Frankenstein Now and Forever

Publishers Weekly Review

In Ingolstadt, a pair of young women out on a late-night walk find a discarded copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. They embark on a discussion of some lesser-known aspects of the book that segues into an examination of their lives and relationships. By the end of the evening, each woman confronts her own personal monsters. Swiss cartoonist Baladi (Froncée, Cosmique Tralala) creates a story that boasts a compelling central idea and strong visual themes, but more importantly, it keeps the reader interested in the characters' fate. He is an accomplished artist who combines abstract, dreamlike sequences with firmly grounded urban settings, depicting with equal adeptness Frankenstein's creature and modern European street people. His figures have a warm, human quality that make it easy to empathize with them, even when their appearance (or their behavior) borders on the grotesque, and his interpretation of Frankenstein's creature is original but still recognizable. Baladi maintains a firm grip on his storytelling, employing a modified six-panel grid as a means of keeping clear a largely symbolic story. In this work, fans of independent, art-house comics have a shining example of what happens when the genre really works.

(Copyright 2005 Publishers Weekly)


Flux Magazine Review Gavin MacDonald

Forget the Hammer-horror overtones of the title, this is contemporary European comics at its best – an intelligent, psychological suspense story about memory and pain, inked in a way that sometimes evokes woodcut or scraperboard. Set in Geneva, as sections of Mary Shelley’s novel are, the fictional Doctor’s science project invades the dreams of two young women and acts as a catalyst for their barely-repressed traumas and insecurities. The placid waters of the fountain city run deep and dark, it seems: here alienation and our own memories are the source of the horror, and the real monster is the urban milieu that throws us together so unfeelingly and barely notices if we sink beneath its surface. New publishing firm Typocrat are to be praised for producing this translation, the first of Baladi’s works to see print in English: highly respected on the continent but barely known in this country or the US, this edition should garner him many admirers.

(Copyright 2005 Gavin MacDonald / Flux Magazine)


Rue Morgue Gary Butler

A certain fast-food conglomerate would have us believe that “there’s a little ‘M’ in everyone” – and it seems that they may be right, but for the wrong reason. Swiss comic artist Alex Baladi would have us know that ‘M’ stands for nothing short of “Monster”. His surreal, black and white graphic novel Frankenstein Now and Forever is an accomplished, disarming and all-too-persuasive argument that something dark and lonely lives deep within each of us, very likely beyond salvation. By no means is FNF a derivative sequel to Mary Shelley’s masterpiece about the modern Prometheus. In fact, it’s not a sequel of any kind, though Frankenstein’s monster is one of the three main characters (that said, he appears only in dream sequences). Instead, Baladi takes core concepts from Shelley’s study of man’s inhumanity to man and uses them as building blocks to tell his own tale of contemporary social isolation. Set in modernday Ingolstadt – indeed, the purported birthplace of Victor Frankenstein – Baladi’s story follows an afternoon, night and morning in the life of two female roommates, one of which is portentously unnamed, the other called Eva. Aimlessly walking the city’s empty streets one afternoon, the girls chance upon a cardboard box at the foot of an apartment building – the detritus of a move, nothing more. Or is it? The box contains two books, one a dog-eared copy of Frankenstein, with handwritten notes – possibly diary entries – throughout the margins. As Eva peruses its pages, her roommate becomes frozen in puzzled shock merely from recognizing the second book’s title. So begin the twin storylines of self-investigation and, ultimately, darkly existential self-discovery. One is an inner journey that 70 RUE MORGUE occurs mostly in dreamtime (Eva’s), the other a waking nightmare that finds reality decaying at every turn (the roommate’s). To the narrative, the book brims with convoluted mind games and outright symbolism. To the visual, Eva’s empathy for the Frankenstein monster is physically manifested not only in her obvious ugliness but even in the clothes she wears, as by the end of the book, she walks the city streets alone in a ragdoll jacket that is a clear stand-in for the patchwork creature’s own. Without knowing it, she has symbolically stepped into his skin. (For his part, the mischievous artist portrays the city’s other residents at this point with Frankenstein monster heads themselves, hence the M in everyone.) In the end, FNF condemns the human condition as much as, if not more than, Frankenstein. The protagonists of both books are ultimately doomed to a life of wretched loneliness, but at least Shelley’s “Monster” was an unfortunate victim of mortals playing God. Baladi’s characters are victims of life itself, and it’s no surprise that, despite the fact that their twin storylines diverge early and have radically different resolutions, neither gets a happy ending. Originally published in French in 2001 (under the title Frankenstein Encore et Toujours – literally, “Frankenstein Again and Forever”), Baladi’s book was deservingly named one of the two best European graphic novels of that year by The Comics Journal, and UK-based Typocrat Press finally made it available for the English consumer this spring. For an engaging six-page excerpt, visit

