FRANKENSTEIN (Dover Graphic Novel Classics) is adapted from the 1818 version of Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley. While some of the text is Shelley’s own the rest of it is written and illustrated by John Green. Dover Publications published it in 2014. A person should have no trouble finding this graphic novel. It is available on Amazon for a great price.
FRANKENSTEIN has a balanced mixture of Shelley’s original writing along with Green’s. Green does an excellent job of interweaving Shelley’s writing with his. People that are not familiar with the novel might even have a hard time differentiating between the two. This particular graphic novel follows the storyline of Shelley’s 1818 version of the Frankenstein, starting with Robert Walton and his crew spotting Victor to Walton coming in contact with the creature at the end. However, in only forty-six pages it is impossible to get the whole story. Green highlights the important aspects of the novel and brings them to life with his brilliant illustrations.
Teaching Graphic Novel with FRANKENSTEIN
Frankenstein is one of the most popular novels from the literary cannon taught to high school students. The argument could be made that a person could read the graphic novel, Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein, never pick up the actual novel, and hardly miss anything from Shelley’s novel. That is far from the case with Green’s adaptation, however, it could be used along with the text. Why incorporate a graphic novel into a classroom? Sean Connors did a study with six different high school students. He has them read four different graphic novels, keep a journal about what they read, and talk with him about what they saw. Connors states in the article “Recent research suggests that comic books and graphic novels remain popular with many adolescents” (“Weaving Multimodal” 32). Therefore, why not bring something that students are actually interested in into the classroom? A teacher could take many different approaches to bringing FRANKENSTEIN in while teaching the actual novel. Since this graphic novel only contains the major points from the plot, while reading the novel when the students come across a main idea the teacher could show the class that particular scene and have them study it depth. Connors states, “The participants used facial expressions to infer information about a character’s inner thoughts. In doing so, they assigned feelings and motives to characters not otherwise stated in the text” (“Weaving Multimodal” 40). By using Green’s graphic novel along with Shelley’s novel students would be able to make the same inferences that the ones in Connors’ study did. This would force students to actually engage themselves in the text that they more than likely would not do on their own while just reading the novel. This would also allow the students to connect with the novel more. While reading Frankenstein it is easy to forget that Victor is in his early twenties while he is creating the monster. Green depicts Victor fairly close to the age he is in the novel, reminding students he is not too much older than them. When students are able to connect with texts they are going to enjoy the novel more and the teacher will benefit by getting quality discussions from his/her students.
Using Green’s graphic novel in a classroom could also be beneficial to those students who have trouble with reading, understanding Frankenstein, and/or simply do not like to read. Connors states, “Outside academe, elementary and secondary educators, as well as public and school librarians, credit graphic novels with motivating so-called ‘reluctant’ readers an supporting students who struggle with literacy” (“Weaving Multimodal” 28). By giving the “reluctant readers” a copy of Green’s adaption, these students who normally fall behind could be caught up with the rest of the class in a minimal amount of time. It could also be possible that if these students had access to Green’s version they might not even need to catch up with the others because they would already have a concise understanding of the text. For the students in the class that do not like to read, FRANKENSTEIN offers a different and more fun form of reading for them. Connors states, “Other regard graphic novels as an instructional tool that educators can use to cultivate students’ visual literacy” (“Designing Meaning” 8). The fact that graphic novels contain images excites students because in their mind it is less reading. However, if a student only viewed the pictures in Green’s book, he/she is still getting an understanding of the story. But this is usually not how the reading will happen. Students will be intrigued by the iconography that they will want to read the few words in each panel, thus causing them to engage in text without realizing it.
Sympathy is a theme that shows up in the novel along with most adaptations of Frankenstein and is highlighted in FRANKENSTEIN. Just like the novel and many other adaptations, the Creature is whom the audience feels sorry for. Green is able to portray this particular feeling with his text, but mainly with his images. The first picture that readers see of the Creature is on the cover of the graphic novel. One can see the look of abandonment and gloom in his eyes. Before one even opens the book they are aware who the real victim of this story is going to be. Obviously, the creature is supposed to be depicted as a treacherous monster and Green definitely follows through with this. He gives the Creature stitches on his face, chest and the back of his head. Green also includes the bolts protruding from the Creature’s neck that many adaptations add as well. However, Green gives the creature another set of these bolts on the sides of his head too. In many scenes the Creature is illustrated with his mouth open screaming at Victor. Readers are definitely shown that he is a hideous monster who would scare the average person. However, there are also panels that show him just as he appears on the cover, lonely and depressed. The scene that emphasizes the sympathy that readers should feel toward the Creature is when he saves the young girl from drowning; the man points a gun at him, and
calls him a monster. The next panel is a close up of only the Creature’s eyes. Out of his eyes there are tears coming out and he says, “But I received only pain for my actions… I had saved a human being from death, but I was treated with fear and hatred” (Green 32). This is arguably where the feelings readers have for the Creature shift. One sees other examples before this one of the Creature being mistreated, but to see a gigantic creepy monster cry really proves that all he wanted was to be accepted and do admirable actions for the world.
Significance of Adaptation
As far as graphic novels adapted from Frankenstein go, FRANKENSTEIN follows the plot of the Shelley’s novel just as Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein and Frankenstein: A Dark Graphic Novel do. However, FRANKENSTEIN was written for children eight and up. This makes is considerably less complex, yet it is still able to give readers a clear and concise idea of what takes place in Shelley’s novel, along with covering the major details. FRANKENSTEIN is also much shorter than Gris Gimly’s Frankenstein and Frankenstein: A Dark Graphic Novel, which makes it obvious that the other two contain more detailed information.
The most unique aspect about Green’s graphic novel is that it is illustrated in black and white and with the design of a coloring book. This allows readers to not only be able to read the books but to show off their artistic side as well. By creating graphic novels like this, readers can make the story their own. A person is going to color the characters as he/she sees them. For example, if a reader feels that the Creature is the victim then he/she probably is not going to color him as a horrific monster. It is all about one’s interpretation of the graphic novel that will determine what his/her story looks like. Not only are readers able to express themselves, but they are showing a tremendous amount of dedication if they finish coloring the whole book. Yes, this is one of the shorter graphic novels of the Frankenstein story, but Green has so much detail in his images, it would take a person a great deal of time and effort to finish it.
Dover Classics has a collection of a few different novels that Green has turned into graphic novels and coloring books in one. Dover Classics started publishing these in 2007 and they have been popular among young readers. This is an approach to graphic novels that not many people have taken. DC Comics finally picked up on this type of graphic novel when they released Coloring DC: Batman-HUSH Vol. 1 in March of 2016. They have set dates to release two other graphic novels/coloring books this upcoming summer. Although this style of graphic novel is not overwhelmingly popular at the moment, it has the potential to be in the future with big names like Dover Classics and DC Comics publishing these types graphic novels for young readers.
References/SourcesConnors, S. P. (forthcoming). Designing meaning: A Multimodal perspective on Comics Reading. In C. Hill
(Ed.) Teaching comics through multiple lenses: Critical perspectives. London: Routledge.
Connors, Sean P."Weaving Multimodal Meaning in a Graphic Novel Reading Group."
Visual Communication (2013): 27-53. Web. 07 May 2016.
Green, John, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Frankenstein. Dover Publications,
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Susan J. Wolfson. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley'sFrankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. 2nd ed. Pearson Education, 2007. Print.