as big-foot humor. Like Jack Cole, Briefer possessed the talent, imagination and skill to make any sort of story work.
Submitted tonight for your approval, Time Bulleteer, is a Western tale that illustrates how Briefer’s “cartoony” approach transformed a rather typical “outlaw terrorizes community” story into an effective story of brutality and eye-for-an-eye justice.
(In my opinion, Briefer’s art makes the story’s black-humored denouement more disturbing to modern eyes…)
From Dead-Eye Western Comics vol. 1 #8 (Hillman, February 1950), here’s “Rattler Matt: Horned Toad Of The West” by Briefer.
Yours truly hoped to post this story sooner, but that demon Tryptophan has got me in its sway. At any rate, Thanksgiving is an appropriate time to pay tribute to comics’ first Native American super-hero: The Bronze Terror.
Created by Dick Briefer of Frankenstein fame, Jeff Dixon first donned the costume of “Real American No. 1” in Daredevil Comics #2. An attorney who set out to avenge the murder of his father, Dixon differed from most vigilantes of the era by fighting for a cause that put a different spin on the “American way” – namely defending his fellow Apache from the forces of greed and corruption that oppressed the tribe.
(Kind of an uphill battle there, but Briefer – along with editor Charles Biro and publisher Lev Gleason – is to be commended for thinking so far out of the box. Similarly themed heroes really wouldn’t pop up in comic-books again until the 1970s.)
The Bronze Terror only appeared eight times before fading into obscurity, but Briefer’s creation can still be enjoyed thanks to the enterprising scanners over at the Digital Comic Museum.
From Daredevil Comics #6 (Lev Gleason, December 1941), here’s “The Dam Breaker” by Dick Briefer.
The third incarnation of Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein often found itself entangled in unlikely love scenarios, probably because everyone loves a good “Beauty And The Beast” tale and the cartoonist was admittedly a bit low on inspiration at the time.
Of course, none of these tales end happily … mostly because the monster isn’t really capable of much except destruction. That’s part of the character’s tragedy, I suppose, and once again a marked difference from the original malcontent that declared war against humanity in those early issues of Prize Comics.
The Time Bullet’s Three Faces Of Frankenstein week concludes with “Entranced,” one of Briefer’s better anti-romance comics. The story originally appeared in Frankenstein Comics #29 (Prize, Februrary-March 1954).
As if it needs to be pointed out, the script and art are by Briefer.
Three years after the demise of Dick Briefer’s acclaimed Frankenstein title, he returned to the trenches and revived the character to capitalize on the booming horror comics market.
Much to his regret, Briefer had never been able to sell a syndicated newspaper strip based on the humorous Frankenstein. Therefore, the cartoonist’s third iteration of Mary Shelley’s classic creation returned the monster to it’s original, bestial state. Unlike the version that appeared during the early ‘40s, however, this Frankenstein was less an evil mastermind than an inhuman engine of destruction.
(That could, on occasion, still be pitied.)
As I’ve written in earlier posts, Briefer thought less of this comic than the earlier Frankenstein strips. While it definitely lacks the zip of his earlier efforts, the third series is still entertaining and could even serve as an unacknowledged influence on the earliest Lee-Kirby Hulk stories.
Um….with a lot more murder and mayhem than was ever allowed in any Silver-Age Marvel Comic.
The Time Bullet’s Three Faces Of Frankenstein week continues with “The Rebirth of The Monster” from Frankenstein Comics #18 (Prize Comics, March 1952). The art and story are by Briefer.
Our Three Faces Of Frankenstein week continues as the world’s friendliest monster solves the unemployment crisis!
The story originally appeared in Frankenstein Comics #14 (Prize Comics, July-August 1948). It was written and drawn – once again – by Dick Briefer.
Coming tomorrow: The third and final face of Frankenstein!
Frankenstein’s Monster a … matchmaker? Stranger things have happened, especially with Dick Briefer’s version of the classic Mary Shelley character.
The Time Bullet’s Three Faces Of Frankenstein week continues with “The Strange Love Of Shirley Schmool,” a decidedly different tale of romance that definitely lives up to its title!
The story originally appeared in Frankenstein Comics #7 (Prize Comics, May-June 1947). It was written by Dick Briefer and Ed Goggin and drawn by Briefer.
By 1945, Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein had adopted a lighter tone as the Monster abandoned random acts of violence in favor of such pursuits as tracking down a copy of Jack & The Beanstalk. The change had evidently proved popular as Frankenstein graduated to his own comic, a move that prompted Briefer to ditch the horror elements entirely and reboot the character as a gentle giant who sought a down-to-earth existence.
The following story, “Frankenstein’s Family,” epitomizes this new approach as Briefer throws caution to the wind and amps up the surreal humor that set the feature apart from just about everything else on the newsstands back then.
“Frankenstein’s Family” originally appeared in Frankenstein Comics #3 (Crestwood, July-August 1946). The story was scripted by Briefer with Bruce Elliott and drawn by Briefer.
The Three Faces Of Frankenstein week continues with The Creature teaming up with Satan himself to see if a pure soul can be corrupted.
Yes … your eyes aren’t deceiving you Time Bulleteer. Today’s story is an adaptation of the Biblical story of Job that features Frankenstein’s Monster.
It’s just one of many reasons why I love comic-books so …
“Frankenstein Meets The Devil” first appeared in Prize Comics #31 (Crestwood Publications, June 1943). It was written and drawn by Dick Briefer.
Talk about divine intervention! I do like the image of Frankenstein and Satan playing cards at the end, though.
Tomorrow: The Second Face Of Frankenstein!
Today we begin a “Three Faces Of Frankenstein” theme week featuring three very different incarnations of Dick Briefer’s legendary take on the Frankenstein monster.
When the Creature debuted in Prize Comics #7 (Crestwood Publications, December 1940), he was portrayed as a rampaging monster that hated mankind with every fibre of its being. The premise remained intact until Prize Comics #24 (Crestwood, October 1942), when Frankenstein’s primary antagonist – an adventurer named Denny “Bulldog” Dunsan – teamed up with the super-heroes that shared the comic with Briefer’s characters and captured the monster.
Frankenstein eventually reformed and even took on the Nazis but still succumbed to his darker impulses – a la the modern-day Hulk – from time to time.
After the war, Briefer transformed the “Frankenstein” strip into a humorous feature that is now regarded as one of the greatest features to emerge from comics’ Golden Age. Briefer’s big-foot art and dark, often surreal, humor distinguished this more genial Frankenstein from the usual comic-book monster and proved every bit as “adult” as Charles Addams’ more “respectable” Addams Family comics in New Yorker.
The second Frankenstein strip ran from 1945-49, but Briefer revived the character one final time from 1952-54 to capitalize on the horror comics craze. Portrayed once again as a raging monster, neither Briefer nor comics historians regard this incarnation as the equal of the previous two. The cartoonist even recycled some ideas from earlier stories. Still, Briefer’s skills as a storyteller didn’t vanish and this final Frankenstein definitely enjoyed some bone-chilling moments.
The following tale is one of the earliest appearances of Briefer’s Frankenstein, when no one could foresee that the creature would eventually become a genial and gentle suburbanite.
From Prize Comics #9 (Crestwood Publications, February 1941), here’s a story concerning Frankenstein’s brief brush with the criminal underworld as written and drawn by Briefer.