July 24, 2008
Two classic monsters strike poses on a Mike Mignola cover for The Frankenstein Dracula War No.1, published by Topps Comics in 1995.
The title, a three-issue miniseries, was inspired by the company’s recent comic book adaptations of two Francis Ford Coppola productions, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994). Focusing on public domain characters allowed Topps to exploit the monster franchise unburdened by licensing fees.
The story, devised by Roy Thomas with an assist by Jean-Marc Lofficier, has the Frankenstein Monster, a literate giant close to the original Mary Shelley concept, forced by the alchemist Count Saint-Germain to seek out Dracula and bring back the vampire’s heart. It’s a terse, curiously cruel tale. The inside art, penciled by Claude St-Aubin, is workmanlike, but the best thing about this series is the striking cover treatment, by Mike Mignola.
Mignola was then just getting started on his own creation, Hellboy, fated for success. As a cover artist, he was already a master, displaying a designer’s eye for dynamic compositions done in a distinctive, razor-sharp, chiaroscuro style. Notice the tension created by the wooden spikes and the generous use of blacks.
Mignola’s details are always telling. His Frankenstein Monster, much more striking than the one portrayed within the book, wears a torn cape, a rope belt and a chain, indicative of his rough life. Falling leaves and accessory skulls provide a graveyard ambiance.
The second issue’s cover featured languorous vampire brides under a stark moon, one of them holding a nail-studded skull. Issue number 3 shows the monsters’ climactic confrontation, attended by a flock of bats and The Monster’s murdered friend, Irena.
You could fill a book with a collection of Mike Mignola’s brilliant comic book covers. In fact, I wish someone did!