Monday

OMU: Frankenstein Family

When the story of Frankenstein was imported to comics by Gary Friedrich & Mike Ploog as part of Marvel’s monster craze in the early 1970s, they decided to approach it more as a sequel to the novel rather than a straightforward adaptation. Thus, the series opens with the Frankenstein Monster being discovered in the Arctic in 1898 by Captain Robert Walton’s great-grandson (conveniently named Robert Walton IV). The story of Mary Shelley’s novel is then told in flashback over the next few issues before the Monster goes off to have new adventures. Eventually, in an effort to boost sales, Marvel brought the Monster into a modern-day setting so he could interact with more-popular characters. As such, we see the Monster active in three distinct time periods. An oft-repeated trope of the series, then, is the Monster encountering the “last living descendant” of his creator (ignoring the fact that Victor Frankenstein died childless), which introduces us to various members of the Frankenstein family over several generations. Due to Marvel’s infamous sliding timescale, unfortunately, the genealogy of this family has become muddled, so I decided to straighten it out using my timeline for the Original Marvel Universe.

Luckily, Mary Shelley neglected to kill off Victor Frankenstein’s brother Ernest before the end of the novel, so we can safely assume it is through him that the family line reaches to the present day. The lives of Ernest and his son were never detailed in any canonical story, though, and information about other generations is often very sketchy. Thus, I indulge in more speculation here than is customary. As a guiding principle, I decided that James Whale’s Frankenstein movies actually depicted a composite of characters and events from various generations of the horror-haunted family. This was mixed with elements from the established history of the Original Marvel Universe, as well as real-world history, to flesh out what we know from the published comics.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Lumbering on with… The True History of the Frankenstein Family!


1774 – Alphonse Frankenstein, the current Baron von Frankenstein, is a retired government official from Geneva, Switzerland, and he and his much younger wife, Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein, are touring the sunnier climes of southern Europe for health reasons. While in Naples, Italy, they have their first child, Victor Frankenstein.

1775 – Elizabeth Lavenza is born in Milan, Italy, to an Italian nobleman and his German-born wife. Elizabeth’s mother dies in childbirth, so her father places the baby in the care of a wetnurse. However, the father soon disappears while on a military campaign in Austria, leaving Elizabeth a penniless orphan.

1779 – The Frankensteins find Elizabeth Lavenza living in squalor and make her their ward, rescuing her from abject poverty.

1781 – When their second child, Ernest Frankenstein, is born, Alphonse and Caroline settle down at an estate in their native Geneva, Switzerland. Victor and Elizabeth are raised as cousins and become very close, but the parents hope they will one day marry. Though by nature a loner, Victor befriends a schoolmate named Henry Clerval, the adventurous son of a Geneva merchant.

1787 – Victor becomes obsessed with the works of medieval alchemists such as Albertus Magnus, Cornelius Agrippa, and Paracelsus, especially their search for the “elixir of life.”

1789 – After witnessing the power of lightning firsthand, Victor abandons the alchemists to take up the study of modern science.

1790 – William Frankenstein is born in Geneva, Switzerland, the third son of Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein.

1791 – Weeks after his mother dies of scarlet fever, Victor leaves Geneva to attend the University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria, where he is soon recognized as a brilliant student of chemistry and biology. One of his professors, Monsieur Waldman, renews Victor’s interest in the alchemists, suggesting their esoteric wisdom could be combined with the scientific method to perform wondrous feats.

1793 – Victor discovers a means of reanimating dead tissue and begins constructing an eight-foot-tall human figure out of the parts of a dozen corpses. Believing he has discovered the key to immortality, he works obsessively on his secret project, driving himself to the point of nervous exhaustion.

1794 – In November, Victor finally succeeds in animating his cadaverous creature. Horrified by what he has done, the young scientist rejects his creation, leaving it to wander off into the surrounding forests. Victor suffers a nervous breakdown, but is nursed back to health by his childhood friend, Henry Clerval.

1795 – Traumatized by his experience, Victor abandons science altogether and spends the year studying Middle Eastern languages and literatures with Clerval.

1796 – When his youngest brother, William, is murdered in May, Victor leaves the University of Ingolstadt and returns to Geneva. He is horrified to discover that his Monster has committed the crime and framed the family’s servant-girl, Justine Moritz. Victor is consumed with guilt when Justine is executed, but he knows no one would believe his incredible tale. Two months later, he retreats into the Alps, where the Monster confronts him. Having learned to speak and read French, the Monster has managed to track his creator down by reading Victor’s journal, which he inadvertently carried off with him when he escaped from the laboratory. Tired of being all alone in the world, the Monster demands a mate. Giving in to the creature’s threats, Victor agrees to create a female monster. However, realizing he needs to consult with certain scientists in London, Victor plans a trip to England first. His father insists on Clerval accompanying him, and, after a slow trek across Europe, the two old friends reach London by mid-December.

