If you love comic strips, graphic novels, or rad video game graphics that tell the story seen in your imagination, then you will find Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein intriguing. This literary remake of Mary Shelley’s classic work captures attention immediately with on-point illustrations complementing the descriptive narrative, down to the smallest imagined detail. Grimly himself writes in his Afterword, “I wanted to set the tale in a world that could only be visited through my imagination. Dark moral lessons exist amidst a whimsical tone.” (Grimly 195).
The original Frankenstein was published in 1818 by Mary Shelley but the core messages of this chilling classic stand the test of time, especially told through Grimly’s words and pictures. Shelley’s original work was very advanced for its era. For many, the disturbing concept of creating life in a laboratory was difficult to understand. However, Shelley’s lessons about the consequences of what we create continue to captivate and even frighten readers today. As medical science has evolved, we can now transplant organs from one human being to another to sustain life. This is the positive side of such advancement but what are the consequences? Mary Shelley was asking these questions before anyone around her could imagine this kind of science. The problem with Shelley’s telling of Frankenstein is that the novel is long and difficult for a modern reader to get through. Enter Gris Grimly. Grimly is a wildly talented illustrator who was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein so much so that he re-wrote the story in a way that would be more understandable to a wide audience. He added captivating, weird, and sometimes horrifying (in a good way) graphics that help usher the reader through the dense and detailed story.
Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein’s twisted life. A key component to understanding Victor is learning that he loses his beloved mother to scarlet fever. He is heart-broken and his grief drives him to the brink of insanity. His entire purpose becomes trying to find the cure for all illness, to prevent man’s demise from disease. This transforms from wanting to cure disease to creating life. Through research and experimentation, Victor succeeds in resurrecting the dead and creating life from a dead body dug out of a graveyard. The glory of his creation turns into fear because the life form has a hideous appearance. “For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (Grimly 42) Victor immediately flees the creature, his own creation, without even giving the creature a chance to learn humanity. The monster is brought into the world and abandoned by his maker. Grimly’s illustrative rendering of the scene is grotesque, sad, and begs the question, “who is the real monster?” Victor’s abandonment of the monster is a grave mistake. The monster flees into a world he does not understand with no guidance. He is shunned and hated by all manner of person. The rejection destroys the monster. He becomes jealous, hurt, and angry. The monster does not understand why he is treated differently than Victor and he is jealous of the love and acceptance Victor has from his family and friends. The monster’s rage and jealousy turn destructive and then deadly as he seeks to make Victor suffer in the worst way imaginable. With the guilt of his family being murdered by his own creation, Victor sets out to kill the creature and send it back to the darkness. Ultimately, this obsession leads to Victor’s own demise.
Grimly’s illustrations and written word are dark but weirdly drive home sympathy for the monster and disgust with Victor. Grimly writes in his Afterword about seeing the story through Victor’s eyes, “Beware the slippery slopes of acclimating to a life of self-absorbed achievements and fame, lest one falls into the pit of fire and brimstone.” (Grimly 195) Victor’s selfish undoing is not the only lesson of Frankenstein. The damage of ” judging a book by its cover” is another. The monster wants only acceptance and love. Anyone who has ever felt like the outsider or outcast can identify with him. Grimly beautifully draws the monster asking Victor to create a companion for him so he can, “become linked to the chain of existence and events, from which I am now excluded.” (Grimly 117) This drives home the monster’s feeling of loneliness and desire for acceptance and companionship. The reader can’t help but be frustrated by how the monster is treated and ask themselves, “wouldn’t I treat him better?” Ultimately what Gris Grimly accomplishes with his interpretation of Frankenstein is illustrative magic. Grimly draws the reader into his cool, grotesque, and hipster version of Frankenstein’s world, without allowing the reader to miss the key elements and moral questions of the original story. He takes the hard work of Mary Shelley’s immense masterpiece and makes it an easy ride for all readers.