A look at Mary Shelley the Film

This Halloween season, Frankenstein is everywhere. And no wonder, for the book turned 200 this year and is overdue for a party. While the monster is everywhere, what about the woman who created the famous story? We’ve asked our own Frankenstein expert and Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture, Peter Balestrieri to review the latest film on the famed female author. 

Review of Mary Shelley, from Peter Balestrieri

In 2018, the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a new film by director, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Mary Shelley, opened and died quietly. Not the subject, writing, direction, nor the talent and reputations of its stars could save it. I saw it and enjoyed it very much. I anxiously waited for this film after it went into production and hoped it could do justice to its subject and the Romantic period. It comes not long after a recent biopic of doomed John Keats, and, featuring doomed Percy Bysshe Shelley, doomed Lord Byron, and doomed John Polidori, along with possibly the greatest teenage author ever, Mary Shelley, it promised to be a welcome addition to all the scholarly and pop culture attention focused on Frankenstein. Alas, it bombed.

Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth in Mary Shelley (2017)

Some critics panned the film for deviating from historical fact; it is actually very close to the mark with a few notable exceptions. Some have objected to the acting; it was certainly good enough, with Elle Fanning doing a wonderful job, proving again that she is one of film’s best young talents. Familiar faces from Game of Thrones and BBC productions round out the cast. Most reviewers agree Mary Shelley is a very good film to look at; I thought so too, especially the costumes and interior shots. Also good: the dialog, both sharp and poetic. For me, though, one feature more than any other makes this a film worth seeing for anyone interested in the period, the subject, the personalities involved: the troubled, complex relationship between Mary and Percy.

I began research into Frankenstein years ago, using materials from Special Collections and Shelley biographies and it was Mary’s story that impressed me the most. I think Mary put much of her pain and frustration with Percy and his treatment of her into the novel, writing Percy as Victor Frankenstein and herself as the Creature. The film goes into this territory in a way unseen before and I loved it. Percy Shelley is a Bad Boy, who, along with Byron and others, creates the lifestyle emblematic of the Romantics, doomed libertine artists who blaze comet-like and are gone too soon. When Mary rejects her husband’s hypocrisy, cruelty, and excess, the film sends a powerful message to young women and men. See Mary Shelley if you get the chance. I will definitely be seeing it again. It is, however, not a good Halloween film; the only monsters in Mary Shelley are the people in her life.

 

Zine Month in Special Collections

Happy International Zine Month! Throughout July Special Collections & University Archives will be celebrating by highlighting zines from our collections.

Every day this month, Olson Fellow (and zine enthusiast) Kalmia Strong will be selecting a zine from our collections to share on Twitter. Follow us @UISpecColl to see her picks, which will cover a broad range of subjects, styles, and locations.

We will also have a cart of zines in the reading room for drop-in reading. Anyone is welcome to come in and spend a few minutes (or hours!) browsing the zines. They include art zines, Riot Grrrl zines, science fiction fanzines, and zines made in Iowa, among many others.

Did you know that we have approximately 20 collections of zines adding up to over 500 linear feet?  They range in subject from sci-fi to food to punk to comics to feminism, and date from the 1940s to the present. We also regularly receive donations of zines. Two recent acquisitions are several issues of Dishwasher and Moonbeam #3 .These zines are very different in focus but are both excellent examples of the scope of self-produced publications, produced on a copy machine, bound with staples, and distributed through the mail for little more than the price of materials.

Dishwasher was published by Pete Jordan (AKA Dishwasher Pete) in fifteen issues from 1989-2001, and chronicles his journey across the United States washing dishes in every state. By turns tongue-in-cheek, political, and personal, it includes stories of work as a dishwasher, contributions from other dishwashers, collage, comics, quotes, and movie reviews (focusing on dishwashing scenes, of course).

Moonbeam #3 was published in 1978 by Deborah M. Walsh, and was one of the first Star Wars fanzines created after the film was released in 1977. It is an anthology of contributions of original art, fan fiction, and poetry, with a focus on Alec Guinness/Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is particularly interesting to look at early Star Wars zines because of the great excitement and speculation about characters and plot that would be revealed in later films and because of the complicated relationship between Twentieth Century Fox and the growing community of Star Wars fans.

