Adaptations Wiki



Shane Denson. "Marvel Comics' Frankenstein: A Case Study in the Media of Serial Figures." American Studies/Amerikastudien 56 (2011): 531-553.[]

In this essay, Denson takes on the dynamics of serial narration in general through "Marvel Comics' Frankenstein" as well as examining the Monster as a serialized character likening him to figures such as Batman and Sherlock Holmes in terms of being a character who is adapted over and over in various types of media. Denson also takes a close look at how adaptation of Frankenstein illustrates important conventions of comic storytelling itself, asserting that "Words and images, the basic building blocks of comics as a medium, become the central concerns of a serially self-reflexive monster." Another interesting observation made by Denson is that " the popular Frankenstein is now far removed" from the original, and he states that it is because of serialization that the original novel has been "largely absorbed" as "one more non-definitive version," making Mary Shelley's novel simply a piece of Frankenstein's much larger cultural body, similarly--perhaps-- to the way in which the Creature is made up of non-definitive parts himself. Denson employs Niklas Luhmann’s theory of media to examine the ways in which Marvel Comics' approach to adapting Frankenstein in its Bronze Age series, but also in the Monster's appearances in the X-Men and Silver Surfer series, used a connection between seriality and mediality to not only adapt, but also, further elaborate on an already much serialized character.

James A. W. Heffernan. “Looking at the Monster: Frankenstein and Film.”  Critical Inquiry 24.1 (1997): 133-58.  Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 Oct. 2014.[]

In this essay, Heffernan examines how the visualization of the creature in film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can highlight themes and issues underlying the original text.  The article focuses centrally on three well-known adaptations of the novel: James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’ 1974 Young Frankenstein, and Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Early in his analysis, Heffernan notes that the sight of the creature is inherently elusive in a textual narrative and that, furthermore, Shelley only briefly asks her readers to picture the monster through narrative description of him.  He explains that, while film adaptations tend to severely abridge the largely internal narrative given by the creature in the novel, and thus to amputate much of his depth, film, as a medium fundamentally grounded in a focus on “outer over inner,” is well equipped to make explicit to the audience aspects of the narrative that may only be implied in the text.  Aspects explored by Heffernan which lend to visual exploration center on “how we see the monster, what does he see, and how does he want to be seen.”  Drawing on the previous writings of critics, along with his own analysis, Heffernan explores a variety of ideas including: the monster as a feminine object, the monster’s desire to be viewed with a desiring gaze, the destruction of both the female monster and Victor’s wife, Elizabeth, as enactments of Victor’s misogynistic tendencies and sexual insecurities, and the monster as embodying the theatricality and spectacle of science and transgression.  Ultimately, Heffernan’s investigation argues that the visual medium of film forces the audience to face the monster as a physical being as well as an intellectual one in a literal way that the written word cannot accomplish.  

William Nestrick. "Coming to Life: Frankenstein and the Nature of Film Narrative." The Endurance of Frankenstein essays on Mary Shelley's novel. (1979): 290-315. ILLiad. Web. 11 Oct 2014.[]

Nestrick begins his article by highlighting the perfect medium that film is for the Frankenstein story. He uses several metaphors to express the correlation between the animation of life and the animation of the Monster. This leads into a quick overview of how the word "animation" has changed over time as well as how these shifts fit into the birth of the Frankenstein myth. He focuses on the specific filming choices made for several films including camera angles, filters, and editing choices. He continues to describe how these choices lend to the themes being explored by the adaptation. Nestrick compares several choices made by film creators including the intelligence of the Monster and the treatment of female characters. His focus on the works of James Whale details the inner workings of art as movement and introduces several comparisons to films outside of the Frankenstein myth. These films contain common threads to Frankenstein which he describes in some detail. While Nestrick ties in Frankenstein in a few ways a portion of the article diverts to include some other stories. He then covers the impact Frankenstein films have on the movement of film as a whole including a description of the organic way the story evolves, even labeling sequels as children. He also includes some thoughts on the themes reflected in the parody by Warhol and Morissey. Overall Nestrick adds to the conversation regarding Frankenstein adaptation with a few detours added in.