(Copyright 2005 Rue Morgue / Gary Butler)


Plan B Magazine Review Everett True

Baladi is one of the new generation of surrealist Swiss cartoonists. This tale of two young women living in Frankenstein’s assumed birthplace of Ingolstadt and being hounded by their obsessions and failings is a classic one – indeed, it often mirrors the dark themes of rejection and alienation that made Mary Shelley’s original tale so classic. Yes it is also uniquely 21 st Century: the metro politan claustrophobia and paranoia, which haunts the actions of the protagonists as they fall into their schizophrenic dreams following on from a chance discovery of the original book, couldn’t take place in any other age. The streets are near empty, but fear dogs almost every panel. Baladi’s narrative is appropriately stately and when matched to his somber tones and stark use of black and white and square panels, makes for a haunting read. One for fans of Chris Reynolds, definitely.

(Copyright 2005 Everett True / Plan B Magazine)


Resonance Magazine Review Emily Clark

Pop culture has simplified Frankenstein’s monster to that shambling one-dimensional green guy with the flat head. Rarely does a portrayal represent the dejected, pieced-together creature from Mary Shelley’s book. In Alex Baladi’s graphic novel, Frankenstein Now and Forever, Shelley’s creature and story are artfully revived in a modern setting. The story, stylistically drawn in brooding black and white, centers on two girls, whose lives become haunted by Frankenstein’s monster – a towering figure in a black P-coat. Shelley’s original themes of rejection, isolation and longing lurk in the lives of the girls and parallels run throughout the artwork. Baladi’s style and storytelling accurately convey Frankenstein’s classic themes while contributing something new with the stark, unsettling aesthetic of his art.

(Copyright 2005 Emily Clark / Resonance Magazine)


City Life Review

The gothic monster gets a thoroughly modern treatment from one of the best of the new breed of European comic creators, re-treading his old stomping ground in Geneva : this is no schlock horror though, rather it's a clever and elegant treatment of alienated city-living. Two young women, flatmates, stumble on a dog-eared old paperback of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in a box of abandoned possessions in the street beneath their apartment, and as the monster – gorgeously re-imagined by Baladi – enters their inner lives old wounds are re-opened and the city shows it's true, terrifying colours. This is a tale of patchwork people, the stitches of their emotional scars the only things left holding them together.

For fans of: David B, Jason

(Copyright 2005 City Life)


Grovel Review Andy Shaw

Despite its title, this book isn't a graphic rendering of Mary Shelley's gothic horror classic, though her monster does play a part and both stories are set in the same town of Inglostadt, Switzerland. Frankenstein: Now and Forever is grounded in the modern world, juxtaposing and interweaving Shelley's work with the lives of two disenfranchised women. Finding a copy of the book abandoned by someone doing a clear-out, the characters are lead on individual flights of darkly imaginative fancy – one exploring her powerlessness to influence the direction her life is leading, the other exploring her horrific and deeply buried past.

