The novels Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker have captivated readers for decades with their stories of the macabre and the supernatural, acting as both as entertainment and as morality tales. Part of the reason the monster and the vampire connect so viscerally with audiences is in largely due to their on-screen depictions; most notably, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Both Karloff and Lugosi’s performances are forever stamped on the imaginations of millions of fans of the creatures, with the novel and movie counterparts inextricably tied.
Now Legendary Comics, in collaboration with Rocketship Entertainment, is working to bring the stories of the doctor’s creation and the count into the hands of readers in graphic novel form with the Frankenstein/Dracula Double Bill Kickstarter! In 2020, Legendary Comics partnered with the Lugosi estate to give Dracula a graphic novel adaptation; now, Legendary Comics and Rocketship Entertainment are giving Frankenstein the same treatment with this new Kickstarter. The campaign, partnering with the Karloff estate, will bring to life a brand-new graphic novel based on the Shelley novel and the classic film. In addition, backers will have the chance to get their own copy of the previously released Dracula graphic novel. Fans of the films and books should definitely give this campaign their attention.
Recently, I spoke with Ms. Sara Karloff of the Karloff estate; Ms. Lynne Lugosi of the Lugosi estate; and Mr. Robert Napton, Senior Vice President of Publishing at Legendary Comics about the impetus for Frankenstein/Dracula Double Bill Kickstarter, what backer rewards to expect, the legacy of the films and the books, and their hope of introducing new generations to the tales with the graphic novels.
FreakSugar: For folks who are reading this, what can you tell us about the Frankenstein/Dracula Double Bill Kickstarter?
Robert Napton: It’s a celebration of these two iconic novels, monsters, and actors in the form of graphic novel adaptations of the stories faithful to the source material. In 2020, in partnership with the Lugosi estate, we released Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. The reception to the book was fantastic, including the reaction of Sara Karloff, and so the next step was to join forces with her and the Karloff estate to create Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff. We are asking fans to be lab assistants and help bring Frankenstein to life with this Kickstarter. We are including Dracula on this double bill because that book was released in 2020, amid the pandemic, so we wanted to include it as a “in case you missed it” offering.
Sara Karloff: The world of comics has a multi-cultural fan base which is interested in and entertained by an extremely broad-based variety of topics. Adapting these classic novels may well introduce new generations of readers to these iconic stories and both broaden their horizons and educate them, while at the same time, entertain them.
FS: The graphic novels are adapted from Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker’s respective novels. What was the impetus to adapt them to the world of comics?
RN: Sometimes random chance plays a role and 5 years ago I was at a convention wearing a Dracula t-shirt and met the Lugosi family as a result. Bela Junior and Lynne Lugosi got to talking to me about an idea they had had to do a faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel featuring the likeness of Bela Lugosi, which they control. They had already been discussing this with artist Kerry Gammill, so naturally, being a Lugosi fan, I jumped at the chance. It turned out to be quite a task – Bram Stoker’s masterpiece is a complex novel known for its unique points of view, so staying faithful to the novel took some time for our art team. After the book was released in 2020, we got a fantastic reaction – the graphic novel went on to win the 2020 Rondo Awards for best graphic novel which meant a lot, because that’s an award from classic horror fans. The natural next step was to think about Frankenstein, and the Lugosi family was kind enough to introduce me to Sara Karloff, who was eager to give Mary Shelley and Boris Karloff the same treatment, so here we are.
FS: Following up on that, this has to be a special project for you, considering the personal connection you have to the cinematic interpretations seen on screen and in the books. What does it mean to you to be working on these products?
RN: I’m of the generation that saw Dracula and Frankenstein repeatedly on TV on Fridays and Saturday nights when local horror programs were still a thing on cable. I fell in love with the characters and actors and just was part of that Monster Kid fandom growing up. I started reading Famous Monsters magazine and books about the subject, and that love of these characters and actors has never left me, so getting an opportunity to re-cast them in the iconic roles, but in a totally new vision of those stories is a dream come true. Also, this is an opportunity to keep these stories and actors alive for a new generation of fans whose gateway might be these graphic novels, so I consider that an amazing privilege.