1797 – After parting ways with Clerval, Victor sets up a laboratory in a remote house on the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. There, with great reluctance, he assembles a female figure out of numerous dead women, some of whom are murdered by the Monster for their organs. However, fearing that he would be the creator of a monster race, Victor destroys the creature moments after animating it. He flees to Ireland, but his vengeful Monster finds Clerval and murders him, framing Victor for the crime. Languishing in prison, Victor suffers another nervous breakdown.

1798 – Victor is released from prison due to his father’s efforts to clear his name. They return to Geneva, where Victor and Elizabeth are finally married. That night, however, the Monster sneaks into the bedroom and strangles Elizabeth to death. A few days later, Alphonse dies from grief, making Victor the new Baron von Frankenstein. However, Victor suffers another psychotic break. After a few months, he pulls himself together and swears to hunt down and destroy his murderous creation. The chase leads Victor across much of the world, with the Monster always remaining just out of reach.

1799 – Pursuing the Monster to the Arctic, Victor comes upon the ice-bound ship of Captain Robert Walton, where the last of his strength finally gives out. Victor tells his story to Walton, who transcribes it into a series of letters to his sister, Margaret Saville, in England. After a few weeks, Victor Frankenstein dies at the age of 26. Soon after, the Monster boards the ship, and is grieved to find his creator dead. After a confrontation with Walton, the Monster wanders off into the frozen wastes. Abandoning their ill-fated expedition, Walton and his crew make their way back to civilization.

1800 – When Victor’s body is at last returned to Geneva, his brother Ernest becomes the new Baron von Frankenstein. Devastated by the death of his entire family, Ernest uses his inheritance to buy a remote 500-year-old castle in the Swiss Alps, where he takes up residence. The dilapidated structure then comes to be known as Castle Frankenstein.

1813 – Growing weary of his solitude, Ernest finally marries, taking a young Geneva woman named Elsa Manoir as his wife. She joins him at his secluded retreat and tries to brighten up their gloomy abode.

1814 – Ernest and Elsa have a son, Henry Frankenstein, who is born in the remote castle.

1818 – Following the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, Ernest suffers greatly from the infamy it brings his family, even though most of the world believes the story to be fictional. Many people in Geneva, however, recognize that there is much truth in it. The revelations about the deaths of Justine Moritz, Henry Clerval, and Elizabeth Lavenza cause many to conclude that Victor Frankenstein was a murderous madman. The resulting scandal leads Ernest to become a total recluse.

1830 – Her relationship with her husband having slowly disintegrated, Elsa Frankenstein decides she can no longer live with the shame and ostracism resulting from Shelley’s novel. She commits suicide by throwing herself off the castle’s highest tower. With no suicide note, Ernest is investigated by the authorities on the suspicion of murdering his wife. He is ultimately exonerated, but lives under a shadow for the rest of his lonely, miserable life. Henry, a frail and sickly boy, is traumatized by the death of his mother, but his stern, emotionally remote father can offer no comfort.

1831 – At the age of 17, Henry leaves home and settles in Munich, Germany, where he becomes obsessed with the idea of contacting his mother’s spirit. This leads him to a group of occultists in Dachau led by Margareta Vogel, a woman some years his senior. Margareta soon seduces Henry, and within a few months, they are married.

1832 – With the release of a revised edition, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein becomes more popular than ever. To cash in on the novel’s success, Robert Walton Jr. publishes a limited-edition volume of the unedited text of his father’s letters from the 1798–99 expedition.

1833 – Henry and Margareta have a son, Jason Frankenstein, who is named for the hero of Greek mythology.

1836 – Henry seems to succeed in communicating with his mother’s spirit, and she urges him to raise her from the grave. Henry is eager to do so, but lacks the necessary mystical power. Thus, the spirit agrees to instruct him and his circle of friends in the arts of black magic and necromancy. Over the next 25 years, the group devotes itself to the study of sorcery, often stealing bodies from Munich-area graveyards on which to practice their resurrection spells. Henry and Margareta shield young Jason from the more gruesome aspects of their endeavors to raise the dead, but he grows up aware of his parents’ practice of black magic.

1847 – Normal teenage rebellion leads Jason to a desire to be an Egyptologist, so he strives to reject the occult and embrace rationalism.

1850 – Jason leaves home to attend the University of Munich. There, he meets Dr. Septimus Pretorius, a professor of philosophy, who helps Jason reconcile science and magic in the pursuit of knowledge.

1852 – Jason marries Yvonne Teufel, the daughter of members of his parents’ coven.

1853 – Jason and Yvonne have a son, Vincent Frankenstein, who is born in the same house in Munich as his father was twenty years earlier.

