David Rickert

Cartoon Genius: Dick Briefer

Dick Briefer had an unusual career as an artist in that he spent most of his career drawing comic versions of Frankenstein (I know that “Frankenstein” is actually the name of the scientists, but we’ll get to that later.) After working in advertising Briefer was able to ride the fad for horror comics into a successful series of comics featuring the famous monster.

Here’s a cover to one of Briefer’s Frankenstein, comics, pretty typical of the horror comics of the era. Everything about the cover tells you what to expect from the story. The monster draws heavily upon the Universal Studios depiction with a more deformed appearance. We also see the monster picking up a guy, apparently about to be thrown off a building, onto the ground, or some other activity that isn’t too much fun. I haven’t read too many of the stories, but they seem to follow a formula in which the monster wreaks havoc amongst a group of people who devise a way to kill the monster, only to have him rise again, presumably more angry and with revenge on his mind. Here’s a typical page. Pretty grim stuff. The monster has his head lit on fire, only to emerge unscathed from the river.

But then the Comics Code authority put all of the horror comics out of business. Many of them folded, but Briefer found a way to keep his character alive.

Now Frankenstein is clearly a humor comic, something that parents can let their kids read. It’s interesting to compare the two covers. The title remains the same except that “The Monster Of” has been removed (I assume because Briefer was following the convention that Frankenstein became the name of the monster eventually). There’s violence on both covers, but on the second it’s humorous – these guys were surprised by what happened, and will late pop back into shape and go on with their lives. The humor comic plays up the trait of Frankenstein being a misunderstood simpleton rather than the ultra-strong menace that he was perceived to be in the original story and movie. Here’s an interior page:

Obviously Briefer adapted his style to suit the material. You can’t draw a horror comic in a cartoony style or it doesn’t become scary. Conversely, you can’t do humor realistically – at least if you have people getting run over by a steamroller – or it isn’t funny.

Briefer eventually returned Frankenstein to his horror roots once it was safe to do so. Needless to say he had one of the more unusual careers in comics.

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on November 12, 2012 by in cartoon genius and tagged , .
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