Welcome to another installment of ‘Bad Book Covers’! Previous posts include: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Moonstone, Dracula, East Lynne, Lady Audley’s Secret, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Scarlet Letter.
I have been encouraged to do a Frankenstein post by a regular reader/commenter who goes by the initials ‘MA’. I can only conclude that your anonymity is due to your celebrity status, so don’t worry Muhammad Ali or Marc Anthony or French-Russian ice dancer Marina Anissina, I will keep your secret, and I am proud to have you as a long-time reader.
WARNING: Possible trigger for violence against women
I’m not going to give you my usual full summary of Frankenstein. Y’all know Frankenstein:
-Dude creates questionable science project in his back shed by arts-and-crafts-ing some corpse parts together
-Brings the world’s worst ragdoll to life
-Ragdoll monster gets rejected by creator, sparking a series of daddy issues
-Ragdoll monster searches for love; does not find it
-Ragdoll monster demands girlfriend
-Dude goes, “Yeah, okay . . . PSYCHE!”
-Ragdoll monster kills dude’s wife on their wedding night
–Will Graham Dude chases Hannibal Lecter ragdoll monster across Europe arctic tundra, obsessed with each other to the point of profound homoeroticism, until they both die
Two pet peeves to address: 1.) this novel is not Victorian because it was published in 1818 and is therefore 20 years too early. Stop calling it Victorian, and 2.) ‘Frankenstein’ is the name of the doctor, not the monster.
Usual disclaimer about swearing. Usual disclaimer about only using professional book covers instead of fan art, blah blah.
ON TO THE COVERS
Any post on Frankenstein covers has got to start with a section I call Frankenstein =/= Lurch. These are covers that rip off the Boris Karloff interpretation in the 1931 film by depicting the monster with green skin, a flat head, bolts through the neck, etc. Some of these even are pictures of Boris Karloff. I don’t have anything against this particular interpretation, except that it has become so pervasive that it’s boring. More importantly, people think this is how the monster is described in the book, when it’s not.
These two editions of the book not only ripped off the film, but also each other.
And both of them say, “This is why you should always wear sunscreen, kids.”
There are a number of other interpretations of the monster, however. Some of them are really good. Some of them are . . . Monsters Gone Wrong.
In which Dr. Frankenstein fails Anatomy 101.
The Thing in a wig.
Much like the Hulk, the shirt always rips open, but the trousers always stretch.
In which Dr. Frankenstein reanimates the corpse of Paul Revere.
Particularly focused on Elsa Lanchester’s 1935 interpretation of the Bride of Frankenstein, a character who doesn’t even really appear in the book.
“BEHOLD! MY LEVITATING TOILET PAPER MONSTER!”
This is the honest-to-God google books cover for Frankenstein.
In case you missed the part where the monster is a teenage zombie girl crouched in a bathtub.
In which ……………. the monster looks promisingly hot?
The monster is a fleeing turd-splotch, or maybe a werewolf.
That was not a sentence I expected to write today.
Sometimes they take a more human approach to the monster and try to make him familiar to us. This is a section called Celebrity Monsters.
Rupert Grint-Monster. This would be an amazingly adventurous casting choice for Victor Frankenstein, especially considering Daniel Radcliffe plays Igor.
Tommy Lee Jones-Clay-Mummy-Monster.
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, or Trippin’ Balls with Mads Mikkelsen.
One trope I noticed (which has absolutely nothing wrong with it, but is merely a pattern) was something I call The Woods of Perpetual Longing. Sometimes the woods are a tundra, or a castle, or a graveyard, but they are always moody as shit.
You can only read these editions while sitting alone and listening to Evanescence.
Given the subplot with the Bride of Frankenstein and Dr. Frankenstein’s wife, some covers go for a more . . . sensational element. I call this section Questionable Stuff with Women.
The monster isn’t entirely sure what’s going on, or how he ended up in this situation.
Elizabeth had a really positive response to her massage. Keith didn’t realize he had such powerful hands.
By all means, let’s use a totally random, unrelated painting (Henry Fuseli’s ‘The Nightmare’, 1781) to recount a tiny section of the book in which gratuitous violence happens against a woman, who is there purely so one man can use her as a revenge pawn against another man.
“These books aren’t going to sell themselves! Make it more graphic! I don’t think this is menacing enough. Paint the whole thing red.”
I don’t know what this goober is doing to her head (ear?), but I cannot stop laughing.
I don’t know if this is supposed to be frightening and titillating, but it is the goofiest damn depiction of the monster I’ve ever seen.
A selection of Random Crap:
Yep. Random dude. Tells us loads about the book. Thanks for that.
“Dammit, Gary, how are you going to get down from there?”
As seen in the post I did on Bad Wuthering Heights Covers, they use this painting for GODDAMNED EVERYTHING. It has nothing to do with the story, it’s just kind of emo. KNOCK IT OFF.
Uhhh, buddy? Where’s your dick?
No, honestly, where is your dick? Everyone wants to know.
“Let me slip into something more comfortable, Doctor…. Doctor? DOCTOOOOOR! I didn’t ask to be made with these perfectly chiseled abs! You made me what I am! You can’t reject me now!”
“You like what you see? Awwwwww yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaah.”
I was going to make an ‘unleash the monster’ joke, but then I started booing myself.
The monster’s just having a rest after a totally boss holiday during Mardi Gras.
“You said I’d be a MODERN Prometheus! A MODERN one! Not the same old ancient liver-eaten-by-eagle Prometheus!”
Next is a section called Oddly Cheerful Science is Happening.
“We have got to stop meeting like this.”
Baby’s first postmortem reanimation!
1.) In what legitimate medical scenario would you ever boil an entire severed hand? and 2.) How many eyeballs do you need for a single corpse?
But sometimes Appropriately Dark Science is Happening.
“Nothing to see here, certainly not grave-robbing. I’ll just . . . be . . . on my . . . way.”
“The knee bone’s connected to the . . . dammit! This is how my license got revoked.”
“I’m starting to have second thoughts about my lab safety standards in this Gothic graveyard.”
Makes it convenient that the monster can help with his own surgery.
And then a few great, simple science-themed covers:
Finally, two excellent covers:
While this is a bit more grim than I tend to like for my book covers, it takes the unusual perspective of the monster as the scared, lonely, chained victim. This is really a major theme of the novel: which of the two protagonists is the monster? Is scientific advancement worth the suffering it can cause? This cover manages to address them in a single image, while undercutting our traditional views of the monster.
As usual, please let me know if you encounter any nineteenth-century novels that people would be widely familiar with, that have nutty covers.