1856 – Jason travels to Cairo, Egypt, to explore the Giza Plateau and other sites. There, he stumbles upon a hidden chamber dating back to Hyborian-era Stygia, where he discovers one of the lost parchments of the Darkhold. Intrigued, he takes it back to Munich to consult with Dr. Pretorius. Convinced he is on the cusp of a momentous discovery, Jason devotes the next five years to studying the scroll and deciphering its arcane inscriptions. He makes frequent trips to Egypt in a fruitless search for further traces of this lost civilization.

1861 – Ernest Frankenstein dies at age 80 after a lifetime of loneliness and ill-health. Henry thus becomes the new Baron von Frankenstein at the age of 47. He relocates his coven to Castle Frankenstein in the Swiss Alps, where he finally exhumes his mother’s corpse. The resurrection spell that the group casts takes effect and the body is returned to a semblance of life. However, they discover too late that the spirit Henry had been in contact with was not Elsa Frankenstein at all, but a demon seeking physical form so as to escape from Hell. The demon murders Margareta and several of the other occultists before going on a rampage through the nearby communities. A mob of torch-wielding villagers then chases the demon into an old mill and sets it on fire. As its host body is incinerated, the demon is sent screaming back to Hell. Henry remains in the castle, a broken man.

1862 – Jason takes his wife and son to live in Castle Frankenstein so they can care for his heartbroken father. Jason continues to work on his ancient parchment, enjoying a lively correspondence with Dr. Pretorius. He also travels extensively, consulting with experts in many disciplines, but his ideas about the parchment are ridiculed and rejected.

1866 – Vincent discovers the notebooks of his great-great uncle Victor inside a locked cabinet in the castle library and is intrigued by the bizarre mixture of 18th-century science and medieval alchemy within. Though he doubts the macabre tales about Victor Frankenstein are true, Vincent nevertheless becomes fascinated by the idea of creating a powerful artificial lifeform to serve him.

1870 – Vincent leaves home to go to college in London, England, as he is ashamed of his family’s tarnished reputation and wishes to leave Europe. There, he studies the chemical and biological sciences as his ancestor had done. Now left alone with her ailing father-in-law, Yvonne grows bitter and resentful toward Jason, but this only drives him to extend his excursions to foreign lands.

1875 – Henry Frankenstein drinks himself to death at age 61, never having recovered from the horror of his experience. Jason, who is in Munich visiting Dr. Pretorius, learns that he is now the Baron von Frankenstein. Soon after, Jason brings Pretorius to the castle, as they have made a breakthrough in translating the parchment’s inscriptions. Pretorius has recognized the text to be a magical incantation and convinces Jason they should weave the spell, believing it would call forth a genie to grant them power and riches. However, the spell actually conjures up a gigantic, demonic spider referred to as a “Child of Zath.” Stricken with horror, Jason panics and runs away as the spider attacks. Before he can make a move, Pretorius falls into the spider’s clutches, and it sucks out his soul, leaving him little more than a zombie. The spider then chases Jason through the castle, causing tremendous damage as it goes. Yvonne blunders onto the scene, and the spider turns her into a zombie as well. Finally, Jason manages to lead the spider to a deep stone pit, which it falls into. The spider is unable to scale the slimy stones and is trapped. Jason locks the two zombies in the dungeon and flees the castle in mortal terror. He travels to London to take refuge with his son, warning Vincent never to return to Castle Frankenstein.

1883 – After eight years of vainly studying the parchment in hopes of discovering a counter-spell, Jason Frankenstein becomes gravely ill and soon dies at the age of 50. Becoming the new Baron von Frankenstein, Vincent donates his father’s mysterious parchment to the British Library, where it is filed away with numerous other unidentified artifacts. Inheriting what remains of the family fortune, Vincent uses the money to finance his biochemical experiments, allowing the castle to fall to ruin.

1884 – Vincent meets a Russian hunchback named Ivan and hires him to be his manservant—and test subject. In the course of his experiments, Vincent injects Ivan with chemical solutions that greatly increase his size, strength, and resistance to injury.

1895 – At age 42, Vincent marries a much younger English woman named Lenore Carlyle. To suit his wife’s station as a baroness, Vincent hires a lady’s maid, Betty Baker, to serve her. However, Vincent often neglects his young wife while working obsessively in his basement laboratory, which angers Betty.

