1589: Frankenstein

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"Wait, so in this version is Frankenstein also the doctor's name?" "No, he's just 'The Doctor'."
Title text: "Wait, so in this version is Frankenstein also the doctor's name?" "No, he's just 'The Doctor'."


Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel by Mary Shelley published in 1818. In it, Victor Frankenstein is a human who creates a monster (who is never named). In popular culture, however, "Frankenstein" is taken to be the name of the monster, not its creator. The novel is later mentioned in 2604 and 2799.

While this is an often-corrected "error", it has been argued that it is not technically incorrect to call the monster "Frankenstein" as well, since he is the "offspring" of his "father", Victor Frankenstein. Since a child usually takes on the last name of their father, it may be said that the monster's last name actually is "Frankenstein". He also refers to himself in the novel as "the Adam of your labors" - a reference to the Biblical Adam, the first of his kind - and some have taken to calling the monster "Adam Frankenstein" to differentiate him from the scientist, Victor Frankenstein.

Others have argued that the monster's namelessness is an important part of his characterization in the story since it reflects the doctor's complete rejection of his creation. While the monster identifies Victor as his "father" in the novel, Victor does not consider the creature to be his "son".

Not helping matters is the equally-famous Frankenstein film series staring Boris Karloff, featuring a very different plotline and a very different portrayal of the monster. Within the movies themselves the monster once again goes unnamed, but the movie titles and posters refer to the monster simply as "Frankenstein." For example the 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein is a double-meaning, featuring brides for both the human Henry Frankenstein and the monster, thus implying the monster can be called "Frankenstein."

Randall apparently finds this argument tedious and pedantic, so he has created his own work of fiction, in which the monster is named Frankenstein. He rationalizes that it is now correct to call the monster Frankenstein, assuming that his comic strip is as authoritative as the original novel. "Canonical" (rule, standard) means that this comic should be used as the authoritative work on the naming of the monster.

However, xkcd's Frankenstein would be unlikely to be accepted by anyone as canonical, except for its stated purpose of settling the naming argument. The original version of any story is usually assumed to be the canonical one, and any derivative work would have to have widespread influence and recognition to supplant it in the popular imagination. This is not likely to happen with xkcd's Frankenstein, as it makes almost no effort to stand on its own; it exists only to be a version of Frankenstein where the monster is named "Frankenstein." It emphasizes this point several times, and ends within a single panel, having accomplished its only goal. Almost no readers would find this version entertaining or substantive enough to displace Mary Shelley's original as the definitive version of the story.

The copyright on Mary Shelley's novel has expired long ago, before the moon landings (which began in 1969), so it is perfectly legal to create works derived from the original story. It should be noted, however, that Universal holds the copyright on the common image of the monster (green skin, flat-top head, scar, bolts on the neck and protruding forehead). To qualify as a derivative work the story needs to be substantially different from the original. The monster believing in moon landing conspiracy theories would probably qualify, but may reference retellings of the tale where a damaged or deranged brain was used (as an alternate 'explanation' why the supposedly perfect creation inevitably runs amok). Additionally, the original Frankenstein's monster was seen by its creator as hideous and repulsive due to its physical appearance despite the project being a success. Randall makes the same correlation in his version by having Frankenstein claim the moon landings were faked, which produces the same feelings in The Doctor.

Alternatively, the monster being a moon landing denier is meant as a throwaway absurdist non sequitur. As the only point of this story is to make a canonical version of Frankenstein where "Frankenstein" is the monster's name, it should logically end once it has finished making that point clear. However, Randall throws a curveball by having the monster blurt out an uncomfortable and controversial point of view before the ending, then ending the story abruptly before the monster's statements can be addressed.

It is also possible that Randall is making reference to the fact that the kind of people who become engrossed in the debate that is attempted to be resolved in this comic and would bother to create a piece like this (which incidentally, complicates matters further rather than simplifying it, similar to the effect of many pieces of evidence in internet discussions) could be compared to the kind of people who deny the Moon Landings in obscure forums. He is drawing attention to how inane and unnecessary the comic is.

The title text raises the question of what the monster's creator is named in this version, since the name "Frankenstein" is instead given to the monster. The canonical answer is that the creator is simply "The Doctor", like the title character of the series "Doctor Who". This might be a reference to similar pedantic nitpicking that occurs when that character is incorrectly referred to as "Doctor Who" rather than "The Doctor" which is in turn referenced in comic 1221: Nomenclature. As it happens, people who make that mistake can also claim canonical support, in that some early episodes of the series list the character's name as "Doctor Who" in the credits, or reference the recharacterization in the cinematic retellings.


