Griffin (The Invisible Man)

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The Invisible Man character
Dr. Jack Griffin.png
Griffin, portrayed by Claude Rains in the 1933 film, in an invisible state wearing an outfit to enable others to see him.
First appearanceThe Invisible Man
Created byH. G. Wells
Portrayed byClaude Rains
Oliver Jackson-Cohen
AliasThe Invisible Man
Significant otherFlora Cranley (fiancee)
RelativesFrank Griffin (brother)
Frank Raymond (grandson)

Griffin, also known as The Invisible Man, is the main protagonist and title character of H. G. Wells' 1897 science fiction novella The Invisible Man. In the original work, 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 iconic, particularly in horror fiction, and versions and variations have appeared throughout various media.


Griffin is a brilliant research scientist who discovers a formula for making a human being invisible. The formula entails taking opium and another drug, which makes his blood boil, then processing his body in a radiator engine. He 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.


Griffin is a gifted young 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 named Hobbema (whom he calls a "thief of ideas"). 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, which drives the father to commit suicide (since the money had not even been his own). Working reclusively in his flat, Griffin invents a formula to bend light and decrease the refractive index of physical objects, making them invisible. He intends from the start to perform the process on the neighbours' cat and then on himself, but is forced to rush his experiments due to persistent intrusion from his landlord, who is suspicious of his activities and considers him to be a vivisectionist. He processes himself to hide from his landlord, and sets fire to the building to cover his tracks. He winds up alone, wandering invisible and naked through the streets of London, struggling to survive out in the open, unseen by those around him.

To make himself visible again, Griffin steals some clothes from a dingy backstreet theatre shop, including a trench-coat 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 (particularly Teddy Henfrey, the clock-jobber who considered him to be a criminal evading persecution & Mr. Cuss who first encounters his invisibility). As a result, his progress slows and he has insufficient money to satisfy the inn owner, Mrs. Hall. To pay the bill, Griffin burgles the home of Reverend Bunting. The police pursue him, and in a fit of frustrated anger 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. Still bitter and angry towards the rest of humanity, 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, but is forced to flee. Kemp rallies the people of Port Burdock, who find and overcome Griffin when he attempts a one-man siege on Kemp's house. Griffin is surrounded and savagely beaten by navvies. His last words are "Mercy! Mercy!", prompting Kemp to call off the mob and administer first aid, though it is too late. Griffin dies, becoming visible again, revealing a brutally battered corpse.

Universal Monsters[edit]

1933 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, but Griffin is poor and thus afraid he has nothing to offer her. He 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 that he does not know how to reverse the process.

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, the 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 is confronted by the police, but sheds his clothing to be invisible and eludes them. He seeks help from Kemp, but the monocane has so affected his mind that he succumbs to megalomania and plans world domination with "invisible armies." He wants to make 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 by tying him up in his car and sending it over a cliff, 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. During this the effects of the monocane begin to wear off and Griffin returns to sanity, apologizing for his crimes by saying, "I meddled in things that man must leave alone." The invisibility also wears off in death and Griffin's body becomes visible again.

The film portrays Griffin more sympathetically than 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.

1940 versions[edit]


Dark Universe[edit]

For the reboot film, Johnny Depp was to portray the Invisible Man as part of Universal's Dark Universe, a shared cinematic universe based on the classic Universal Monsters. But it is yet uncertain if the character will be Dr. Griffin or a very different character.[1][2] But on November 8, 2017, producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan moved on to other projects, leaving the future of the Dark Universe in doubt.[3] In January 2019, Universal announced that the plan moving forward was to focus on filmmaker-driven films, and less of an interconnection in the Dark Universe. The Invisible Man remake was announced to be in development, written and directed by Leigh Whannell and produced by Jason Blum. Johnny Depp is not currently attached as previously reported, but the studio is open to him playing the lead role.[4] The following month Blum stated that production will begin some time in 2019.[5][6] In March 2019 Variety has reported that Depp will no longer star in the film, while Elisabeth Moss has entered negotiations to co-star as Cecilia Kass.[7] The Invisible Man is scheduled to be released on March 13, 2020.[8]

