I, Corpenstein: Mythic, Metaphorical and Visual Renderings of the Corporate Form in Comics and Film

From US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s 1933 judgement in Louis K Liggett Co v Lee to Matt Wuerker’s satirical cartoon “Corpenstein”, the use of Frankenstein’s monster as a metaphor for the modern corporation has been a common practice. This paper seeks to unpack and extend explicitly this metaphorical register via a recent filmic and graphic interpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein myth. Whilst Frankenstein has been read as an allegorical critique of rights—Victor Frankenstein’s creation of a monstrous body, reflecting the figurative construction of a body by rights discourse—the metaphoric notion of reanimating a ‘soulless corpse’ resonates with Edward’s Thurlow’s description of the corporation as having ‘no soul to damn’. By exploring the figurative and optical representations of this process of reanimating the body in Scott Beattie’s film I, Frankenstein and Kevin Grevioux’s companion graphic novel I, Frankenstein: Genesis, I would like to extend this metaphoric register, by examining the theological origin and nature of the corporate form. This theology is explicitly referenced in the film and graphic novel via the battle between Gargoyles and Demons, which dominates the plot and backstory. The role of Frankenstein’s monster—now called Adam—however, is about enabling the reanimation of thousands of corpses without souls for possession by the demon hoard headed by Prince Naberius, who in his alternative persona Charles Wessex, controls the Wessex Institute and Wessex Industries. This ‘corporate baron’ himself has devoted his ‘life’ to enabling the rediscovery of Frankenstein’s ability to reanimate the dead for the purposes of gaining immortality. This mythic framing, however, renders explicitly visible the nature and purpose of the corporate form itself—of capturing and reanimating life in a form of immortality via the mechanisms of perpetual succession. This visual rendering, of a metaphoric framing goes to show the way in which the optical nature of the dominant forms of popular culture—film, television, comic books—provide a means for seeing law’s metaphorical images and for thus unpacking, interrogating and rendering them anew. It argues for a shift from the image of the corporation as a monstrous body to one which involves relations of reciprocity, gratuitousness and gift.
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DOI 10.1007/s11196-017-9520-2
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