Universal's Monsters In Comics
Pop culture fans will be aware that there’s been a lot of talk about Universal’s monsters in recent years. Beginning with the unremarkable Dracula Untold, there’s been an effort to mash these monsters together into an ensemble series. The so-called “Dark Universe” has been hanging on by a thread, though some more recent reports have it rising from its slumber and soldiering on.
This means we may or may not be seeing a bunch of fresh takes on classic monsters from Frankenstein to Dracula in the near future. Most will agree this could be a lot of fun, if the studio gets it right. But what many don’t realize is that these monsters aren’t just being resurrected from the ashes of 19th century literature and old films. Several of them also have a history in comics, which we’ll outline briefly here:
Dracula (Marvel Comics)
Originally created by Bram Stoker in the novel Dracula, this character has been co-opted by so many different creative projects over the years it’s no wonder he has a history in comics as well. What’s surprising, for those who don’t keep specific tabs on such things, is how extensive that history is. The character first appeared in this capacity in 1971 in a Marvel Comics series called Tomb Of Dracula - which wound up running for 70 issues and eight years. Eventually, the character was killed off as a Marvel offshoot in Doctor Strange, but he’s since been used in multiple projects - including, perhaps most notably, X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula and Blade. He’s never become a main character per se, outside of the ‘70s series, but he seems to be a sort of standby supervillain for Marvel to call upon now and then.
Frankenstein (DC Comics)
Like Dracula, Frankenstein has appeared in innumerable projects since he was first created by the author Mary Shelley. Often however, he’s been made light of to some extent. The film Young Frankenstein famously turned the narrative into a comedy. More recently a game called Frankenstein’s Monster has been featured among the free options at a competitive online gaming site. This game depicts a tongue-in-cheek, cartoon-like version of the famous monster. While the most mainstream spins on Frankenstein have gotten more lighthearted however, a DC Comics take on the character kept him quite dark. First appearing in Detective Comics #135 in 1948, and then later alongside a version of Count Dracula in Spawn Of Frankenstein, he ultimately wound up as one of the “Seven Soldiers,” who occupy their own comic series by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke. The Seven Soldiers actually aren’t bad guys, but this take on Frankenstein’s monster is still appropriately monstrous.
Creature From The Black Lagoon (Dark Horse Comics)
As far as we know, this was a one-off appearance. But in 1991, writer Steve Moncuse and a team of artists essentially adapted the 1954 Universal film "Creature From The Black Lagoon" into a comic book. It didn’t lead to any continuing series, and at this point any issue would be considered something of a collectors’ item.
The Astounding Wolf-Man (Image Comics) It’s actually not explicitly stated that this version of the Wolf-Man character is meant to be the same as the Universal monster. Though since the concept is basically just that of a werewolf with heroic leanings, it’s not as if it’s unique intellectual property at this stage. The same description could easily be applied to characters in Twilight, or to the Harry Potter universe’s Remus Lupin.
At any rate, this Wolf-Man was at the center of an entire series (The Astounding Wolf-Man) that debuted in 2005 and ran for 25 issues until 2010. Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard wrote and drew for the comics, which concern a wealthy man named Gary Hampton who is bitten by a werewolf and tries to become a good version of the same.
The Invisible Man (Marvel Classics Comics)
Of the film projects Universal has been trying to get off the ground, a take on the:
Invisible Man - a character first written up by H.G. Wells - may have been the most intriguing. In literature this character is a foundational mad scientist, and with Johnny Depp attached as the star, he sounds like a very enjoyable cinematic character. His history in comics is limited, but in 1977 history occupied issue #25 of Marvel Classics Comics, in what was effectively a comic-style reproduction of the novella. For those who love comics it’s a fun one to collect, and perhaps a more accessible version of the original style.