Monday, July 23, 2007

How To Make A MonsterGrrl: FRANKIE FRANKEN

(This post begins an irregular series in which John talks about his characters and the influences of their creation. We begin with the MonsterGrrls' leader: our charming Creature, Frankie Franken.)

Frankie Franken: Nancy Drew Meets Frankenstein's Daughter

The main reason I have so violently pursued this project known as The MonsterGrrls is very simple: Upon their creation, the Grrls arrived cut from whole cloth. That has never happened with anything else I've ever come up with, and that alone seemed reason enough to pursue it.

So what to say about my Creature-Grrl, Frankie Franken? She is, quite obviously, the Child Of Frankenstein, a hybrid of both Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester as they appeared in the films Frankenstein and The Bride Of Frankenstein. Both of Jack Pierce's makeups were referenced for her creation: I felt she should have the green
skin, the neck bolts, the stitches, the head-clamps, and of course, that beautiful, funky, Nefertiti-inspired hair, with a couple extra white streaks added and morphed into lightning bolts. (After all, there's never been any doubt in my mind that that hairdo is extremely conductive.)

Some updated elements were added too, such as a Ramones-style leather jacket, black jeans and the clunky boots, which were back in style again when the Grrls first saw the dark of night in 2001. Her T-shirt began as a striped T-shirt before I gave her a Shazam-style T-shirt, red with a yellow lightning bolt, perfect for a Creature born of lightning.

Frankie possesses her own kind of beauty, and her personality is very Grrl-next-door: sweet, intrepid, outgoing, and most importantly, intelligent. I had seen enough of dumb Frankensteins: though Boris Karloff's characterization of the Creature is both terrifying and sad, it has been the template for any number of goofball characterizations, and nearly all of them fall far from Mary Shelley's original Creature, which was cunning, well-spoken, thoughtful and quite self-aware. I wanted to go back to this, and as a result, Dr. Franken, who is Frankie's creator and "father", ensured that Frankie would be intelligent by teaching her once she got off the slab. I felt that Victor Frankenstein's big mistake was that he gave up on his Creature almost from the moment it woke up. I've never been sure what he expected: a home-grown, homemade homunculus cannot be expected to turn out like Brad Pitt mixed with Albert Einstein no matter how good you are. The Creature needed training, direction and acceptance. Most of all, it needed love.

And that's one of the real horrors these days when you think about it: that a lot of teenagers don't get the care and direction and love that they need. If you're going to be a parent, your child needs these things. If the child doesn't get them, it will become quite literally a monster, pure and simple.

So Frankie got trained in etiquette, poise, grammar, speech, vocabulary, and tap dancing (heh-heh, thank you, Mel Brooks; Young Frankenstein is still one of the best Frankenstein movies ever made). And there was, inevitably, a Nancy Drew influence; both of them have the same taste for adventure, and despite Frankie's enormous talents in Mad Science, I think she has a secret desire to be a detective. She's read all of her universe's equivalent of Nancy Drew, and her adventures at Clearwater High, (both present and forthcoming) will give her plenty of opportunity to sharpen her skills. Of the Grrls, she's probably my personal favorite, and she serves as a continuing inspiration and drive to keep working and keep punching with the Grrls, because she's one of the reasons that I've just got to see what happens next.

Next: Bethany Ruthven

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