Caroline Picart. "Visualizing the Monsterous in Frankenstein Films". Pacific Coast Philology, Vol. 35, No. 1. (2000): 17-34. JSTOR. Web. 9 Oct 2014.[]

Picart opens up by comparing the nature of creating film to the creation of the Monster. This comparison continues throughout her article as she details the varying styles and approaches taking in the many Frankenstein films. She relates and expands upon the "shadows" theory brought forth by Janice Rushing and Thomas Frentz. Their idea focuses on two shadows seen as the response to the narrative. The first causes a clear desire to control the opposition while the other reminds us of a part of ourselves that must be understood. Picart continues this thought adding her own third shadow that takes both of the first two shadows and looks at them through the perspectives of female identity. Picart references several films while describing the common thread of anxiety relating to male self-birthing and technology. Her reviews of the stylistic choices of each film, as well as there common or differing narratives, are used to highlight her view of this third shadow and its role in the gender issues brought forth. She looks at the symbolic visual choices made in Whale's films, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, in comparison to Fisher's many films which create a more realistic atmosphere. Throughout the article she returns to Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It is clear that this film is used as a control to compare other films to with respect to the color choices, vivid symbolism, and narrative structure. The treatment of the female characters in the various films is described in detail with comparisons being made to the idea of "shadows" and the effect the male/female treatment has on the recurring themes.  

Mark Poindexter. "The Diverse Discourses of Frankenstein and Its Retellings." Journal of EvolutionaryPsychology 22.1-2 (2001): 2-23. MLA International Bibliography.Web. 8 Oct. 2014.[]

This article examines major discourses in Mary Shelly’s novel Frankensteinand the first four in a series of film adaptations produced by Universal Studios in the 1930-40s.  Poindexter begins by outlining and discussing five important discourses present in Shelley’s original text and continues to explore how the historical context surrounding each shaped the changes in discourses present in the Universal films.  The discourses identified in the original novel are: 1) “egotism vs. altruism,” 2) “responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions,” 3) “nature vs. nurture, or, Rousseau’s “noble savage,” 4) “physical ugliness and its social effects,” and, 5) “injustice of human society and its institutions.”    Turning to the films, Poindexter suggests that in James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) andBride of Frankenstein (1935) the creature can be interpreted as representing a soldier in the First World War who has been forced to fight in a struggle far beyond his control or comprehension.  Poindexter argues that by the time of the third film in the Frankenstein sequence, Son of Frankenstein (1939), and continuing through its successor, Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), in light of the onset of the Second World War, the monster has come to embody the power of the German State which is unjustly seized and abused by various parties, particularly the lab assistant Ygor.  Poindexter concludes his analysis of each film by comparing its discourses with those he identified in Shelley’s novel.  He determines that by the time of Ghost of Frankenstein, the only of the five noted discourses which remains as a strong presence is the "responsibility for one’s actions." Finally, he notes that the multiple and varied discourse of Shelley’s novel are likely the reason it supplies a rich source for continued and prolific adaptation.

Jeanne Tiehen. "Frankenstein Performed: The Monster Who Will Not Die." The Popular Culture Studies Journal, Vol. 2, No.1 (2014): 65.[]

