Mary Shelley (1797- 1851) was just 18 years old when she wrote Frankenstein in 1816. The novel was published two years later, and quickly captivated the imaginations of people across the world. Since then, it has been consistently in print and is now considered to be the most successful work of gothic horror of all time.
Even though today, most people have specific ideas about what Frankenstein looked like, in the telling of her tale, Shelley was not particularly descriptive of “the creature’s” appearance. I think she did that on purpose. Not only did it give everyone an opportunity to dream up his or her own version of the character, it left room for interpretation.
In 1931, Universal Pictures released a film based on her story. It was directed by James Whale and starred Boris Karloff. Jack Pierce did the make up, while letting his imagination run wild. The resulting image, which soon became universally known as the face of Frankenstein, was actually a collaboration between all three men.
I became a Boris Karloff/Frankenstein fan when I was seven years old. It was 1962 and I got my first monster model. Shortly thereafter, I started collecting everything I could relate to the character, never throwing anything out. Currently, I own the largest Frankenstein-themed collection on the East Coast.
I came up with the idea of Frankenstein Artwork a few years back. It’s a standalone event celebrating the artistic diversity that surrounds the infamous creature. My first exhibition was held in 2013, in Ocean City, New Jersey – for which I framed and mounted 52 pieces of work from artists across the world.
It’s amazing and astonishing to see the many ways the character has been used in art - from sketches to paintings, illustrations to greeting cards, and single panel cartoons to entire comic books. It was also interesting to watch Frankenstein on the big screen; numerous reputable actors have tackled the coveted role over the years.
Boris Karloff found fame and jumpstarted his career when he put on the monster make up at Universal. Then Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, Christopher Lee, Randy Quaid, Fred Gwynne, and even Robert DeNiro portrayed the famous character. Still, to this day, most depictions of Frankenstein resemble the man who played him first.
With every October, there will be another Halloween; and because the character is in the public domain, anyone – anywhere – can create his or her own version of Frankenstein. As of today, I have over 250 pieces of art that deal with the theme of the beloved monster.
I have also instituted FRANKENSTEIN FRIDAY, which is usually celebrated in any way anyone sees fit on the last Friday of October. It is dedicated to "the mother and father" of Frankenstein – that is, Mary Shelley and Boris Karloff. This year is the 20th anniversary of the event. And so, with that, I wish you all a very Happy Halloween and a frightening good Frankenstein Friday.