Madame Frankenstein Or the Feminine Monstrosity Edit
Madame Frankenstein or the Feminine Monstrosity is a graphic novel written by Jamie S. Rich and illustrated by Megan Levens. Some other people involved in the making of this novel include: lettering and book design, Crank!; logo design, Steven Birch; cover art and chapter breaks, Joelle Jones; and color and tones, Nick Filardi. This novel was first printed in February 2015 and is widely available in bookstores and through on-line sources as well.
The premise of this work is of a “doctor,” who is not certified that comes from a broken family. He is in love with a woman he has known for a few years and then she is killed suddenly. Upon this news, he begins experimenting and brings life to a “perfect” woman with his lab partner. While he is teaching the creation to be a proper lady, he goes off in the day time to be with a woman, Linda Ruby, who is a dancer at a club. The creature gets jealous and the two women have an encounter. The dancer is injured in their debacle and the creature runs away. After finding out what has happened, the doctor visits the dancer in the hospital and then returns to his home to find that the creature has returned. He is furious with her because of the trauma he has caused to the dancer. The doctor’s anger turns into a rage when the creature remembers fully who she used to be and who he was also. She is unkind to the doctor and he loses his cool and then begins to slowly destroy the creature. Rather than killing her completely, he disassembles her and leaves her miserably alive in pieces in the basement, just as he runs up the stairs to return to the true “perfect” woman that is the dancer still in the hospital.
Major Themes: Edit
1. Broken Family Edit
In Madame Frankenstein, the theme of a broken family is very prominent. Vincent Krall is the doctor/creator in this novel and he is the outsider in a broken family. He was adopted and grew up with a family other than his own. His real father was killed in war by a bomb that hit his vehicle. His adopted father was a Colonel in the military with his real father. The Colonel truly loved him, but committed suicide supposedly to the stresses of the stock market later on when Vincent and the biological son of the Colonel, Henry were in college. Vincent was left nothing by the Colonel’s trust nor by the family. Vincent begged Henry to help fund his medical school endeavors, but with heavy resentment for the presence of Vincent in his life, he vainly denies Vincent help and tells him to leave forever. It is through this theme that this adaptation connects to the original novel as well as to other adaptations. It seems that Victor Frankenstein is always portrayed as somewhat of an outsider that has been pushed away from his family and friends. Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s novel has a slightly different familial problem. Rather than being mistreated by a step brother like Vincent Krall in Madame Frankenstein, Victor is constantly put down by his father when it comes to his ideas about science and his desire to read Agrippa. In other adaptations, such as in Victor Frankenstein, the movie (2015), Victor is also abandoned by his father after he quits his education to follow his passions of experimenting. Through each of these forms of adaptation, it stays true that the theme of family brokenness is continually portrayed just as the original novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley did.
Madame Frankenstein brings up another big theme that is prominent across many adaptations. It is the theme of God/creator. This theme is evident in the graphic novel Madame Frankenstein from the beginning when Vincent Krall decides to try and bring life back to a woman he was in love with from afar. He uses her death as a reason to create and reanimate the “perfect” woman, which suggests a sense of authorization and ability that others do not have. Vincent continues to play the role of God because he constantly is stating under his breath that he is smarter and knows more than the other doctors his step brother Henry went to school with. In the end of this novel, Gail (the creature) yells at Vincent when he has gone into a rage and begins to destroy her and Gail says “You’re not God…You’re a Butcher!” The idea of the creator playing God comes up over and over again in just about every adaptation in one way or another. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature makes references to Paradise Lost, which alludes to God as the maker who shaped the clay in which he is made. This reference places this idea of maker and God as one and because of that, Victor is often held to that standard as he creates and has the agency to also destroy his creations. Another adaptation that very visually shows the idea of God/creator is the movie Splice (2010). Although this is not a direct adaptation of the Frankenstein story, it depicts the knowledge and hubris of the scientists/creators at the point of their development of their own type of creature. In this film, it touches on a more God-like concept of fertilization outside of the womb and because of that, leads the viewer to believe they are of full responsibility of this creatures life, much like the responsibility we see given to Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Vincent Krall in Madame Frankenstein.
3. Women Edit
The theme of women is also evident in the adaptation Madame Frankenstein. Overall, the adaptations of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein vary in their involvement of women. Mary Shelley’s original text only gave a few women highlighted roles in the story, those being: Elizabeth, the love of Victor; Justine Moritz, who is wrongly accused for the death of little William and the female creature who is destroyed before she can ever make an appearance to the outside world. Women’s agency in Mary Shelley’s text is ultimately zero considering all of the female’s lives end in death one way or another. In this graphic novel adaptation, Madame Frankenstein though, we see a presence of women who are much more engaged in the overall story. There is Vincent’s lab partner, Irene, who is pictured as very smart and closely situated to Vincent’s medical abilities. Irene takes care of things while Vincent is away and she continues research when he is gone as well as takes a large role in helping to create Gail (the creature). Then there is Gail, the creature who is obviously different than many other adaptations. This creature was created for Vincent and not for a previous monster. Gail is the first human creation he has attempted and this gives the reader a sense of the importance of the female. Last, we have Linda Ruby a burlesque dancer with a carnival that is seeing Vincent. She may be the most important woman in this adaptation because she represents the downfall of Gail and also the realization of Vincent in who the “perfect” woman really is to him. Linda has the most agency of all the female characters in “Madame Frankenstein.” Also, unlike Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where all of the women die, all three of the women who take large roles in Madame Frankenstein are shown to the reader as alive.
Significance of Adaptation Edit
This adaptation is one of the newest additions to the list of Frankenstein adaptations across genres. Madame Frankenstein fits in with the textual agency of the original novel, but since it is a graphic novel, the overall story currently works in a less academic setting. This is beginning to change and the graphic novel is beginning to build a front into the school setting and adapt learning to newer forms of reading. This adaptation is important because although it does not follow the exact plot line of Mary Shelley’s original novel Frankenstein, it gives the reader a new story to look forward to, while still functioning under the Frankenstein umbrella. This adaptation fits more closely along the lines of Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Creates Woman. This graphic novel focuses solely on the woman monster and rather than creation for an already existing monster, it is for the creator himself. This is possibly the most interesting and unique aspect of Madame Frankenstein because he lets the reader who knows the Frankenstein story may potentially see Vincent, the creator, as the monster in this particular adaptation. Vincent in this novel is the outcast and is the lonely one, so he decides to create the “perfect” woman for himself. This simple plot could lead the reader to view him in a very different role than many creators across other adaptations. This graphic novel is part of a new revolution of novels like this and will most likely create a cultural capital in this department. Already, the graphic novel is seeing an increase in visibility, whether that is through classrooms or even just the local library offering more graphic novel options.