[A text only panel. Between the last two lines is a lightning bolt.]
Like many people, I'm tired of the nitpicking about Frankenstein's monster's name.
Luckily, Frankenstein is public domain.
Therefore, I present
(The monster's name)
[Cueball is turning down a lever while looking at a monster with black hair that is lying on a bed under a bedsheet. There are two wires connecting to the neck of the monster.]
Frankenstein: Graaar!
Cueball: Frankenstein is alive! I am a modern Prometheus!
Frankenstein: Raaaar!
Cueball: To be clear, your name is Frankenstein, canonically.
Frankenstein: Graaaaar!
Frankenstein: The moon landings were faked!
Cueball: Wait, what?
[Another text only panel. The first word is written between two curvy lines.]
Feel free to call the monster "Frankenstein."
If anyone tries to correct you, just explain that this comic is your canonical version.
Thank you.

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I get all that—I came here to find out what the moon landing reference is all about. Any ideas? 04:45, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

xkcd has referred to "moon landing hoax" theories and their proponents (whom xkcd disparages) a few times, including 202 "YouTube", 258 "Conspiracy Theories", and 1074 "Moon Landing"; this is (at least) the 4th such reference. Mrob27 (talk) 05:16, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
He says that, because he is a MONSTER, and has a damaged brain from a complete moron instead of from a famous scientist. You know - the plot of the movie ;) 08:58, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
You think that because you're damaged by watching Young Frankenstein where they used a girl called Abbie Normal's brain. Kev (talk) 22:18, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

Frankenstein A.K.A Elvis. Judging by that hairstyle Prack (talk)

I suggest the moon landing reference is simply Randall's monster subverting the attempt to redefine the canon. If Randall succeeds in redefining the monster's name, then it also becomes canonical that the moon landings were faked. Randall is unlikely to agree with the canon he has just created. 10:16, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
That was my thought too (just not formulated quite as clearly). 11:38, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
I respectfully disagree. The monster saying that the moon landings were faked does not make anything surrounding the moon landings canon. It just makes it canon that the monster Frankenstein now holds this belief. Alternatively, in the story, The Doctor's creation was seen by the populace as an abomination amalgamated from human corpses. In the same vein, moon landing conspiracies are also amalgamated from several different sources each contributing their own theories to support the believer's general consensus, the moon landings were faked, and in the eyes of the populace this idea is an abomination. I'm surprised he didn't go for the low-hanging climate change is a hoax reference that would have been more recent for readers. In either case, it is fairly common for adherents of theories that run contrary to the scientific community to be labeled and name called by supporters of the scientific community. Especially in matters of religion.--R0hrshach (talk) 16:36, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
These are good points. It makes sense that Frankenstein was made with the brain of a conspiracy theorist. I don't think Frankenstein is trying to subvert The Doctor's or the comic author's canon-forming efforts, or anything so sophisticated. I do think these thoughts, in some form, should be in the article. It was not at all obvious why a moon landing hoax reference is in the comic, to me it was irrelevant noise. Mrob27 (talk) 16:43, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
In Randall's version, claiming the moon landing fake is what makes Frankenstein an abomination, instead of being hideous and committing murder (note Randall's Frankenstein doesn't seem to have much of a bad look, and the story ends immediately). 18:11, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
I appreciate the more succinct explanation. I added this as an additional explanation above after the bit about the derivative works. I've never read the original story so I referenced the wiki for accuracy. My apologies if I made a mistake or didn't take the analogy far enough. --R0hrshach (talk) 20:01, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
I interpreted this as subverting the intention of the whole comic. He's sick of the debate over the name. Then, as soon as that matter is cleared up, the monster raises this famous conspiracy theory, which is the subject of another annoying debate. Jevicci (talk) 20:24, 27 October 2015 (UTC)
Re "Climate change is a hoax": Except for the small detail that a significant percentage of the population does, indeed, believe climate change is a hoax. I'm not one of them, but still. Anonymous 21:31, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

"The doctor" is a joke in itself because it's analog to "The monster" of the original, so it's likely to start the same discussions the other way around. 09:36, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