1898 – When Lenore becomes pregnant, Betty’s resentment of her master’s neglectful behavior grows. She is infuriated when Vincent suddenly leaves for a trip to the continent just as Lenore’s pregnancy is coming to term. Having heard rumors of a gruesome giant traveling around the Balkans with a troupe of gypsy performers, Vincent takes Ivan and tracks the brute to a cave in Transylvania. There, Vincent realizes he has found his ancestor’s creation, the infamous Frankenstein Monster, somehow still alive a century after he was last seen. After smuggling the Monster into his London laboratory, Vincent decides to transplant Ivan’s brain into the Monster’s body. However, Ivan refuses and tries to kill Vincent, relenting only when Betty informs them that Lenore has gone into labor. Vincent races to his wife’s bedroom and delivers his son, Basil Frankenstein, with Betty’s help. Taking a pistol, Vincent then returns to the laboratory, where he sees Ivan fighting with the Monster. To protect his ancestor’s creation, Vincent shoots Ivan in the back, killing him. The Monster attacks Vincent with a sword, forcing him to shoot the creature twice in the chest. While bemoaning the loss of such a fascinating specimen, Vincent ignores Betty’s urgent pleas to return to his wife’s bedside. By the time Vincent emerges from the laboratory, Lenore has died, and Betty, disgusted by her master’s behavior, shoots him dead. Fearing arrest, Betty takes baby Basil and flees the country, settling in Hamburg, Germany, where she raises the boy as her own son.

1914 – With the declaration of war between Germany and England, Betty is deported as an enemy alien. To enable 16-year-old Basil to remain in the only home he’s ever known, she reveals that he is actually the son of the former Baron von Frankenstein, a title which he inherited on the day he was born. She also tells Basil that she has one other terrible secret, which she vows to reveal to him on her deathbed. After Betty has been sent back to England, Basil moves to Berlin and enrolls in the university there to study medical science.

1915 – Early in the year, Basil gets a local girl, Hedwig Schultz, pregnant, so he decides to marry her. When his son Ludwig Frankenstein is born nine months later, Basil considers trying to claim his family’s land holdings in Switzerland in order to escape the war. Unfortunately, he has insufficient evidence to back his claim, so he instead signs up to serve the war effort in a Berlin military hospital.

1916 – Confronted by the horrors of war, Basil recognizes an opportunity for unprecedented medical research. In the course of treating thousands of wounded soldiers, he develops numerous advanced surgical techniques and masters the intricacies of human anatomy.

1919 – Following the end of the war, Basil becomes one of Berlin’s most successful surgeons, amassing a small fortune in the process. The long hours that he works leave him little time for his son, so Ludwig grows up extremely attached to his doting mother.

1926 – Enjoying a luxurious lifestyle, Basil sends for Betty to come live with them as his mother. When she arrives, Basil introduces her to Ludwig as “Oma” [Grandma]. Basil is also pleased to find that Betty has brought most of Vincent Frankenstein’s papers, which had been put in storage by the family solicitor back in 1898. Among the papers, Basil discovers the notebooks of his great-great-great-uncle, Victor Frankenstein, and soon becomes obsessed with his ancestor’s attempts to reanimate the dead.

1928 – Basil attends the International Conference on Genetics held in Geneva, Switzerland. There, he meets another young German scientist with similar research interests, Abraham Erskine, as well as Arnim Zola of Switzerland and Wladyslav Shinski of Poland. They all share ideas with each other over the course of the conference. Basil returns to Berlin eager to continue his revivification experiments.

1929 – When a flu epidemic sweeps through Berlin, both Betty and Hedwig succumb to the disease and die. Basil and Ludwig are devastated by their loss. Realizing that Betty hadn’t had the chance to make her deathbed confession, Basil takes her body to his laboratory and experiments on it, determined to revive her. A week later, his studies of his ancestors’ notebooks pays off when Basil succeeds in reanimating Betty’s corpse long enough for her to reveal her dread secret. However, unable to bear the revelation that Betty murdered his father in cold blood, Basil convinces himself that some demon has taken over Betty’s corpse to spout loathsome lies, and he hacks up the body until it is dead again. This terrifying experience crushes Basil’s hopes of bringing his wife back to life, and he goes into a profound depression.

1930 – Lacking any parental guidance, Ludwig gets his girlfriend Greta Henkel pregnant. Basil feels he cannot reproach his son, as he had done the same thing himself, but this merely fuels Ludwig’s sense of entitlement.

1931 – Ludwig agrees to marry Greta so his child will not be illegitimate, though he has already soured on their relationship. In the summer, his daughter, Victoria Frankenstein, is born. Soon afterwards, Ludwig leaves Berlin to go to college in Geneva, Switzerland, glad to finally be out of his father’s house. Greta and Victoria remain behind, as Basil agrees to support them in a modest lifestyle. He provides them with a small house on the west side of Berlin, though in his inconsolable grief he rarely makes time to see them. Meanwhile, Universal Studios releases James Whale’s film Frankenstein, launching a popular franchise based on accounts of Victor Frankenstein and his descendants.

1933 – Basil finally returns to his research, becoming ever more obsessed with perfecting his reanimation techniques.

1934 – At the University of Geneva, Ludwig is recognized as a brilliant student of biochemistry, though he is known as a notorious rake and a libertine. One of his lovers gets pregnant and bears him another daughter, Veronica Frankenstein. Though the baby is born out of wedlock, Ludwig accepts her as his own and provides financial support, due to his continuing fondness for her mother.