Tiehen documents a history of stage and film adaptations of Frankenstein while venturing to explain why the story has been continually dramatized through the performance arts and why those adaptations continually and dramatically transform the story and characters alike. Tiehen, drawing support mainly from Roland Barthes' Mythologies, but also from other scholarship such as Paul O' Flinn's essay, "Production and Reproduction: The Case of Frankenstein” and John Turney's Frankenstein’s Footsteps: Science, Genetics, and Popular, asserts that the modern myth of Frankenstein reflects social anxieties in the "risk of progress," be that progress scientific, social, or political and that the Creature has become a myth that encapsulates that risk of progress leading to unintended and possibly horrific consequences. Interestingly, Tiehen notes how the Creature's characterization has gone from an articulate being to that of a silent monster back again to the articulate in more modern adaptations, mirroring society's shifting concerns--the return to an articulate creature exposing a concern over scientific advances such as fertility science and artificial life. This examination of Frankenstein as a cultural myth allows for an understanding of the sometimes drastic changes to characters and storyline of the original. For instance, Tiehen illustrates through the example of Walton more or less disappearing from most film adaptations as a shift in focus from a comparison of different models of progress to a more clear cut moral: "that man should have limitations in pursuit of knowledge or he will suffer."  A moral that is perhaps the most present in modern performed versions of Frankenstein.

Ann Marie Adams. "What's in a Frame? The Authorizing Presence in James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein." The Journal of Popular Culture53(2009):403-418. Google Scholar. Web. 5 Oct. 2014.[]

Adams analyzes the adaptation culture that ensued after the publication of Peake’s Presumption, of the Fate of Frankenstein in 1818. Adams argues that Mary Shelley’s experience and intentions for the monster is “superfluous” to the work of literature that she created. Though Shelley contributed to the foundation of the gothic genre, the definition of the monster is loose enough to be adapted in numerous ways throughout various forums. In popular culture, James Whale’s image of a large discolored creature with stitching and a tragic disposition reign supreme. Throughout her article, Adams establishes the shift in nature of the monster from a hyper articulate being to an emotionally and morally disturbed and mentally rudimentary brute. Whale ultimately denied Shelley authority over her own character. Even with the dissolution of Shelley’s monstrous form, Whale does not deny her as the principle creator as was popular at the time in favor of her husband, Percy, as the primary capacity behind the narrative. Adams analyzes the nature of Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein as a biographical representation of Shelley and somehow reestablishes her authorial presence through the manifestation of the Mary Shelley character and the use of the actor once again in the role of the female monster presented to Frankenstein’s creation. Adams establishes her argument for Whale’s visual representation as the undermining force in popular culture’s definition of the monster; however, she also ponders Whale’s use of intentionality to make a point concerning the presence through his interpretation of the original work and its elements of feminism.

Lori Leathers Single. "Reading Against the Grain: The U.S. Reception of Branagh's "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." Studies in Popular Culture21(1998): 1-18. JSTOR. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.[]

Single evaluates the perception of Branagh’s “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” in the United States and its reputation as a box-office “flop.” The article establishes a separation from the original text and reiterates the genre of adaptation in its function of renewal. Single seeks to simply analyze the adaptation as a specific entity rather than compare it to Mary Shelley’s vision for the monster she created. The movie, though it boasts a star studded cast, big name director, and expansive budget, lacks the focus and direction desired by a US audience. Though the movie is regarded as a flop, Single argues that this is a result of the ambiguity of the Frankenstein monster as a cultural icon. Branagh’s movie is the attempted culmination of the gothic, horror, and adaptations genres from a postmodernist perspective. With the intensive mixture of genres and screenwriting variations, Single hypothesizes that the deficiency of horror elements undermines the success of the movie in the box-office. Single uses Branagh’s work in conjunction with assorted earlier adaptations to analyze the evolution of the monster of Shelley’s narrative. She argues that this evolution has cultivated a monster that is no longer revered as the terrifying character of James Whale’s original adaptation. Though Whale’s monster was scary to moviegoers, his characterization also opened the door for sympathetic opinion. Because of this first adaptation, Single explains, the societal definition of Frankenstein’s monster became that of sympathy and apprehension rather than horror. Concerning Branagh’s film, Single attributes the meek reaction of viewers to the evolution of character definition and adaptation. Though Single produces a valid argument, she may harbor biases toward the original narrative as the topmost establishment of societal reactions and the introduction of horror.