• Jennifer Abella

Evolution of a monster: Six views of Frankenstein’s creature

Today Frankenstein’s creature is instantly recognizable. But over 200 years, his image has evolved. Here are some of the monster’s notable looks.


This piece — the earliest illustration of the monster — is the frontispiece from Mary Shelley’s 1831 edition of her novel.







1931 “Frankenstein” movie

Boris Karloff filled the role’s big shoes — and thus was born a monster’s enduring image. Bonus: Check out these behind-the-scenes images of Karloff in makeup.






1964: “The Munsters”


In the mid-1960s, monsters were sitcom gold, and Frankenstein (Fred Gwynne) was spotted sporting something new: a smile.



1974: “Young Frankenstein”

The laughs continued into the 1970s. The movie “Young Frankenstein” eschewed the creature’s flat-topped image of old. The chrome dome helps the monster (Peter Boyle) look more like a regular Joe and less like a looming threat.

1994: “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”


Kenneth Branagh went for a more visceral look for the monster (Robert De Niro), emphasizing his scars and misshapen features.

2017: Artist rendering

Last year, Emory University released a new depiction of the monster by artist Ross Rossin.  “Unlike all other portrayals before, I prefer to see the Creature as a young man,” Rossin said in a release.


Winner of the North Carolina Humanities Council’s Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in Public Humanities

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