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Ghastly ReflectionsDick Briefer's Frankenstein
POSTED BY TERENCE NUZUM, November 22, 2013    Share

Horror comics were and are the bad boys of the comic book industry. They can go where others can't and push the envelope without worrying about boundaries of taste. Breaking taboos and laying on the gore is order of the day. Even since the 1950's heyday of E.C. comic's Tales From The Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear. But there were creepy comics even before that unholy triumvirate. The independent comic companies of the 1940's were ripe with proto-E.C. anthologies. But while none reached the heights and prestige of William Gaines masterpieces for E.C. there were many that are classics in their own right.

Craig Yoe has preserved several of these pre-code gems in his Chilling Archives of Horror Comics. I was lucky enough to accidentally come across one of his single issue comic reprints, Haunted Horror,and saw an ad in the back for two collected volumes. Of course my macabre sensibilities took over and I knew I had to own these! The covers alone are to die for.

Volume One covers Dick Briefer's Frankenstein. Briefer's work is highly under appreciated and underexposed in my opinion. Why is this man not uttered in the same breath as Al Feldstien?! His take on Frankenstein starts in 1940. Here the monster is Mary Shelley's haunting description of a pale man made monster with stringy long black hair. The basic story is the same with a update to modern times. Taking the basis of the monsters revenge on his creator, Briefer had a running plot that was to be mined for many issues of unadulterated carnage. Highlights from this period include a King Kong sized monster attacking a carnival ferris wheel before doing battle with a giant crocodile man.

But by 1945 Briefer changed tones and his Frankenstein comic had become funny. In a way it offered a wacky morbidity that was definitely a precursor to The Munsters and The Addams Family. This era contained some of Briefer's greatest work. Where the earlier Frankenstein comics were amazing, but crude pieces of early comic art, these comical stories were refined with thick bold line work reminiscent of Chester Gould's Dick Tracy. The Monster went through one crazy adventure after another including one where he meets a race of half-man half-animal creatures called Manimals. Briefer fits every possible type of Manimal into the mix across several panels. Of course the 1950's and E.C. comics loomed around the corner so it was time for a change.

Briefer next revived the monster in his original gruesome form to create a more adult and violent comic once again. The third time was not the charm as the stories lacked the originality and finesse of earlier work. Of course, like all comics Briefer drew, there is something amazing to find even in these. Briefer eventually settled into the background of the comic world after the witch hunts of the comics code ensued. Thanks to Craig Yoe and his continual archiving of these lost horror gems we can enjoy Briefer's Frankenstein without having to pay tons of money on originals. I suggest everyone checks these out and all the other volumes and publications Yoe has to offer. No horror comic fan who is worth their salt should miss out on these. Well I'm going to settle back into my coffin and break open Volume 2 of The Chilling Archives of Horror Comics, Bob Powell's Terror!!

"Ghastly Reflections" is ©2013 by Terence Nuzum. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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