Escape from the lab!

From a comic book of my childhood, Weird Science #8 (July 1951):

(#1) In the story “Seeds of Jupiter” (Bill Gaines, writer; Al Feldstein, inks and pencils) — posted on 4/12 by Tim Evanson on Facebook

The panel evokes (at least) two themes from philosophy, literature, and popular culture:

— the  Ungodly Knowledge theme — there are things we were not meant to know — the products of which are then inadvertently released onto the world; the prototype is the story of the monster created by Victor Frankenstein

— the Beast Within theme — we are both good and evil, a beast lurks within us — related to the larger theme of transformation into a monster (a werewolf, a vampire, whatever); the prototype is the story of the monstrous Mr. Hyde, released in the lab from within Dr. Jekyll and then onto the world

Ungodly knowledge. From my 5/29/18 posting “It’s alive! (about a Frankenstein-themed exhibition at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center):

Victor Frankenstein speaks:

Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

These are things Man was not meant to know, as the pop-culture slogan puts it (see the elaboration of this idea in pop culture on the TV Tropes site). (The Cantor exhibition doesn’t go into popular culture, but I’m always ready to digress there.)

But Victor pressed on, and using his knowledge of medicine, chemistry, and electricity, defied Death itself by animating his creature.

which / who then escapes from the lab.

Going back further in time, this is the story of golems, anthropomorphic beings created from clay or mud by human incantation (rather than science).

The beast within. From Wikipedia on Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a Gothic novella by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886:

Dr. Henry Jekyll is a doctor who feels that he is battling between the benevolence and malevolence within himself, thus leading to the struggle with his alter ego Edward Hyde. He spends his life trying to repress evil urges that are not fitting for a man of his stature.

… [Jekyll] held himself to strict moral standards publicly, but indulged in unstated vices and struggled with shame. He found a way to [use a serum to] transform himself and thereby indulge his vices without fear of detection. Jekyll’s transformed body, Hyde, was evil, self-indulgent, and uncaring to anyone but himself. Initially, Jekyll controlled the transformations with the serum, but one night … , he became Hyde involuntarily in his sleep.

… [Eventually,] Jekyll’s involuntary transformations increased in frequency and required ever larger doses of the serum to reverse.

The beast within takes over, escapes the lab. Hyde becomes a murderer. In the end Jekyll commits suicide to prevent Hyde from taking over entirely.

The larger picture. These stories center on monsters created by human action. Alternative story lines feature monsters created by magical or demonic means; or monsters that are, or are created by, aliens.

Monsters of the first sort. From my 11/29/18 posting “A grotesque word” about gargoyle and gargoyles:

 From Wikipedia:

The gargoyle is a fantasy and horror monster inspired by the gargoyle architectural element. While they were believed in mythology to frighten away evil spirits, the idea of such statues physically coming to life was a more recent notion. Like golems, they are usually made of magically animated or transformed stone, but have animal or chimera traits, and are often guardians of a place such as a cathedral or castle. They can also be depicted as vessels for demonic possession, or as a living species resembling statues.

(#2) The 1972 movie

Monsters of the second sort. A true embarrassment of riches here. Three notable items:

— Invasion of the Body Snatchers. From my 7/5/14 posting “Bunnies run amok”:

on the humanoid monster front there [is] Invasion of the Body Snatchers,

a 1956 American black-and-white science fiction film directed by Don Siegel, starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, that was released through Allied Artists Picture Corporation. Daniel Mainwaring adapted the screenplay from Jack Finney’s 1954 novel The Body Snatchers.

The story depicts an extraterrestrial invasion of a small California town. The invasion begins with plant spores that develop into large pods with each eventually producing internally a duplicate replacement of one of the town’s human citizenry. As the pods reach full development, their “seed” assimilates the physical characteristics, memories and personalities of the humans but are devoid of emotion. (Wikipedia link)

(A notable 1978 remake starred Donald Sutherland.)

— The Blob. From Wikipedia:

The Blob is a 1958 American independent science fiction horror film directed by Irvin Yeaworth, and written by Kay Linaker and Theodore Simonson. It stars Steve McQueen (in his first feature film leading role) and Aneta Corsaut and co-stars Earl Rowe and Olin Howland. It was distributed by Paramount Pictures as a double feature with I Married a Monster from Outer Space.

The film concerns a carnivorous amoeboidal alien that crashes to Earth from outer space inside a meteorite, landing near the small communities of Phoenixville and Downingtown, Pennsylvania. It envelops living beings, growing larger, becoming redder in color, and more aggressive, eventually becoming larger than a building.

A series of sequels followed.

— The Thing. From Wikipedia:

The Thing is a 1982 American science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter from a screenplay by Bill Lancaster. Based on the 1938 John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There?, it tells the story of a group of American researchers in Antarctica who encounter the eponymous “Thing”, a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates, then imitates, other organisms. The group is overcome by paranoia and conflict as they learn that they can no longer trust each other and that any of them could be the Thing.


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