1936 – Basil meets a young Japanese woman, Dr. Kitagowa, who is studying advanced surgical techniques at the University of Berlin teaching hospital, and they become good friends. He takes to calling her “Kitty” when the proper pronunciation of her given name eludes him. After several months, Basil confides in her the nature and purpose of his reanimation experiments, and, to his great relief, she is fascinated by his research.

1937 – Upon receiving his Ph.D. in biochemistry, Ludwig is invited to join the faculty of the University of Geneva, though the nature of his research becomes increasingly controversial.

1938 – Basil suffers a terrible accident in his laboratory that leaves him completely paralyzed from the waist down and renders his hands capable of only the most rudimentary tasks. Kitty agrees to become his full-time lab assistant, making it possible for him to continue his research. Working so closely together, they eventually fall in love. Kitty soon hits upon a way to combine both their specialties so as to develop a means to transplant Basil’s brain into a younger, healthier, and more virile body.

1939 – With the outbreak of World War II, Basil and Kitty see an opportunity to have the Nazis fund their experiments. They set up a demonstration for Heinrich Himmler and his Ahnenerbe research organization, promising a way to bring dead soldiers back to a semblance of life so they can keep fighting. Himmler is enthusiastic about their work and promises full funding. However, Basil and Kitty keep their brain-transplant project a secret. Meanwhile, Ludwig is relieved that Switzerland remains officially neutral, so he can continue his research unimpeded by the war.

1940 – The Nazis help Basil finally gain possession of his family’s estate in Switzerland, expertly forging papers to definitively establish him as the current and legitimate Baron von Frankenstein. Basil and Kitty then move into the dilapidated Castle Frankenstein, which has been abandoned since 1875 and was heavily damaged in a mysterious flood in 1898. While they set up their laboratory, work crews are brought in to restore the castle to a reasonably habitable state, though the residents of the nearby village refuse to participate.

1941 – Basil becomes fascinated by the American superhero known as the Human Torch, an android recently created by Phineas T. Horton, and comes to believe that the Torch’s artificial body contains secrets vital to his reanimation experiments. Thus, he makes a plan with the Nazi high command to lure the Torch into a trap. In the summer, Basil and Kitty begin stealing freshly buried corpses from the local graveyards, hoping to replicate Victor Frankenstein’s achievement. Their activities stir up the locals, who remember all too well the strange and horrible incidents of the past. By the end of the year, the two scientists have succeeded in creating a living monster from stitched-together body parts from various corpses, with an implant in its brain to keep it under control.

1942 – In January, the Human Torch and his junior partner Toro are lured to Castle Frankenstein and imprisoned. Basil’s analysis of the Torch’s unique android physiognomy is interrupted when Captain America and Bucky arrive to rescue their friends. While the monster captures the heroes, Basil and Kitty decide that Captain America’s body would be perfect for Basil’s brain transplant. Their plans are foiled, though, when the Sub-Mariner arrives on the scene and, with a powerful punch in the head, destroys the implant in the creature’s brain. Immediately, the vengeful monster grabs Basil and Kitty and, knocking the heroes out of the way, carries them to the top of the castle. To Basil’s horror, the creature leaps to its death, taking its creators with it. Basil is killed instantly when they hit the ground.

Ludwig is informed of his father’s death and that he is to inherit the title Baron von Frankenstein and his family’s estate in the Swiss Alps. Unaware that his family even owned such a property, Ludwig goes to inspect it and is excited to discover the castle’s well-stocked laboratory. Finding the papers of his ancestors within, Ludwig resolves to expand upon—and eventually surpass—the achievements of his forebears. He resigns his position at the University of Geneva, intending to live off the income generated by the vast estate. However, the villagers object to yet another Frankenstein conducting strange experiments in the castle, and warn Ludwig that they will not tolerate being threatened by monsters. Ludwig dismisses their concerns and sets about his work. Within a few weeks, Ludwig discovers a hunchback named Borgo living in the bowels of the castle. His first impulse is to throw Borgo out, but the hunchback’s obsequious manner convinces Ludwig to take him on as an assistant.

1945 – With the war’s end, Ludwig stops sending money to his two daughters and never sees them again. Greta struggles to raise Victoria in Berlin, which had been heavily bombed during the fighting and faces strict rationing as part of the Allied occupation. Still, they consider themselves lucky not to have been living on the east side of the city, which is controlled by the Soviets. After school, Victoria volunteers at a local hospital, intent on becoming a nurse. She is unaware of her half-sister living in Switzerland. Veronica and her mother, also finding themselves without income, move from Geneva to Zurich. There, the mother passes herself off as a war-widow, claiming that Veronica’s father died defending Switzerland from the Nazis, and thus manages to marry a wealthy banker much older than herself. They then move into a remote castle in the Swiss Alps, though Veronica is soon sent off to boarding school. She remains unaware that her biological father is living in his own castle not far away.