While it is also likely a direct callback to the Doctor Who naming issue by capitalizing the word "doctor", I agree that the alt-text is intended to make both "Doctor Frankenstein" or "The Doctor" correct, like the comic makes both "Frankenstein" and "the monster" both now canonically correct. "The Doctor" naming issue is also fairly commonly corrected, but for a different reason and is extremely specific to people who grew up watching the original show. For quite a while during the Classic era, The Doctor's actor at the time was credited as "Dr. Who" or "Doctor Who", despite often being introduced (by himself or his companions) as "The Doctor" during the actual dialogue of the show. So, I'm guessing that Randall's saying that either name in all three of these cases (the monster/Frankenstein, the doctor/Dr. Frankenstein, and The Doctor/Doctor Who) would be the correct name to use. -- PopeChris (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
The credits issue isn't just specific to people who grew up watching the classic show. The Ninth Doctor in 2005 was also credited as "Doctor Who", and Eccleston and Piper regularly referred to the character that way. Capaldi now does so as well (probably because he grew up in the era when the character was credited that way). Just as producer John Nathan-Turner went on a crusade in 1981 to get everyone to start calling the character "The Doctor", actor David Tennant did the same thing in 2006. -- 22:18, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

Am I the only one thinking that the mouse over text is a matter of intentionally misunderstanding that the question wasn't about Dr. Who? --some guy108.162.238.175 13:51, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

Or you can intentionally misunderstand it even further—if you accept this comic as your canon, The Doctor, as in the character from Doctor Who, created Frankenstein, as in the monster. And he also probably wrote the story too. Why not? He started Nero's fire, wrote half of Shakespeare's plays (and one of his companions inspired half of the rest), manipulated someone into killing JFK… -- 22:39, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

Regarding the monster's "real" name, I thought either Dr. Frankenstein or the monster himself named him "Adam", as in "Adam and Eve". Anonymous 21:31, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

The monster uses that name, but only metaphorically. Early on, he calls himself "the Adam of your labors", and later he says that he would have been "your Adam" but instead became "your fallen angel". Meanwhile, the fact that Dr. Frankenstein refuses to give the monster a name is an intentional symbol of his rejection of his creation, which the monster picks up on, which is a big part of what he struggles with. So, to say that "his name is Adam" would be a big stretch, and missing the point of the story.
While nobody ever explicitly calls him "Frankenstein's monster", Dr. Frankenstein calls him "the monster" once, and a few others refer to him as "your monster" or "the monster". The doctor calls him "the creature" far more often, and uses other descriptions like "the demon", "you vile insect", etc., but "Frankenstein's monster" seems like the best name for the character.
Finally, calling him "Frankenstein" isn't that silly. Why shouldn't he have the same last name as his father? James Whale's movie called him Frankenstein, and almost everything that's come since has been based far more on Whale's movie than Shelley's book. (If you think electricity was involved in bringing him to life, or that he was made of an amalgam of parts from different people, you're no thinking of the book.) -- 22:31, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

When Cueball says "Frankenstein is alive! I am a modern Prometheus!" he is confusing things more. The original book's title is "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus" but now the Modern Prometheus and Frankenstein are different entities. Bartash (talk) 22:39, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

The original book's title refers to Victor Frankenstein - he is Frankenstein (obviously), and he is a 'modern Prometheus', since he has created life in the same way the Titan Prometheus did. In Randall's version (assuming it keeps the same title), "Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus" suggests a more equal balance of the two main characters. The book follows Frankenstein (the creature), or, The Modern Prometheus (The Doctor). 08:41, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

So basically there's nothing stopping me from renaming the monster "Kevin" if I want. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It's probably just my density, but I can't make sense of : "In Randall's version, he makes the same correlation by having Frankenstein claim the moon landings were faked which by inference produces the same results in The Doctor." Is this making the same point as above, that " In Randall's version, claiming the moon landing [is] fake is what makes Frankenstein an abomination.." -- ? I grasp (& even agree with) the latter, but the former loses me. 03:30, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

Yes, and I also think that shorter explanation is much better. Perhaps someone can edit the article to remove the grammatical acrobatics. Mrob27 (talk) 17:14, 15 October 2015 (UTC)

I'd say it's Igor... (discworld) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Igor wouldn't. Although perhapth he could thay thomething thimilar. 14:35, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

I guess that brain was from Abby Normal. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think Randall has an inner troll. The explanation mentions he is apparently tired of the argument - on the other hand, I think he wants to propagate it and add more material.