Appearances in other works[edit]

Mad Monster Party?[edit]

The Invisible Man appears in Mad Monster Party? voiced by Allen Swift impersonating Sydney Greenstreet. 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" to Mad Monster Party?) voiced again by Allen Swift. He, his invisible wife Nagatha, and their invisible boy Ghoul and his invisible dog Goblin are invited by Baron Henry von Frankenstein to attend the wedding of Frankenstein's Monster and the Monster's Bride at the Transylvania-Astoria Hotel on the midnight of Friday the 13th.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen[edit]

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, where he rapes at least three women while posing as the Holy Spirit until he is captured by the rest of the League. He is portrayed as a power-hungry psychopath and murderer, as in the novel, at one point killing a random policeman solely for his uniform and nearly abandoning the rest of the team on Professor Moriarty's cavorite-powered airship. In the second volume, he assaults Mina Murray and betrays his teammates to the Martians, stealing military plans for them so he could rule the Earth with them, and telling them to disable Nemo's submarine by doing something to the water in the Thames, 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. He is eventually raped and killed by Mister Hyde, who was able to see him all along as his vision operates in the infrared spectrum, a fact that he had hidden from Griffin.

In the film version, the Invisible Man who joins the League is not Griffin (due to copyright issues), but Rodney Skinner (played by Tony Curran), a cheerful 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 Gray for Professor Moriarty, allowing him to duplicate the invisibility process, Contrary to the graphic novels, Skinner himself remains loyal to the League, infiltrating Moriarty's base and working out how best to destroy it. During the raid on Moriarty's lair, Moriarty's own invisible man is shot by Allan Quatermain while threatening Tom Sawyer. At the film's conclusion, the plans are lost through a hole in the ice when Moriarty is shot, while Skinner decides to remain with the League, now consisting of Captain Nemo, Mina Harker, Henry Jekyll, and 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]

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 was a thief (played by Vincent Ventresca) 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, played by Joel Bissonnette 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 Animation film Hotel Transylvania, Griffin the Invisible Man (voiced by David Spade) is one of the supporting character monsters who checks into Hotel Transylvania, and is among Count Dracula's (Adam Sandler) circle of friends. 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, Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi) pulls Griffin's swim trunks down causing him embarrassment even though he is invisible. In another scene in the sauna when Dracula makes a disparaging remark about people with red curly hair, Griffin takes offense to this, saying that he has red curly hair. Other jokes include Wayne and Wanda's werewolf pups attacking him whenever he holds bacon, and doing really badly at charades.

Hotel Transylvania 2[edit]

David Spade reprised his role as Griffin the Invisible Man in the 2015 Sony Pictures Animation sequel to Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2. He unsuccessfully tries to make his friends think he has an invisible girlfriend (and finds one in the end).

The Invisible Man (2017 Big Finish Audio)[edit]

Big Finish Audio Productions released an adaptation of Wells' novel in February 2017, with John Hurt, in one of his final acting roles, as Griffin.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kit, Borys (February 9, 2016). "Johnny Depp to Star in Universal's 'Invisible Man' Reboot". The Hollywood Reporter.
  2. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (February 9, 2016). "Johnny Depp To Star In 'The Invisible Man' At Universal". Deadline.
  3. ^ Kit, Borys; Couch, Aaron (November 8, 2017). "Universal's "Monsterverse" in Peril as Top Producers Exit (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  4. ^ Kroll, Justin (January 24, 2019). "'Invisible Man' Finds Director, Sets New Course for Universal's Monster Legacy (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 1, 2019). "Elisabeth Moss Circling Universal's 'Invisible Man' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  8. ^ Verhoeven, Beatrice (May 20, 2019). "Blumhouse's 'The Invisible Man' Sets March 2020 Release Date". TheWrap. Retrieved May 20, 2019.