1950s – Throughout the decade, Ludwig conducts genetic experimentation on war orphans, producing dozens and dozens of deformed, dwarfish cretins who are consigned to the dungeons and the woods surrounding the castle. They sustain themselves by stealing food from the nearby villages and come to be known far and wide as “The Children of the Damned.” Ludwig grows increasingly unhinged as his bizarre experiments inevitably end in failure.

In Berlin, Victoria becomes a nurse and takes a job at one of the city hospitals. Though the economy improves over the years, both Victoria and her mother remain fearful that the city could at any time be absorbed into the communist territory that surrounds it. This leads Victoria to adopt a fatalist attitude, and she decides to never marry or have children. Meanwhile, Veronica enrolls in the University of Geneva, intent on becoming a surgeon. While in college, Veronica discovers Mary Shelley’s novel about her great-great-great-great-great-uncle, and tracks down a rare edition of the letters of Captain Robert Walton, on which the novel is based. Through these books, she becomes fascinated by the strange history of her father’s family. On various breaks from school, Veronica travels to Bavaria, Germany, to search for the archives of the long-defunct University of Ingolstadt, but never finds any record of Victor’s experiments. Inspired by her ancestor’s example, Veronica majors in biophysics and then attends medical school.

1962 – Hoping to make himself the master of life and death, Ludwig returns to his ancestors’ efforts to reanimate dead bodies. Borgo helps him obtain freshly buried corpses from nearby churchyards, but these experiments are also unsuccessful, causing Ludwig’s rage to grow. However, he does manage to develop a process to transpose the minds of two individuals, which he tests on small animals. Also, using his father’s notes on Phineas T. Horton’s research, Ludwig invents a machine to create a synthetic duplicate of a living being, endowed with the subject’s talents and abilities. The duplicate is formed from a large lump of synthetic material that Ludwig refers to as “clay.” He sees this “Experiment X” as his final triumph over his ancestors, as it would allow him to create new life rather than merely reanimate a dead body. Unfortunately, all the animals he subjects to the process die before the duplicate can be formed, and Borgo balks at procuring live human test subjects. To placate his loathsome assistant, Ludwig falsely promises Borgo that he will never complete “Experiment X.”

In Geneva, Veronica has become a successful surgeon, but when her parents move to Italy for the warmer climate, she takes up residence in her stepfather’s castle. In one wing, she sets up a private laboratory and surgical suite, where she treats wealthy clients who would prefer not to go to a hospital. Finding great success, Veronica invites her rather weak-willed boyfriend, Werner Schmidt, to move in with her.

1964 – By pure chance, Ludwig finds the perfect test subject for “Experiment X”—the Silver Surfer. Claiming the device will be able to purify the mind of evil impulses once properly calibrated, Ludwig convinces the Surfer to cooperate. However, the device instead siphons off some of the alien’s cosmic power to create an evil doppelgänger of the Silver Surfer. Realizing he’s been betrayed, the real Surfer breaks out of the machine, smashing to it to pieces, but the doppelgänger knocks him out with an energy bolt. Ludwig sends his creation out to terrorize the villagers, then tries to kill the real Surfer when he regains consciousness. Ludwig’s bullets have no effect on the alien’s silvery skin, which emboldens Borgo to betray his master by telling the Silver Surfer what’s happened. After the Surfer has set off to destroy his evil double, Ludwig beats Borgo viciously. Soon after, a group of angry villagers storms the castle, but, rather than let Ludwig pick them off with his rifle, Borgo tackles his master. They both tumble out of a third-story window and fall to their deaths. Breaking his neck, Ludwig Frankenstein dies at the age of 49.

Shortly afterward, Victoria is informed of her father’s death, and that, as his sole legitimate heir, she is to inherit Castle Frankenstein in the Swiss Alps and become the Baroness von Frankenstein. Intrigued, she travels to the remote site, only to be horrified to discover the Children of the Damned living there in filth and squalor. Their leader, a hunchback named Igor, tells her of their origins. The guilt-stricken Victoria immediately resigns from her nursing job in Berlin and dedicates herself to the care of these freakish outcasts that her father created and abandoned. Settling into the castle, Victoria discovers the papers left behind by her ancestors and pieces together the ghastly history of the Frankenstein family. She blames much of the family’s tragedy on the original Monster, believing him to have murdered both his creator, Victor, as well as her great-grandfather, Vincent.

1965 – Not far away, Veronica begins to hear reports that suggest the original Frankenstein Monster has resurfaced after almost 70 years. Believing herself to be the last surviving member of the Frankenstein family, Veronica decides to find the Monster and help him in any way possible, to atone for the suffering that Victor’s reckless experiments caused.

