Griffin (The Invisible Man)

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Doctor Griffin is a fictional character, also known as The Invisible Man, who appears as the protagonist in H.G. Wells' 1897 science fiction novela The Invisible Man. In the original novel, Griffin is a scientist whose research in optics and experiments into changing the human body's refractive index to that of air results in his becoming invisible. The character has become an iconic character, particularly in horror fiction, and versions of it have appeared throughout various media.

Character overview[edit]

Griffin was a brilliant research scientist who discovered a formula that made a human being invisible. The formula entails taking opium and another drug, which make his blood clear, then processing him in a radiator engine. It succeeds, but he finds himself unable to reverse the process. Unlike the character in the 1933 film, the Griffin of the novel is possibly a psychopath, even before he makes himself invisible.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Griffin is a gifted young university medical student with albinism, who studies optical density. He believes he is on the verge of a great scientific discovery, but feels uncomfortable working under his professor. To ensure he gets sole credit for the discovery, he leaves university and moves to a dingy apartment to continue his experiments alone.

To finance his experiments, Griffin robs his own father. The father commits suicide afterward because the money had not been his own. Working reclusively in his flat, he invents a formula to bend light and reduce the refractive index of physical objects, making them invisible. He intends from the start to perform the process on himself, but is forced to rush his experiments due to persistent intrusion from his landlord, who is suspicious of his activities. He processes himself to hide from his landlord, and sets fire to the building to cover his tracks. He winds up alone, invisibly wandering the streets of London, struggling to survive out in the open, unseen by those around him. To make himself visible again, he steals some clothes from a dingy backstreet theatre shop, including a trenchcoat and hat. He wraps his head in bandages to conceal his invisibility, covering his eyes with large dark goggles. He takes up residence in the Coach and Horses Inn in the village of Iping, so he can reverse his experiment in a quiet environment, but complications arise with locals unnerved by his appearance. As a result, his progress slows and he has insufficient money to satisfy the pub owners. To pay the bill, Griffin burgles the home of Reverend Bunting. The police pursue him, and he reveals his invisibility by throwing off his clothes and escaping.

Now driven insane by his inability to reverse the experiment, Griffin seeks assistance from a tramp named Thomas Marvel. He has Marvel carry money for him, but Marvel runs away with the money. Griffin pursues him to the town of Port Burdock, where he runs into his old schoolmate Dr. Kemp. Griffin attempts to convince Kemp to be his visible partner and help him begin a reign of terror. Kemp, rather than assisting the crazed Invisible Man, alerts Colonel Adye of the Port Burdock police.

Furious, Griffin vows to kill Kemp. Kemp rallies the people of Port Burdock, who find and overcome Griffin. Griffin is killed by navvies. The invisibility wears off in death, and Griffin's corpse becomes visible again.

1933 Universal Studios version[edit]

In the 1933 film The Invisible Man, Griffin's first name is Jack. (The novel never reveals his first name.) He was played by Claude Rains.

Jack Griffin works for Dr. Cranley, assisting him in food preservation experiments alongside his friend Dr. Arthur Kemp. Griffin is deeply in love with Cranley's daughter, Flora, and the two plan to marry. Griffin is afraid he has nothing to offer her, however, and begins experimenting with an obscure and dangerous drug called monocane, hoping his work will make him rich and famous—and a worthwhile husband for Flora.

Griffin discovers a combination of monocane and other chemicals that makes a person invisible. Too excited by his discovery to think clearly, Griffin leaves Kemp and the Cranleys to complete the experiment in solitude. He injects himself with the formula over the course of a month, and becomes invisible. Only after he is invisible does he realize he doesn't know how to turn himself visible again.

Panicking, Griffin goes to the village of Iping and rents a room in the Lion's Head Inn, where he begins searching for a formula to reverse the invisibility. He makes himself appear visible by wrapping his head in bandages and wearing dark goggles.

Curious locals, maddening side-effects of monocane, and frustration from multiple failed tests drive Griffin insane. After he assaults Jenny Hall and severely injures her husband, Herbert, Griffin sheds his clothing to be invisible, and eludes the police. He seeks help from Kemp, but the monocane has made him so insane that he succumbs to megalomania and plans world domination with 'invisible armies'. He wants and makes Kemp his visible partner and assistant.

Not even a visit from Flora and her father helps ease Griffin's increasing insanity. He vows to kill Kemp after his old friend alerts Inspector Lane to his whereabouts, and despite intensive police protection surrounding Kemp, Griffin eventually makes good on his threats. After killing Kemp, he seeks refuge from the cold in a farmer's barn. The farmer summons police, who set fire to the barn. As Griffin flees the burning barn, the Chief of Detectives, who can see his footprints in the snow, shoots at him, the shot passing through both of his lungs.

