|Born||January 9, 1915|
|Died||December 0, 1980
|Pseudonym(s)||Richard Norman, Dick Hamilton, Frank N. Stein|
Richard "Dick" Briefer (January 9, 1915 – December 1980) was an American comic-book artist best known for his various adaptations, including humorous ones, of the Frankenstein monster. Under the pseudonym Dick Hamilton, he also created the superhero team the Target and the Targeteers for Novelty Press.
Early life and career
Dick Briefer studied at the Art Students League in Manhattan, New York City, and debuted in comic books in 1936 with work in Wow, What A Magazine!, one of the era's proto-comics "Comic books": tabloid-sized collections of comic strip reprints in color, which would later include occasional new comic strip-like material. Wow was edited by Jerry Iger, and when the comic ceased publication with issue #4 (cover-dated Nov. 1936), Briefer freelanced for the newly formed Eisner & Iger, one of the earliest "packagers" that produced complete comics on demand for publishers entering the fledgling medium.
Briefer's earliest recorded credit is as writer and artist of a five-page story beginning an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in Jumbo Comics #1-8 & 10 (Sept. 1938 - July 1939 & Nov. 1939), for the Eisner-Iger client Fiction House. Other seminal work includes drawing and possibly writing the science-fiction adventure feature "Rex Dexter of Mars", which ran in several issues of Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics; "Dynamo" in Fox's Science Comics; "Biff Bannon" in Harvey Comics' Speed Comics; "Storm Curtis" in Prize Comics' Prize Comics; and "Crash Parker" in Fiction House's Planet Comics. For Timely Comics, the precursor of Marvel Comics during the 1930s to 1940s period fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books, Briefer created or co-created (writer credit unknown) the single-appearance superhero the Human Top in Red Raven #1 (Aug. 1940).
Target and the Targeteers
Briefer, using the pen name Dick Hamilton, created the superhero team the Target and the Targeteers for Novelty Press in 1940. The Target first appeared in Target Comics #10 (Nov. 1940), and the Targeteers the following issue. The team starred in Target Comics through issue #95 / vol. 9, #5 (July 1948). Target itself ran 10 more issues.
Comics' first horror feature
In Prize Comics #7 (Dec. 1940), writer-artist Briefer (using the pseudonym "Frank N. Stein" in the latter role) introduced the eight-page feature "New Adventures of Frankenstein", an updated version of the much-adapted Frankenstein monster created by Mary Shelley in her 1818 novel Frankenstein. Considered by comics historians, including Don Markstein, as "America's first ongoing comic book series to fall squarely within the horror genre", the feature, set in New York City circa 1930, starred a guttural, rampaging creature actually dubbed "Frankenstein" (unlike Shelley's nameless original monster).
In Prize Comics #11 (June 1941), Briefer dropped the "Frank N. Stein" pen name of the previous three stories and introduced Denny "Bulldog" Dunsan as Frankenstein's ongoing antagonist. Prize Comics #24 (Oct. 1942) pitted the monster against Bulldog and publisher Prize Comics' superheroes the Black Owl, the Green Lama, and Dr. Frost; the non-superpowered teens Yank and Doodle ("America's Fighting Twins"); and the namesake characters from the humor feature "General and the Corporal". As with many comics characters of the time, the monster found himself in the European theater of World War II fighting Nazis.
Briefer's better-known version of the Frankenstein monster, however, developed upon the monster's return from the war, in Frankenstein #1 (undated, 1945), appearing roughly concurrently with the eight-page story "Enter Frances Stein" in Prize Comics # 53 (June 1945), which followed "possibly the last 'first version' story of Frankenstein" in Prize Comics # 52 (April 1945)
Now, like many returning veterans, Frankenstein settled into small-town life, becoming a genial neighbor who "began having delightful adventures with Dracula, the Wolfman and other horrific creatures. The only two times he was featured on the Prize Comics cover (both in 1947), he was referred to as 'The Merry Monster'". Briefer, with his trademark "loose and smooth ink and brush skills" began telling stories that would "straddle some amorphous line between pure children's humor and adventure and an adult sensibility about the world".
...one of the few guys in the 1940s who had that loose, gestural art style that's funny. The drawing is inherently funny. Which is really unusual for humor comics of the time ... [in that] it's tight drawing. It's self-contained and beautiful. But Briefer is all over the place. When he does these swooping pratfalls that Frankenstein takes, the lines actually reflect the gag. It's nice. [...] And they're funny as comics. They read well and are beautifully drawn; they're full of unforgettable images, like the wizard eating Frankenstein on a hot dog. You'll never forget it, for better or for worse.
Briefer's humorous Frankenstein ran through Prize Comics #68 (March 1948), and his humorous Frankenstein ran through issue #17 (Feb. 1949). Three years later, Briefer revived the series with his original, horrific Frankenstein from #18-33 (March 1952 - Nov. 1954). This latter version appears in the reprint The Monster of Frankenstein (Idea Men Productions, 2006, ISBN 1-4196-4017-8, ISBN 978-1-4196-4017-9), which includes commentary by Briefer’s granddaughter, Alicia Jo Rabins.
Later life and career
Following the cancellation of Frankenstein during an era that put much pressure on horror comics and other violent comic books, leading to the creation of the Comics Code, Briefer left the comic industry for commercial advertising art.
- Silver Streak Comics #10 (May 1941) at the Grand Comics Database
- Richard Briefer (Social Security number 093-22-5722) at the Social Security Death Index, via GenealogyBank.com; and via FamilySearch.org, citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing. Retrieved on 21 February 2013. Neither gives specific day of death. First cite archived from the original on 21 February 2013.
- Dick Briefer at the Lambiek Comiclopedia. Archived March 9, 2010.
- Dick Briefer at the Grand Comics Database
- Red Raven #1 (Aug. 1940) at the Grand Comics Database
- Target & the Targeteers at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived October 25, 2011.
- Target Comics (1940 series) at the Grand Comics Database
- Prize Comics #7 (Dec. 1940) at the Grand Comics Database
- Frankenstein (1940) at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived October 25, 2011.
- Watt-Evans, Lawrence: "The Other Guys", The Scream Factory #19 (Summer 1997), reprinted at Watt-Evans.com: "The Other Guys". In this history of pre-Comics Code horror comics, the author notes, "...there were no horror comics as such in the earliest days. The first real horror series seems to have been the 'Frankenstein' series by Dick Briefer, in Prize Comics ... [which was] a superhero title, featuring the Black Owl, the Green Lama, and the like, except for this one aberration".
- Prize Comics #24 (Oct. 1942) at the Grand Comics Database
- Frankenstein Comics at the Grand Comics Database. Note: Series title per its postal indicia and all covers except that of #1 is simply Frankenstein
- Prize Comics #53 (June 1945) at the Grand Comics Database
- Indexers Lou Mougin/Tony R. Rose, Prize Comics # 52 (April 1945) at the Grand Comics Database
- Weems, Erik (undated, 2004). "Dick Briefer". Art & Artifice. Archived from the original on February 19, 2010.
- Preview: Art Out Of Time, Dan Nadel. Dan Nadel interview, The Comics Reporter. May 20, 2006. Archived from the original on February 19, 2010.
- Hajdu, David. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) ISBN 0-374-18767-3, ISBN 978-0-374-18767-5.[page needed]
- Frankenstein #32 (vol. 5, #4 per indicia): "The Battle of the Monsters" (dead link; Archived July 12, 2008 at the Wayback Machine (reprinted story)
- Dick Briefer's Frankenstein (fan site) WebCitation archive.