1966 – In the spring, Veronica hires New York City private investigator Eric Prawn to track down the Monster and bring him to Switzerland. Assuming a man like Prawn would not like taking orders from a woman, Veronica has Werner make all the phone calls while passing himself off as a Frankenstein. After several weeks, Prawn reports numerous run-ins with agents of I.C.O.N.—the International Crime Organizations Nexus—who are seeking Frankenstein’s Monster for their own nefarious purposes. Finally, in September, Prawn rescues the Monster from I.C.O.N. and brings him to Veronica’s castle, along with the creature’s loyal friend, a disaffected New Yorker named Ralph Caccone. While Veronica performs throat surgery on the Monster to restore his power of speech, I.C.O.N. sends zombie-like commandos and a hulking robot called the Berserker to recapture the Monster. Prawn cuts down the undead commandos with his machine gun, giving Veronica time to complete the operation. The Monster then fights with the robot, disabling it with a jolt of electricity. Though grateful to be able to speak again, the Monster recoils from Veronica’s expressions of pity and storms off into the mountains, never to return. Werner reveals his treachery by repairing the robot, enabling the Berserker to set off after the Monster. Enraged, Caccone grabs Prawn’s machine gun and fires on the I.C.O.N. helicopter that has landed to extract Werner. The helicopter explodes when the fuel tank is breached, killing Werner and the two agents aboard. Veronica remains cool in the face of Werner’s violent death, not one to brook betrayal. Eventually, Prawn and Caccone go home to America, leaving Veronica to her boutique medical practice.

At Castle Frankenstein, the Children of the Damned report to Victoria that the Monster has been spotted wandering the countryside in the company of a large robot. She orders them to capture the creature at once. Through the sheer weight of numbers, the Children manage to destroy the Berserker and drag the Monster into the castle, where they chain him to a wall. Unfortunately, the Monster breaks free and, in the ensuing fight, kills several of the Children. Victoria arrives in time to stop him from killing Igor. She accuses the Monster of murdering two of her ancestors, but he insists he killed neither man—Victor pursued him into the Arctic and died of exposure, while Vincent was shot by an unknown assailant and was already dead when the Monster found him. Despite her suspicions, Victoria finds she believes the Monster’s account and allows him to stay at the castle unmolested. In the months that follow, the Baroness and the Monster get to know each other, and a deep bond of kinship develops between them.

1967 – The Children of the Damned capture a large black horse with Pegasus-like wings that has been wandering aimlessly around Europe. Using the castle’s laboratory facilities, Victoria tries to return the horse to normal, but succeeds only in mutating it further. The horse, which now has a terrifying demonic aspect, is kept inside the castle so it can’t escape and terrorize the villagers.

1968 – In the winter, the Children of the Damned find a Latverian scientist, Bram Velsing, suffering from exposure in the woods. They bring him to Castle Frankenstein, where Victoria is shocked to discover that the frightening metal mask Velsing wears has somehow been fused to his face and cannot be removed. Regardless, she nurses him back to health over the course of many months. Eventually, Velsing reveals that he had rebelled against his master, the cruel despot Doctor Doom, and the gruesome mask is his punishment. Both Victoria and the Monster are sympathetic, and give Velsing the run of the castle, not suspecting that he is plotting to use the mutated horse in an elaborate revenge scheme against Doctor Doom.

1969 – Bram Velsing finally makes his move, donning an armored costume and calling himself “The Dreadknight.” He takes Victoria prisoner, attempting to force her to reveal the process which created the Children of the Damned so that he might build an army of mutated soldiers. She refuses to cooperate and, luckily, the Children manage to recruit the American superhero Iron Man to come to their rescue. Iron Man overcomes the Dreadknight’s arsenal of homemade weapons and, with a little help from the Frankenstein Monster, the villain is defeated. Iron Man leaves the comatose Dreadknight in Victoria’s care and departs.

1975 – Victoria is puzzled when both the Dreadknight and the mutated horse suddenly disappear one stormy night. After six years in a coma, Velsing’s recovery is nothing short of miraculous.


Notes:

1774–1799 – Victor Frankenstein’s life is chronicled in the novel Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and briefly retold by Captain Robert Walton’s great-grandson in Marvel’s Monster of Frankenstein #1–3 (with the Monster himself providing additional details). Throughout the novel, Shelley gives the dates as “17—” to indicate it takes place in the 18th century without nailing it down to specific years. However, she boxes herself in somewhat by twice having the characters quote from Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which was published in October 1798. Thus, I can only surmise that Captain Robert Walton picked up a copy of this newly released book on his way out of London at the start of his arctic expedition, and had reached St. Petersburgh, Russia, by December 11th of that year, when he wrote the first letter to his sister that opens the novel. This puts Walton’s meeting with Victor Frankenstein at August 1, 1799, and working backward from there, the chronology comes together quite simply. Furthermore, we know the story must take place no earlier than the last decade of the 18th century when the Monster mentions having read the Count de Volney’s Ruins of Empires, which was published in 1791. The anachronistic appearance of lines from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1816 poem “Mutability” in chapter 10 is obviously an interpolation by Mary Shelley to promote her husband’s work.