Griffin dies from the gunshot wounds in the hospital, apologizing for his crimes, saying, "I meddled in things man must leave alone." The invisibility wears off in death, and Griffin's body becomes visible again.

The film portrays Griffin more sympathetically than does the novel. The novel's Griffin is callous and cruel from the beginning, and only pursues the experiment for wealth and his ego. The movie shows Griffin as an honorable man who is misguided. His insanity is purely a side-effect of the invisibility drug, and his motivation for the experiment was a misguided desire to do good for science and mankind, born primarily out of his love for his fiancée.

Other character appearances[edit]

Mad Monster Party?[edit]

The Invisible Man appears in Mad Monster Party? voiced by Allen Swift impersonating Claude Rains. This depiction of the Invisible Man is shown to wear a fez, some sunglasses, and a house robe. He is among the monsters invited by Baron Boris von Frankenstein to attend his meeting at his castle on the Isle of Evil in the Caribbean Sea.

Mad Mad Mad Monsters[edit]

The Invisible Man appears in Mad Mad Mad Monsters (a "prequel of sorts" of Mad Monster Party?) voiced again by Allen Swift. He, his invisible wife Nagatha, and the Invisible Boy are invited by Baron Henry von Frankenstein to attend the wedding of Frankenstein's Monster and the Monster's Mate at the Transylvania Astoria Hotel.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen[edit]

Main article: Hawley Griffin
Main article: Rodney Skinner

In Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's comic book series, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hawley Griffin is depicted as a member of the Victorian-era team of agents for which the series is named. Griffin is given the first name "Hawley" in the title (as a reference to Hawley Crippen), and it is explained that the Invisible Man killed at the end of the book was actually a half-wit albino that Griffin made invisible as a guinea pig, allowing him to escape to Rosa Coote's boarding school. He is portrayed as a psychopath and a murderer, as in the novel. He is eventually killed by Mister Hyde, who has actually been able to see him all along, after assaulting Mina Murray, breaking her nose and knocking her unconscious, and betraying his teammates to the Martians, stealing military plans for them so he could rule the World with them, and telling them to disable Nemo's submarine by doing something to the water, which is why the Red Weed is used. Moore commented that it seemed fitting for Griffin to join the Martians as both hailed from novels by H. G. Wells.

In the film version, he is called Rodney Skinner due to copyright issues and is played by Tony Curran. The name change is explained by the fact that Skinner was a thief who stole the invisibility formula from the original Invisible Man (presumably Griffin). The fact that his skin is invisible is also related to his name of "Skinner". Skin samples of him are taken by Dorian Grey for Professor Moriarty, allowing him to duplicate the invisibility process, but Skinner himself remains loyal to the League, infiltrating Moriarty's base and working out how best to destroy it. At the film's conclusion, the plans are lost through a hole in the ice when Moriarty is shot, with Moriarty's own invisible man being shot by Allan Quatermain when threatening Tom Sawyer.

The Martian War[edit]

Kevin J. Anderson's later book The Martian War reuses the name Hawley Griffin for the Invisible Man.

Anno Dracula[edit]

Main article: Anno Dracula

Griffin makes a brief cameo in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula (1992). Present during the basement meeting between Beauregard and Doctor Fu Manchu, he is described as a scientist and as "an albino who seemed to fade into the background."

The Invisible Man (2000 TV series)[edit]

On The Invisible Man television series on Syfy, the character played by Joel Bissonnette was a thief whose brother was a scientist who worked on the development of the invisibility gland. His character's nom de guerre was Swiss German, Arnaud DeFöhn, although he went by the Swiss French name Arnaud De Thiel as a cover, while working on the gland. In attempting to retrieve the gland, he later uses the pseudonym Hawley Griffin (a reference to the League of Extraordinary Gentleman and the original Invisible Man), pretending to be a CIA agent from the South.

The Nobody[edit]

In Jeff Lemire's The Nobody the Invisible Man is named "John Griffen". John Griffen goes through a similar episode as the Invisible Man's "Griffin" does. Both men hide out in an Inn in a small town, only to be driven out because of fear and curiosity.

Hotel Transylvania[edit]

In Genndy Tartakovsky's 2012 Sony Pictures animated film Hotel Transylvania, Griffin the Invisible Man (voiced by David Spade) is one of the supporting character monsters who checks in to Hotel Transylvania, and is among the circle of friends to Dracula (the story's protagonist). This version is completely invisible, and his glasses are the only thing that can be seen in the movie. Gags centering on him rely on his invisibility. During a pool party scene, one partygoer pulls Griffin's swim trunks down causing him embarrassment even though he is invisible. In another scene in the sauna when Dracula (Adam Sandler) makes a disparaging remark about people with red curly hair, Griffin takes offense to this, saying that he has red curly hair.

See also[edit]