Walsh writes on her website: “Everyone warned me that I shouldn’t try to do a Star Wars zine, because at the time, conventions were frequently the scene to FBI search and seizures of bootlegged Star Wars merchandise. But I was headstrong and crazy for the Force. It proved to be an amazing experience publishing this zine.”

If you’d like to learn more about zines or browse our zine collections, check out our Zine Resources page, or stop by the department on the third floor of the Main Library 8:30AM-5PM Monday through Friday.

Comics: Entertainment or Social Critique?

Are comic books a good vehicle for social critique? Is Superman’s romance with Lois Lane trying to tell us something about our own relationships? Can comics promote racial inclusion?

As a spinoff of the recent symposium on graphic language, Special Collections and University Archives presents The Comics Continuum, an exhibit from our collections available for perusal, research and teaching to the university community and beyond. The exhibit is open on the 3rd floor of the Main Library through the end of November 2011. While viewing the exhibit, please see the labels for any collection numbers (MsCs) that you may be interested in browsing. Once you are done with the exhibit, we encourage you to move beyond the glass cases, come in Special Collections, and request to look at some of our comics collections in the Reading Room.

For more on our specific collections of comics and graphic narrative art, see

http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/resources/guides/ComicBookCollections.html

 

Here are some of the items you can see in our exhibit.

 

As a genre, comics have the potential to treat political and social issues in ways that promote free and open discussion. The realization of this potential has been shaped by factors such as the contemporary social movements, the vision of the graphic artist, the imperative for business profit, and the expectations of fan communities of entertainment value or social commitment. One of the most important issues of the post-World War Two United States, race relations were treated by comic books with varying degrees of seriousness and sophistication.

 

Some, like this 1969 issue of the underground Mom’s Homemade Comics, poked fun at liberals for their ambiguous openness to racial inclusion and relationships.

Moms Homemade Comics 1969Moms Homemade Comics 1969

More mainstream comics such as this May 1971 issue of [Lois Lane] Superman’s Girl Friend used the events of the radical American Indian sovereignty movement to explore issues of motherhood and interracial solidarity.

Supermans Girl Friend 1971

 

One of the first African American characters to become a superhero was Dr. William Barrett Foster, who, according to his origin blurb, “pulled himself up out of the Los Angeles slums,” to earn several doctorates  and work as director of one of the nation’s most prestigious research labs before becoming a 15-foot tall crime-fighting giant. As in this February 1976 issue of Black Goliath, Dr. Foster’s transformation into a superhero potentially resonated with American anxieties about urban “race riots,” and with the problems of social mobility and the black middle class.

 

Black Goliath 1976

 

 

 

Mom’s Homemade Comics No. 1, 1969 (ATCA Comics, MsC 780) – http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/MSC/ToMsC800/MsC780/ATCA%20Comics.htm

[Lois Lane] Superman’s Girl Friend No. 110, May 1971 (Comic Books of the Bronze Age, MsC 883, Gift of Ken Friedman) – http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/msc/ToMsC900/MsC883/msc883_comicbooks.html

Black Goliath 16 No. 1, February 1976 (Comic Books of the Bronze Age, MsC 883, Gift of Ken Friedman)

Beyond Superheroes: Exhibit on “The Comics Continuum”

How long have comics been around? Do comics reflect or shape our society? What was the Comics Code Authority? How do comics build community?

 Poster of comics exhibition

 

As a spinoff of the upcoming symposium on graphic language, Special Collections and University Archives presents The Comics Continuum, an exhibit from our collections available for perusal, research and teaching to the university community and beyond. Our exhibit places comics in a continuum of graphic narrative which encompasses the amateur, commercial, and the artistic, and illustrates their appropriation by countercultures, artists, fans, educators, social movements, and even the U.S. government. Besides placing in their historical context some of the mainstream icons like Wonder Woman and Captain America, the exhibit shows how comics make communities through their production, circulation, consumption and collection.

The exhibit will be open on the 3rd floor of the Main Library from the end of September through November 2011. While viewing the exhibit, please see the labels for any collection numbers (MsCs) that you may be interested in browsing. Once you are done with the exhibit, we encourage you to move beyond the glass cases, come in Special Collections, and request to look at some of our comics collections in the Reading Room.

For more on our specific collections of comics and graphic narrative art, see

http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/resources/guides/ComicBookCollections.html

For our Reading Room policies, see

http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/services/readingroom