1800 – The castle purchased by Victor’s brother Ernest, which is located in the Swiss Alps, is not to be confused with the original Castle Frankenstein that sits outside the German city of Darmstadt. The earlier fortress, visited by Solomon Kane in Savage Sword of Conan #22, had fallen into ruins by the late 18th century and was uninhabitable.

1818 – Mary Shelley’s novel is discussed in Uncanny X-Men #40, revealing that the book exists in the Marvel Universe even though the events described in it actually happened there. Later, a copy of the novel makes an appearance in Frankenstein Monster #13.

1832 – In Monsters Unleashed #2, Derek McDowell is shown to be in possession of a volume that is just Robert Walton’s letters from the expedition, with no mention of Mary Shelley. This should be considered a separate book from the novel.

1875 – Jason Frankenstein is mentioned in Frankenstein Monster #6, where it is revealed he abandoned the castle over twenty years before 1898. The story revolves around the spider in the pit, which has been turning human victims into zombie-like creatures for some time. Zath is a spider-god from the Conan mythos.

1898 – Having been revived from a century of suspended animation in the Arctic, the Frankenstein Monster makes his way to Castle Frankenstein in search of a living descendant of his creator. Instead, he finds a Colonel Blackstone using the giant demonic spider to create an army of zombies to further his plans of conquest. The Monster floods the castle, drowning both the spider and the colonel and causing extensive damage to the structure. The Monster’s wanderings then take him to Transylvania where he battles Dracula. In Frankenstein Monster #9, we meet Vincent Frankenstein, who takes the Monster home to London, England in the next issue. Vincent and Ivan’s plans for the Monster go awry while Betty tends to the suffering Lenore. At the end of #11, Betty shoots Vincent and takes the orphaned Basil to raise as her own (although the baby is not named in the story). The Monster wanders off, only to wind up in suspended animation again.

1928 – The International Conference on Genetics held in Geneva is depicted in X-Factor Annual #3. Also seen to be in attendance are Herbert Edgar Wyndham and Jonathan Drew. Wyndham notes that “everybody who’s anybody in the field of life sciences” is at the conference, so I’m sure that would include Basil Frankenstein and Abraham Erskine, even though they aren’t shown.

1931 – Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein films are referenced in Uncanny X-Men #40 and Invaders #31. Ludwig is seen watching one of the movies in Silver Surfer #7, and, in his madness, appears to believe it to be a reliable account of his ancestor’s experiments.

1942 – Basil Frankenstein and Dr. Kitagowa run afoul of the Invaders in a flashback story in Invaders #31.

1964 – Ludwig Frankenstein is introduced in Silver Surfer #7, though his first name wasn’t revealed until Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #37 (1992). Before that, he was referred to as “Boris Frankenstein” in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, but that’s a dumb name, especially given that Boris Karloff portrayed the Frankenstein Monster in the Marvel Universe as well as ours. The hunchback Borgo was brought back for the Doctor Strange story, but that occurred only in the Second Marvel Universe. In the original story, he dies alongside Ludwig at the end. Around this time, the X-Men battle an alien robot made in the Frankenstein Monster’s image, as seen in Uncanny X-Men #40.

1965 – The Frankenstein Monster transitions into the modern day in Frankenstein Monster #12, then has a series of misadventures in the black & white magazines Monsters Unleashed and Legion of Monsters, as well as guest-starring in Giant-Size Werewolf #2.

1966 – Veronica Frankenstein is introduced in Frankenstein Monster #16. The multi-issue storyline also features Werner Schmidt, Eric Prawn, and Ralph Caccone along with I.C.O.N. and their various agents. Then, Baroness Victoria Frankenstein and the Children of the Damned show up in Frankenstein Monster #18. Her relationship to Veronica is not made clear in the original story or in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, but making them half-sisters made the most sense to me.

1967–1969 – Victoria returns in Iron Man #101–102, where she, the Frankenstein Monster, and the Children of the Damned are menaced by the Dreadknight. The villain’s mutated steed, called the Hellhorse, originally belonged to the early supervillain called the Black Knight. During this period, the Monster meets Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #36–37, but Victoria is not involved.

1975 – Castle Frankenstein is seen on the first page of the second issue of the Black Knight limited series when the Dreadknight is finally revived from his coma by Morgan le Fey. However, none of the castle’s other inhabitants make an appearance.


Next Issue: Ant-Man – Year Four