The 20th Century adventures of Mary Shelley’s famous monster continued with a guest-star stint in Giant-Size Werewolf #2. Doug Moench scripted and Don Perlin provided the artwork. Moench gets to make his familiar point about judging by appearances (as he did several times in his Frankenstein 1974 scripts for Monsters Unleashed) with an opening sequence in which a hippie and an African-American are discussing the injustice of unfounded prejudices when they encounter the Monster and immediately flee in terror at his appearance. The Monster subsequently overhears a conversation between two winos about eccentric millionaire Danton Vayla who has discovered the ability to transmigrate souls. Intrigued, the Monster sets off for Los Angeles (by freight train) in the hopes of gaining a new, normal body for himself.
The story then shifts gears to pick up a plot strand from Marvel’s monthly Werewolf by Night title where Lissa Russell has joined a Satanic cult, The Brotherhood of Baal in the hopes of finding a cure for her werewolf brother. Lissa quits the cult after learning that they practice human sacrifice. The Brotherhood abducts Lissa and scrawl Manson-style graffiti on the walls of her home. This sends Jack Russell in search of his sister. He soon discovers that Danton Vayla (who resembles Anton LaVey in name as well as appearance) is the leader of the Brotherhood of Baal and about to sacrifice Lissa as part of the same ritual that the Monster’s soul is to transmigrate into the body of a handsome young cult member. One lengthy Werewolf-Monster scuffle later and Vayla lies dead, the cult is ruined and Lissa is freed.
Doug Moench and regular artist Val Mayerik pick up the revamped monthly title, The Frankenstein Monster with Issue 13. The Monster has stowed away on board an airplane from Los Angeles back to New York. Unfortunately from there we get a retread of the initial Frankenstein 1973 feature from Monsters Unleashed as we’re introduced to another young ne’er-do-well scientist, Steven Caccone who can’t hold a job but has grown a cloned swamp creature in his home laboratory.
Steven also has a wife who doesn’t share his enthusiasm for his experiments and wants him to get a regular job and, in a rare bit of originality, a teenage son who is in a street gang. As things progress, Ralph Caccone befriends the Monster (all misunderstood Marvel characters need a teenage sidekick) and Janice Caccone is the one who succeeds in bringing the cloned swamp creature to life in her misguided attempt to destroy it in a fiery finale recycled from Marvel’s black & white companion magazine.
Issue 14 sees the cloned swamp creature murder Ralph’s parents, tussle with the Monster, and ends with Ralph and the Monster on the lam. Ralph foolishly trusts a low-level hoodlum, Prawn who is in the pay of yes, a descendant of Victor Frankenstein desperate to kill the Monster. The mix of the Mafia and Frankenstein is a new wrinkle and Moench nicely prefigures Dean Koontz’s mixture of Mary Shelley and cloning in his ongoing modern-day Frankenstein novels, but the Last Frankenstein storyline is way too familiar from Marvel’s earlier post-novel issues of The Monster of Frankenstein for this to really work.
Issue 15 begins to resemble one of Moench’s contemporaneous scripts for Marvel’s Master of Kung-Fu with its blend of Enter the Dragon and James Bond spy thriller conventions. The Mafia figures from the last issue are revealed to be members of ICON, a secret organization busily dedicated to building an army of reanimated corpses. Prawn is revealed to be a heroic soldier of fortune who successfully infiltrated ICON rather than the low-level hood he appeared to be and, to round things off, Ralph’s Dad’s swamp monster clone resurfaces just long enough to bequickly dispatched by the Monster. The issue ends with Prawn holding a semi-automatic on Ralph and the Monster as he intends to deliver the Monster into the hands of his employer, Victor Frankenstein’s descendant.
Issue 16 brings us the Last Frankenstein in the form of Dr. Veronica Frankenstein. However, she is not the villainess we expected as she really wants to cure rather than kill the Monster. She successfully operates on his larynx (the Monster has been mute since his jugular was bit by Dracula back in Issue #10) and restores the gift of speech to him. Unfortunately, ICON attack Castle Frankenstein in the Swiss Alps and unleash a robot version of the Monster called Berserker who promptly engages the Monster in battle.
Issue 17 was Moench’s final issue and sees a rematch between Berserker and the Monster who end the issue as allies as Berserker countermands his programming from ICON and befriends the Monster. Bill Mantlo took over for what ended up being the final issue of the series, # 18 with the Monster and Berserker battling an army of misshapen dwarves (shades of Moench’s freaks storyline from Monsters Unleashed) only to discover Veronica’s deranged and badly-scarred sister, Victoria Frankenstein rules as the demented matriarch over the castle sanctuary of the dwarves.
This climactic revelation received a half-hearted resolution in Iron Man #101 where Bill Mantlo concluded the dangling storyline with Victoria Frankenstein and the dwarves (but was unable to include Ralph and Veronica Frankenstein leaving their plot threads unresolved by the main title’s cancellation). The issue ends with a bemused Iron Man allowing the Monster to wander off into obscurity.
Marvel has made several unsuccessful attempts to revive the character over the last 35 years. Sadly, their Frankenstein Monster was as misbegotten as Victor Frankenstein’s literary original. A repetition of ideas and lack of clarity doomed the series for an abbreviated run. Happily, the immortality of Mary Shelley’s original insured a cult place for this unique, if decidedly odd series.
William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press). He is currently working on a sequel, The Destiny of Fu Manchu as well as The Occult Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at SetiSays.blogspot.com