Baladi's artistic style is dark and bold, with heavy monochromatic lines disguising a surprising wealth of detail. The characterisation, as often happens when writer and artist become one, is fascinating, with visual expression more than filling the gaps between words.

This is a heavy duty work that bears multiple readings. A long way from being light and escapist, this fantasy is weighty and disturbing, with little relief from its nervy pace and dream-like structure. Its themes run deep and readers must be prepared to invest time and emotion into the book, though those that do should find it an ultimately fulfilling, if far from uplifting experience.

(Copyright 2005 Andy Shaw /


Comic World News Review Michael May

... There’s a line in Mary Shelley’s novel that haunts me. “I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine,” the creature tells his creator. “A rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.” My God, that speaks to me. I look around at the world and see the hatred that people pour over each other and I can’t help but think that they’re indulging the rage because they’ve not satisfied their ability to love and be loved. We all have the Frankenstein Monster inside us. And that’s the point of Baladi’s Frankenstein Now and Forever.

A couple hundred years ago, Shelley used the city of Geneva, Switzerland as the home of Victor Frankenstein. Today, the city doesn’t have a statue to commemorate the doctor’s creation, but the legacy of the monster lives on in the very city itself. Eva is a young woman who lives in modern Geneva with her roommate. Eva’s not an attractive girl. Baladi’s characters are all exaggerated, but Eva has a bigger nose than most, a lanky frame, and a hairline reminiscent of Benjamin Franklin’s. Though she hangs out with her roommate, she says that she has no friends. She’s unemployed and chronically depressed.

Her roommate at first appears to be normal and we commend her for befriending poor, uninviting Eva, but as we get to know her we learn that thanks to a sudden abandonment by her last boyfriend, she’s even more messed up than Eva is.

One day, while walking around the city, the two women find a cardboard box full of junk that someone’s left out for people to take what they want. Inside is a beat up copy of Frankenstein, the margins of which the previous owner has been using as a diary. Eva takes it even though she doesn’t think she’ll read it. Her roommate, who knows the story, summarizes it for Eva and Eva begins to have dreams in which the creature appears. Meanwhile, her roommate tries to decipher the margin notes and comes to believe that they reveal a horrifying truth about why her ex-boyfriend disappeared.

Using dark, disturbing, expressionistic art, Baladi reveals a Geneva that’s as empty as the lives of the two women who live in it. Though partners in paying the rent, Eva is right and they aren’t really friends. They’re both alone; they’re just alone together sometimes. By listening in on Eva’s dream-conversations with Shelley’s nameless creature, we discover that between her, the creature, and her roommate, Eva is probably coping the best with her isolation. But it’s all relative, and Eva’s method of detaching herself emotionally is never held up as something that people should imitate.

Eva wants to blame Geneva for the disconnection that she, the creature, and her roommate feel. She wonders why she stays in the city, but at the same time, she makes no effort to leave. And she recognizes that her roommate won’t either. Baladi offers no answers. He knows there’s no cure for loneliness. He just acknowledges that it exists, that it’s widespread, and that it sucks. But in just the simple act of sharing these characters and their emotions with us, he does help to alleviate it by connecting us to them.

The real homage here to Shelley’s work is that Baladi achieves the same affect she did when she created a monster that so many readers could relate to. Baladi’s roommates are monsters of a more mundane nature, but for any of us who’ve felt deserving of the label, the difference is unimportant. We’re all monsters in our own ways.

(Copyright 2005 Michael May /


Tablet Magazine Review

Baladi's short graphic novel is not a literal adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic. Instead, it is an original, modern tale that remains true to the mood and themes of Shelley's "Frankenstein." The protagonists themselves have a stitched-together look about them while the comic asks, “aren't we all a bit stitched together?” Motifs and side characters are mysterious and not fully explained, so plot-oriented readers might find themselves frustrated with the lack of resolution. However, between the cryptic storytelling and the suggestive art, there is certainly more to be discovered in the book with a second or third reading.

