When the X-Men Met Frankenstein

X-Men #40  (1968) has perhaps one of the best examples of an intergalactic facepalm.

The X-Men meet Frankenstein's monster, which turns out not to be a living monster, but an android built by an alien race on a wandering planetoid 150 years prior.

These ancient astronauts figured that a grotesque monster would be the perfect way to test the humans of Earth. "If he is received with understanding by them -- we will then establish personal contact."

Of course, what really happened is that Mary Shelley spotted this android near Lac Leman in Geneva Switzerland, wrote her story, and inspired a dozen Universal movies, including Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein.  Does that count as understanding? I'd have to say it's a resounding "Yes!" so where are those tropical aliens?  We'll come back to that in a moment.

For some reason Frankenstein's monster was popular in the early 60's, possibly because he represented a tragic hero to the counter-culture.  Hammer Films revived the monster (sans neck bolts) in a series of films starting in 1957, spawning an interest in Gothic horror.  On a lighter note, both The Addams Family and The Munsters appeared on TV in 1964.

Frankenstein's monster was also appearing in other comics.  DC had Frankenstein's monster appear in Superman No. 143 (February 1961), in a story entitled "Bizarro Meets Frankenstein!"  When I was a kid, DC's later Bob Hope comics with Super-Hip were totally confusing.  These comics mashed together movie monsters, super-heroes, and Bob Hope in a near stream-of-consciousness plot that didn't always make sense, but looked like fun.

It is surprising that both DC and Marvel got away with presenting Frankenstein's monster with the green skin, flat head and neck bolts.  Although Mary Shelley's version was written in 1810, long enough to be out of any copyright, the description in the book is not the same as in the movie.  Universal's representation of Frankenstein's monster is unique enough that they have tried to enforce their rights to the look of their movie monster.  That's one reason why the monster has a different look in the Hammer films.

According to a recent report from a book publisher, Universal is clamping down on any monster that has all of the following elements:

  • Green Skin
  • Flat Top Head
  • Scar on Forehead
  • Bolts on the Neck
  • Protruding Forehead

So, did Earth receive Frankenstein's monster with understanding? Did the mutant X-Men succeed in representing the human race. Short answer: the X-Men meet the monster, battle it out, and obliterate him. Only at the conclusion does Professor X unearth the secret.  As Cyke bemoans at one point "If only we could somehow have reasoned with him...".  Sorry Earth, but Mary Shelley did a better job.