Comic Books #65: Frankenstein 1948
This July 1948 issue of Frankenstein is surprisingly disturbing for a children's comic. And when I say "disturbing", I'm not fooling around. This stuff is dark - way darker and grotesque than I could ever have imagined a kiddie comic could be. Let's take a look.... if you think you're up for it.
Talk about macabre humor! Our villainous explorer, Gallo, happens upon the decapitated head of a colleague impaled upon a stake and delivers a singularly unfunny punchline: "You've gotten so thin! Thin as a pole!" Ha, ha, ha!
Gallo meets the jungle natives, all rendered with a special racist charm.
What luck! He's found a skin stretching fluid with a label written in perfect English.
Gallo not only takes their skin stretching fluid, but ends up shooting Bootra's father.
Note the red blood. This would be against the law to include in a comic in 1954, thanks to the Comics Code Authority.
Bootra vows to avenge his father's death... and things get dark. Real dark.
Back in America, our friend Frankenstein happens upon a weeping Snake Lady. She tells him that all her sideshow freak friends have disappeared.
She suspects Gallo, who had the freaks "pose for him" recently. That's a bit odd.
Also take note of the little jungle native who's become part of the freak show team. His name is Betram (spoiler alert - it's actually Bootra).
Frankenstein, Bertram and the Snake Lady pay a visit to Gallo's workshop.
(Notice that Frank's nose is located basically on his forehead.... for some reason, that really annoys me.)
So, what do our pair of sleuths discover in Gallo's workshop? Oh, dear....
Gallo insists that they are simply lifelike balloons. But we know they are actually the skinned hides of real people.
I told you this would get dark.
The Snake Lady snoops around and finds the grotesque remains of Dog-Faced Boy. The skin has been stripped off his body!
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that kids in 1948 were a tad disturbed.
Just take a moment to digest what's being said here in a children's comic.
"...I know how you made such lifelike figures of them! You skinned them... and inflated their skins!"
So, the busted Gallo locks Frankenstein in his dungeon and attempts to toss Bertram in a vat of molten lead. He also has Snake Lady ready to be skinned.
Frankenstein to the rescue.
"...He's hung me up so he can skin me!"
Yep. You wouldn't get a line like that in a kiddie comic after 1954.
Nice upskirt courtesy Dick Briefer, the artist and writer for the Frankenstein comic series.
Another great line from a children's comic:
"Let's go up and see our friends -- the inflated freaks - we should do something with their remains."
And now "Bertram" enacts his revenge.
Frankenstein and the Snake Lady release the inflated flayed remains of their freakshow friends to blow away with the wind. Snake Lady comments that it's the prettiest funeral she's ever seen.
This is just sick.
Epilogue. Bootra has completed his revenge. And as a token for his father's grave - the floating skinned remains of Gallo.
Wasn't that a lovely story kids?
After the Comics Code took effect in 1954, the Frankenstein comics were, as you might imagine, cancelled. Dick Briefer subsequently left the world of comic books and went into a career in advertising.
But before we leave Briefer and his charming comic, I want to give you a taste of the last story in this July 1948 issue entitled "Honeyed Herring"...
Frankenstein is serving as a groundskeeper and assistant for a scientist who is developing the atom bomb for America.
But there are Nazi spies nearby disguised as trees. They want to kill the scientist before he's able to come up with the plans.
But Frankenstein does some yard work, chopping down trees on the property..... trees which contain humans inside them!
Now, if this were a "normal" post-1954 comic, the Nazis would jump out of the trees and escape. But this is 1948. Buckle up kids!
Hooooly shit! Are you kidding me?!?
The scientist comes in, is stricken with horror and faints. Which is probably how young readers of this comic book felt.
Alright Junior. Did you enjoy your comic? Now go play outside.