Frankenstein cover

Hardcover photo of Classics Illustrated Deluxe: Frankenstein (2009, Marion Mousse)

Classics Illustrated is a company that specializes in adapting classical literature into graphic novels for children. Frankenstein by Marion Mousse is an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus. It was published in 2009 as part of the Deluxe Classics Illustrated series as graphic novel #3. Other contributors include: color by Marie Galopin, translation by Joe Johnson, and production by Chris Nelson.


Classics Illustrated Deluxe Frankenstein opens with Captain Robert Walton writing to his sister about his expedition for the discovery of the North Pole. Walton's crew finds and brings Victor Frankenstein onto the ship where Frankenstein begins his story about himself and his creation.

Creation scene graphic novel

Frankenstein creating his monster in his laboratory with lightning. (Classics Illustrated Deluxe Frankenstein, 2009)

Major Themes

The Sublime

Although the sublime is present as a major theme in Mary Shelley's original text of Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, in this new medium of the graphic novel it is explicitly amplified. The sublime for this purpose refers to the power and beauty of nature. The graphic novel is a perfect medium for displaying the sublime through the scene-to-scene illustrated panels. Images of the sublime and the power of nature are brought to life from phrases in Shelley's novel and the reader's imagination to pictures in the graphic novel that engage the reader through the visual aesthetics of the cartoon drawings.

The opening scenes of Classics Illustrated Deluxe Frankenstein shows powerful scenic images of an icy ocean with steep jagged cliffs on the horizon. A tiny ship is present in the snowfall in four separate panels (Mousse, pg.2-3). Captain Robert Walton states, "...I cannot describe to you the sensations I feel..." and continues to describe the scenery he sees as "magnificence" and "immense" (Mousse, pg. 2). Furthermore, this imagery is repeated again on page 12 commanding the reader's immediate attention as it takes up the first third of the page. This repetition helps the reader imagine the vastness, hostility, and danger that nature in the far north posed to Walton's crew. The final page leaves readers with images of the sea surrounded by the icy crags, and of snow covering man's sled, suggesting that Nature outlasts man.

The sublimity of nature plays a key role with the creature's experiences as well. For example, during the monster's journey in the woods, we see a small monster depicted surrounded by the forest and tall mountains in repeated illustrated panels (Mousse, pg.53, 79,87,89). These images suggest that even the monster with all of his strength is not as powerful as nature; that he is still small in comparison to the grandeur of the mountains in nature.


This adaptation also amplifies isolation as a major theme. To begin, Woodsworth, a member of Captain Walton's crew, states, "Try to understand them...our guest rising out of the ice, here where no one would imagine finding any sign of life...," giving the reader their first clue that Victor is far removed from civilization (Mousse, pg. 6). Then, as Victor begins to share his narrative, we learn that his, "...whimsical theories are the mockery of Ingolstadt...," which begins his isolation from his classmates (Mousse, pg. 38). As he delves further into his experiments, Victor says, "Slowly I cut myself off from everyone..." solidifying that he has now purposely chosen isolation for himself (Mousse, pg. 40).

From this point on in the graphic novel, Mousse has full panels and pages depicting Victor alone, some with and without any narration bubbles. For instance, all of page 41 is images of Victor in the graveyard, alone, hacking apart the dead to take back to his lab with no words. In addition, the creation scene is three full pages worth of Victor working alone in his lab, with very little speech that allow the reader just a glimpse into Victor's thoughts (Mousse, pg. 44-46). The lack of words on the pages make the reader focus on the illustrations rather than reading the bubbles; it allows for moments of reflection for the scene. It is a time when even the lack of language points out the true meaning of isolation and with it quietness. An instance where this is effective is when Victor is alone among the mountains after the monster's request (Mousse, pg. 106). The reader does not read any words, but simply reflects on Victor's emotions as they view him alone struggling with what he must do next.  

The final moment that we see Victor in his isolation is when he visits his parents' graves. He asks, "How can I rejoin the company of men now?" as he considers himself a murderer (Mousse, 125). This scene shows a broken Victor in his isolation with feelings that he can never be a part of society. 


Classics Illustrated Deluxe #3 Frankenstein has been reprinted to put more books on the market. On Amazon, customers have given this graphic novel 4.2 out of 5 stars, and GoodReads users gave only 3.13 out of 5 stars. Booklist said in an editorial review of this adaptation, "This volume is so faithful to Shelley’s account of the man-made sentient being that the “monster” doesn’t even appear until a third of the way through" ( Booklist reiterates that Mousse's adaptation is very similar to the original Frankenstein text and is written for school aged children.

Significance of Adaptation

The purpose of Classics Illustrated is to produce classic literature novels as graphic novels, specifically for children. This undertaking has not been done before. The company has created two Frankenstein graphic novels to date. The Deluxe series Frankenstein ends with this statement to young readers, "Now that you have read the classics Illustrated Edition, don't miss the added enjoyment of reading the original, obtainable at your school or public library" (Mousse, pg.140). This adaptation is clearly geared towards a younger audience and encourages readers to read Shelley's original classic Frankenstein novel.

This adaptation is significant in trying to provide young readers with an early introduction to the Frankenstein story. The original text may be too difficult for a young reader to comprehend the plot or vocabulary. Mary Jane Heaney explains how the graphic novel can help with a student's understanding of the text by saying, "Also, the illustrations provide valuable contextual clues to the meaning of the written narrative" (Graphic Novels, pg. 73). In addition, reading a novel with over a hundred pages and very little pictures may be a daunting task. Heaney explains,"...graphic novels present the reader with not only ideas - as do text-only works - but also with images" (Graphic Novels, pg.72).The graphic novel format allows for a young reader to engage their imagination while reading the panels of images known as sequential art.

This adaptation is very similar to Shelley's original text, however, it does deviate in the story in regards to the monster's education. In Mousse's version, Victor explains that, "...all of its discoveries of the world about it were like memories surfacing anew," because the monster was made of parts of other people who had already lived (Mousse, pg. 70). The significance of this change subtracts from the importance of education and learning from the philosophical argument Shelley engages. Basically, the monster wasn't being fully educated by viewing the family, but rather remembering from previous human experience by the people he was made of. This is similar to the play adaptation Another Piece of Presumption by Richard Binsley Peake in which the monster has memories from Billy whose head he was wearing. 

Furthermore, Mousse's depiction of the monster is eerily similar to the Boris Karloff version in Universal's Frankenstein (1931). Mousse's monster is green, tall, with black clothes and black hair on a square topped head. The only thing missing from Karloff is the bolts sticking out of his neck. These similarities show how adaptations are influenced by other adaptations that came before it, in addition to the original text.

References/ Further Reading

"Classics Illustrated Deluxe Vol. 3." Papercutz the Kids Graphic Novel Publisher. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.

"Frankenstein." Goodreads. Web. 17 Apr. 2015. <>.

Amazon. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <>.

Griffith, Paula E. "Graphic Novels In The Secondary Classroom And School Libraries." Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 54.3 (2010): 181-189. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

Heaney, Mary Jane. "Graphic Novels: A Sure Bet for Your Library." Collection Building 26.3 (2007): 72-76. Emerald Insight. Web.Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Marion Mousse. Frankenstein. New York: Papercutz, 2009. Print.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. Print.

Mousse, Marion, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Frankenstein. New York: Papercutz, 2009. Print.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. Ed. Susan J. Wolfson. Second ed. N.p.: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.

Graphic Novels & Comics

By: Megan Rozzana