Monster Mashup: X-Men #40

X-Men #40 - Cover

X-Men #40
Written by Roy Thomas
Pencilers: Don Heck
Inkers: George Tuska
Letterers: Artie Simek
Editor: Stan Lee

Because the characters exist in the public domain, there have been countless comic book iterations of classic horror icons Dracula and Frankenstein, including “official” versions of both characters which exist within the respective Marvel and DC Universes, versions which interact with each company’s superheroes. But through the years, those heroes have also encountered and battled one-off iterations of the horror monsters, independent of the “main” characterization.

One of the earliest such examples is X-Men #40. While Marvel would eventually introduce Frankenstein’s Monster to their universe with 1973’s The Monster of Frankenstein #1 (the first four issues of which essentially adapt Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein), the creature made an appearance of sorts years earlier, in the January 1968 issue of X-Men.

Long before they were a sales juggernaut starring in multiple comic books each month and the inspiration for numerous blockbuster films, in 1968 the X-Men were third tier characters for Marvel, headlining a single comic that was struggling to stay above the cancellation line. By that point, series creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were long gone, with Stan having passed the book on to his protege, Roy Thomas. Issue #40 is wedged between the just-completed “Factor Three” storyline, a surprisingly long multi-part storyline for the Silver Age and one of the X-Men’s first “epics”, and a two-part story in which Thomas shakes up the book by seemingly killing Professor X (he gets better). As such, issue #40 reads a bit like a fill-in story, even though it’s done by the regular creative team.

The issue opens with a group of scientists unearthing what appears to be Frankenstein’s Monster from a block of arctic ice, because scientists in the sixties were apparently always doing that kind of stuff. Professor X, his finger on the pulse of the scientific community, sends the X-Men to investigate, saying, somewhat hilariously, that he’s always believed Shelley’s Frankenstein to be a record of fact rather than a fictional account (of course, within the context of the Marvel Universe, he’s right, but he doesn’t know that yet) and that, even more hilariously, the Monster Shelley wrote about very clearly had to have been an android created by an advanced mutant, thus justifying the X-Men’s interest.

So Xavier accompanies his charges to the City Museum just as the monster goes on a rampage, and the X-Men fill some pages battling it before remembering the creature was found dormant in ice, and that they happen to include amongst them a mutant whose whole schtick is making ice. So Iceman ices up the monster, which causes him to explode this time. It’s then that things take an even crazier turn, as Professor X reveals that, before the creature blew up, he read its mind, and he was right all along: it was an advanced android! Only, instead of being made by a mutant, it was made by aliens from a tropical planet (hence the vulnerability to cold) and sent to Earth 150 years ago to act as their emissary, but it malfunctioned and got frozen in the Arctic Circle.

X-Men #40 - alien Frankenstein

Of course, Marvel would later make it clear that, within the context of their universe, the creature Mary Shelley wrote about wasn’t an android created by steamy aliens, but its nonetheless of a whacky bit of history for Marvel’s iteration of the classic creature.

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