For 200 years, Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein has made its mark in both deep literary studies and its widely distributed commercial appeal in pop culture. We know many interpretations of Shelley’s work through movies and TV shows, but these two collector’s books, Vault of Frankenstein (becker&mayer!) and Rockport’s Classics Reimagined Frankenstein (Quarto Knows) still breathe fresh life into this tale with their own contributions in its honor.
As part of Rockport’s Classics Reimagined series, popular artist David Plunkert accompanies Shelley’s Frankenstein with wonderfully brooding full-color illustrations. Uniquely also in this tale are a handful of transparent inserts with full diagrams of the creature’s body (both skeletal and circulatory), so we can see the professor’s creation in full working order. Appreciating Shelley’s original genius with the accompaniment of these perfectly fitting, haunting illustrations does not distort her vision, but builds upon it with perfectly complementary components.
The Vault of Frankenstein also creatively adds to our appreciation of this classic. The author Paul Ruditis focuses more on the origin of Frankenstein, and the monster’s journey to become a staple in pop culture. Taking us from the infamous nightmare Shelley conceived her inspiration on Lake Geneva to our modern adaptations and commercialization, Rudtis illustrates and explains how Victor Frankenstein’s monster transformed into simply Frankenstein. In this book of monstrous proportions, Ruditis thoroughly investigates the many ways Frankenstein is alive in our own society.
First, the story is examined for its literary impact, tracing the main themes and how Frankenstein represented the Romantic period of the time (emphasizing feelings over reason) while adding to the horror of the Gothic period. From there, Rudtis explains the story’s evolution to English stage plays, and how these plays were soon adapted into motion pictures.
The Universal Studios James Whale’s film adaptation of the classic with actor Boris Karloff as the lead actor popularized the blurred line between Frankenstein the man and monster, and solidified the changes to mythology introduced in some of the earlier plays. The blockbuster success of this film gave rise to sequels and spin-offs where Frankenstein gained a wife, and more humorous depictions with comedians Abbot and Costello and “Young Frankenstein.” Everything from comic books to cereals from there on is dissected, exploring interesting themes such as a brotherhood and Shelley’s monster as a sex symbol.
This book provides exciting and colorful illustrations that range from profiles to movie posters and products. A folder at the end provides copies of a movie poster from “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Frankenstein,” a photo of Boris Karloff on set of the movie, a playbill from the first play adaptation, and finally pages from Mary Shelley’s original manuscript.
Both of these books are wonderful additions to any true fan’s collection. As Ruditis notes, contrary to the last line of Shelley’s masterpiece, the monster who supposedly was “…soon born away by the waves, and lost to darkness and distance,” actually continues to loom over our society, ever important to this day. Though the monster has been transformed many times, his presence is very much alive and continues to draw horror and wonder alike.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
David Plunkert’s illustrations have appeared in advertising campaigns for Fortune 500 companies as well as major newspapers, magazines, and recording labels. His work has been recognized by American Illustration, Communication Arts, Graphis, Print, the Society of Illustrators, and The New York Art Directors’ Club. He has been featured in numerous books including: Cool Type, New Masters of Poster Design, The Greatest Rock Albums that Never Were, Mixing Messages, Typography Sketchbooks, 1,000 Indie Posters, and Visualizing Finance 1.0. He has taught graphic design and illustration at Shepherd College and Maryland Institute College of Art in addition to lecturing for AIGA Chapters throughout the US. His work has been collected by museums and private collectors, and has been exhibited internationally. He has received gold medals from the Society of Illustrators NY and the Best Film Poster Award at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). He and Joyce Hesselberth co-founded Spur Design in 1995. He was inducted into the Alliance Graphique Internationale in 2011.
Paul Ruditis has written companion books for a number of popular television shows, such as The Walking Dead, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Trek—including the humorous holiday picture book A Very Klingon Khristmas and The Star Trek Visual Dictionary for DK. Paul has also written numerous original young adult novels, comic books, and novelty books.