SK: For me, as Boris Karloff’s daughter, I am thrilled to be introducing him and one of his iconic roles to potentially an entirely new audience through the beautiful vehicle of a graphic comic book filled with wonderful art and a timeless story.
Lynne Lugosi: Having been born into the amazing legacy my grandfather created with his unique characterization of Count Dracula, I have a very strong connection with his stage and screen interpretations of Dracula. While it was debated whether Bela should portray the vampire true to its description in Stoker’s story, including Bela having fangs for the first time, for me it was the role my grandfather deserved.
FS: The art released for the books so far is simply gorgeous. What can you tell us about the creative team?
RN: Kerry Gammill and El Garing are just perfectly suited to work together on these books. Kerry is Monster kid, and a fantastic comic artist and painter who did a lot of work at Marvel and D.C. Kerry has a remarkable ability to draw the likenesses of Lugosi and Karloff in a way that is just spot on. When it was time to do Dracula, we need a pair of artists because it was such a massive undertaking. I put out some feelers and my pal Whilce Portacio introduced me to El Garing, and the minute I saw El’s work, I knew he’d be a perfect fit. He has a classic but modern sensibility and dynamic quality in his illustrations I really enjoy. One of his heroes is Frank Frazetta, who I also love, so El brings a dash of that epic feel to his work. They work really well together, and it’s a testament to both of them that they jell so well, and both their hands touch all the pages. I literally can’t wait to see them together again on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
SK: From what I have seen of the art I couldn’t be more delighted. It is absolutely stunning.
LL: Working with the team was amazing. El created an exciting way to visualize the story through his amazing artwork; and Kerry’s beautifully drawn likenesses literally made Bela rise to life (again) as Dracula.
FS: One reason this project feels so special is that the books are reaching potential fans that may be unfamiliar with the films or even the original source material.
RN: Well, these aren’t films, they are graphic novel adaptations of the novels. So, this is us standing on the shoulders of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. These are very important novels, so finding new ways to make them current is a delight. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is considered by most to be the first novel of Science Fiction, ahead of Jules Verne and HG Welles, so that’s something that should always be remembered. And for the actors, I love the idea that people who don’t know who they are may be experiencing them in these roles for the first time through the graphic novels. For Dracula we gave Lugosi fangs, with the family’s consultation, which is something that was never depicted on screen, and for Frankenstein we have completely reimagined Karloff’s look as the creature.
SK: I am sure that Legendary’s Graphic Novel not only will appeal to audiences of both Mary Shelley’s novel but to entirely new audiences who never read nor seen either of those but are drawn to this remarkable new book for many reasons…it’s story, it beautiful art, and format, both contemporary and timeless.
LL: Bela Lugosi would not be the icon he is today without the fans who have kept his legacy alive for 67 years since his death. We are so honored to be able to reach new audiences and create a new generation of fans with the graphic novel.
FS: On to the Kickstarter itself, what can you tell us about the graphic novels?
RN: The funding goal for this Kickstarter, once achieved, will literally make Frankenstein “alive,” so we are very keen to hit the goal and thank everyone in advance for their support. Dracula already exists as a book, but this is a way to get it if you never did or get it again with the special set.
FS: What are some of the rewards available to backers?
RN: The one I want myself is the 2-book set in the special collector’s case that looks a bit like a casket and since both Dracula and Frankenstein have ties to the grave, it feels like an extra appropriate 2 book collection. The prints and pins are also wonderful, so there are some special additional rewards.
FS: If you had a final pitch to potential backers, what would it be?
RN: The thing that excites me about Kickstarter is it’s like walking into a dealer’s room at a convention and there are sorts of projects you can support. We are asking for your support of this double bill because we are passionate about monsters at Legendary, and we feel that these two Monsters are really the granddaddies of them all with their remarkable literary pedigree. Lugosi and Karloff, I have to believe, would love to be re-associated with these characters 90 years after they portrayed them on the screen, and the backers can actually play the role of producers and help bring this project to life, so please join in and help us perpetuate the legacy of Dracula and Frankenstein!
SK: That I am so very proud to be involved with this project and they can be too.
As of press time, the Kickstarter for the Frankenstein/Dracula Double Bill has already exceeded its initial goal, but you still have time to check out the backer rewards and add-ons available!