(Copyright 2005 Tablet Magazine)


Comics Journal Review Bart Beaty

This article appeared in the Comics Journal in 2001 as part of a round up of the best European graphic novels of that year, in which the book was placed second.

Baladi is part of the young generation of Swiss cartoonists who have made Atrabile the most exciting publishing house in Europe in the past couple of years. This book is a rumination on Frankenstein from the point of view of two young people in Ingolstadt. The book isn’t about Frankenstein the monster, it’s about Frankenstein the novel – and more importantly, about Frankenstein as a cultural myth associated with a particular geographic space. Baladi uses Frankenstein as a shadow cast over contemporary life, a function of the disconnection between people in an increasingly schizophrenic age. This is a dark and disturbing work, but then again, these are dark and disturbing times.

Baladi’s comics are reminiscent of a number of contemporary post-underground cartoonists whose work is influenced by dreams, although in many ways I think he is quickly surpassing his most obvious influences in terms of quality. Baladi’s stuff is sparsely and occasionally primitively drawn, but it is also incredibly sophisticated in terms of transitions and design. Ultimately Baladi takes more risks and strives to achieve more than many of his contemporaries, and that is what makes his work so exciting when it works. One might ignorantly dismiss Baladi as a sum of his influences, but his work in Frankenstein, Encore et Toujours demonstrates that he is one of the most challenging cartoonists on the scene today.

(Copyright 2001 Bart Beaty / The Comics Journal)

Bart Beaty's Conversational Euro-Comics Comics Reporter

... Having now read the English translation, I'm convinced that, if anything, I might have undersold the book. Dark and disturbing certainly hits it on the head. Baladi's book is about two women in Ingolstadt, one depressed and the other insane. The story of their relationship is interwoven with the story of Frankenstein's monster, a being created in this same city. It is a fascinating use of a literary source, not a retelling of the story, but an amplification of the themes in the form of a reflection on the inspiration – in this case, the city.

Baladi is a really powerful artist, with bold visual style that is wonderfully suited for a work such as this one. He conveys a sense of unease through his characterization with apparent effortlessness ...

(Copyright 2005 Bart Beaty /


Prix de Ville de Geneve 2001 Award Catalog

When one of them says the situation's melancholy, the other says it's depressing. And when one's having nightmares, the other succumbs to her own anxiety. We're brought into these two young women's lives for a few hours, and you have to say they haven't been blessed by nature – and still less by life.

They are chased along by their phantoms and their obsessions, and finding a copy of Frankenstein on a winter's night is hardly going to make things any better, not least because a deep sleep or sleepless night bring along its own share of restless thoughts. 'Hmm ... even more great memories coming to the surface again,' says one of them bitterly.

We can tell it's all going to end very badly. From the beginning, as the various episodes link up, the comic seems to hang together by a string, or rather, by surgical string. Except the plot has its share of madness. It forces you to look at the images again, because some of these troubling visions will yield their meaning after the initial shock's worn off.

We're in a universe of held-back confessions, sewn-together lives, a world of interwoven destinies. An aficionado of books and cinema, Baladi is a master of citation, juxtaposition and veiled references. The work is dark and detailed, chiseled just like an engraving. Often a frame contains only one object.

It's a way of showing solitude, isolation, the threat of the real, the way time can stretch out sometimes – a handsome study of schizophrenia.

Tr: Richard Lawson


Comics International Review Paul Gravett

From Switzerland, where comics were 'invented' in the early 19th century, comes Alex Baladi, one of the most provocative members of an engaging generation of early 21st century Swiss graphic novelists. As Baladi unravels the fragile lives and minds of two young women lost in a soulless city, he weaves in the Frankenstein story's themes of alienation, rejection and the need for companionship and love. Baladi's stark graphics and subtle transitions reassert the power of Mary Shelley's monster as a timeless metapor for our fractured, patchwork identities. His poignant meditation will haunt you long after you put his book down.

(Copyright 2005 Paul Gravett / Comics International)