Saturday, October 29, 2011
Ploog Power: The Frankenstein Monster #6
The Frankenstein Monster #6 (Oct. 1973)
"In Search of the Last Frankenstein!"
Writer: Gary Friedrich
Plot and art: Mike Ploog
Karen: Marvel was monster-crazy in the early 70s, and Mike Ploog was the undisputed king of monster artists at the time. His work on Werewolf By Night, Ghost Rider, and Man-Thing was perfectly suited to those books. But today we're going to look at his work on another interesting, if short-lived monster book, The Frankenstein Monster. This would be Ploog's last issue of the title, but he goes out with a bang. His layouts and panel design are innovative and fresh. Of course, it goes without saying that he manages to give the story an appropriate mood and feel -much like a classic Universal film.
Karen: The Monster is seeking out the last of the Frankensteins and returns to his creator's birthplace, Ingolstadt. Before he reaches the dilapidated ancestral castle, he comes across a young lieutenant from the village. The soldier is investigating some missing prisoners and suspects they might be in the castle. Although the Monster means the man no harm, he finds himself attacked and fights back. The soldier is knocked unconscious and the Monster enters the castle.
Karen: For those of you who haven't read any issues from this series, it should be mentioned that the Monster here is not the dull brute of popular culture but a thoughtful and articulate being, more in line with the novel.
Karen: Inside the castle, the Monster finds nothing but ruins. He's about to give up when he hears a sound and spies a group of strange men marching along a dark corridor. The men are deformed and frightening -he concludes that they must be the work of a Frankenstein. They carry a bound man, whom they drop in a pit. Suddenly a man in a uniform with a visored helmet shows up, barking orders. The Monster decides to confront him, convinced he must be his creator's descendant. The masked man sics his servants on the Monster, and despite his strength, their sheer numbers bring him down. Just before he blacks out, he falls to the edge of the pit- and sees a gigantic spider! Ploog's art here is very strong; he gives the Monster an expressive if horrific face, and the twisted men are creepy as heck. One nit-pick: the spider has 6 legs! I suppose it could be a mutant...
Karen: The Monster awakens, chained to a wall in the cellar. His captor tells him that he too will become a mindless servant; the spider feeds on men's souls, leaving them husks of men with no wills of their own. The man leaves and the Monster struggles with his chains. Ploog does a great job conveying the Monster's power as he struggles against his restraints. He manages to pull loose one of the stones he is chained to, but when he does, a stream of water squirts through a crack! The Monster is stuck to wonder whether he should risk flooding the cellar with water or waiting until the man returns to take him back to the pit. As he ponders this, the young lieutenant he faced at the beginning of our story arrives on the scene. None too bright, he accuses the chained monster of killing the missing prisoners. The Monster tells him about his captor and the spider in the pit. The soldier sees the spider but refuses to believe a Frankenstein is responsible. "Jason Frankenstein left here more than 20 years ago!"
Karen: Right at that moment the mysterious masked man re-appears with his mob of soulless men. He is quickly revealed to be the colonel in charge of the prison. The colonel and the lieutenant engage in a sword fight while the Monster strains to break his chains. As water begins pouring into the chamber, the spider crawls out of its pit and comes towards the two men. The colonel, completely insane, believes he can control it. The young soldier implores him to leave with him but he ignores him. The Monster urges the young man out, telling him he will take care of the spider, even if it costs him his life. With that he makes a terrific effort -it reminded me somewhat of Spider-Man's struggle to raise the giant piece of machinery that pinned him in Amazing Spider-Man #33- and the wall comes tearing apart, with a huge wave of water instantly filling the room. Ploog's depiction of the water and underwater scenes are masterful -I would have liked to see what his Sub-Mariner would have looked like!
Karen: The colonel is carried down by the weight of his helmet and drowns. But the spider survives and grabs the Monster, squeezing him and carrying him back under. After several panels the Monster manages to break free of the arachnid's clutches and he wraps his chains about it, choking off its oxygen supply. But all is not peachy for the Monster -he needs air and he needs it fast. Things are looking grim -can a dead man die again? - when suddenly the chamber explodes in a great water spout that hurls the Monster up and out. Now free of the castle, the Monster looks back and wonders where he will find the last Frankenstein.
Karen: This was a really solid, done in one story. The search for the last Frankenstein was on-going of course, but you didn't need to know what came before to enjoy this book -which is good, because I don't have issues 1-5! I know many might argue that Gene Colan was Marvel's premiere horror artist, and while I respect his work on Tomb of Dracula, he really didn't handle any of the other horror books. Ploog did nearly all of them at one time or another and his work always has the proper tone and atmosphere -there's an eeriness to his art that can't be matched. Just look at some of these characters when handled by others -obviously, Don Perlin on Werewolf comes instantly to mind. There's simply no comparison. So here's to Mike Ploog, monster artist supreme!