The villain this time is the Balloon Maker, enemy of...[sigh] Frankenstein, from Prize Comics.
So, I feel like I'm pretty lenient when it comes to language. I feel like language is fluid and evolving and, for the most part, if you understand what the person said even though it's not technically correct, it's ok. At that point language has done its job. Like, when everyone was annoyed by people saying literally a few years back because "literally" didn't literally mean "literally," or people usually effect with an e when they mean affect with an a...it's not a big deal. No one is perfect.
That being said, I will never, ever accept people saying Frankenstein instead of Frankenstein's monster. It's two extra syllables. They mean two different things. I was apparently so annoyingly pedantic about this that our son at age six was saying Frankenstein's monster instead of Frankenstein. I'll sit and bite my tongue in pleasant company and I won't correct people, but I feel like if you have a comic series where Frankenstein's monster is the hero...you don't have an excuse. You're just wrong.
A Monstrous History
Anyway, Frankenstein's monster has had several iterations in comics alone. He started out much like you typically think of him: killing stuff. Victor Frankenstein chased the monster all over the world. One time he found a horrifying accurate recreation of his work - a mockery at a circus - where the infamous monster was acting out murdering a bunch of people. Then, the not-so-good doctor realized that, no, no one was acting. The monster was there murdering anyone who entered the fun house.
Not learning his lesson the first time, Victor made a crocodile monster to fight his first one, but the first monster beat it.
This episode isn't about Frankenstein's monster though, and the creature does become the hero of his own book.
He teams up with a group of other monster roommates and does normal human stuff like go to the circus and not murder people.
Anyway, were already a few minutes in and haven't mentioned the actual villain this week: The Balloon Maker.
What Says "Serial Murderer" More than Balloon Maker?
Now, the Balloon Maker might not sound like it, but he's actually the most deranged villain we've talked about. He's a straight-up serial killer that somehow found his way into a comic that was clearly meant for children. We'll get to that, though.
We've talked about mid-20th century comics and their relationship with the continent of Africa. Some might call it complicated. Others would more accurately call it reductionist and kind of racist.
Hank Gallo, guy on a trip to 1940s Africa, was tired of all the boring stuff like animals and shrunken heads. Then he saw a pig skin. Stretched out.
Apparently one people group cracked the code and figured out how to make skin stretchy. Stretchier? I mean there's a natural elasticity to it but I'm not going to search for how stretchy is human skin because I don't want to end up on a watch list. But, the skin stretchers weren't sharing. Which was ok, because Hank Gallo was stealing.
He found their jug of skin stretching fluid and, shooting the chief on the way out and leaving him to die in his young son's arms, Hank Gallo ran back to the states...
...and started making balloons.
That's a Stretch
Now, Hank would approach people on the street at parades and stuff and introduce himself as a balloon maker and, wow, the person he was taking to was just so noteworthy or interesting or beautiful. Would they mind posing for him so he could make a balloon that looked exactly like them? And, really who could resist having a balloon that looks like that? Life goals, am I right? Like, look out, Party City, here I come.
But they didn't know he had twelve years worth of skin stretching fluid on hand and absolutely no morals. He wouldn't make balloon imitations of them. He would murder them and use their skin to make his balloons. Yes. In a children's comic the villain would murder innocent victims, skin them, and use their remains to make balloons for no other reason than that he liked it.
He approached Frankenstein's monster, the chill one, at a parade. A big guy with a nose in the middle of his forehead would make a great addition to the Balloon Maker's collection. But first, the monster went by the circus, where he learned that all the people attractions, the comic calls them the freaks, but we won't, all went to pose for Hank Gallo two days ago and didn't return. The monster, accompanied by the concerned snake charmer woman and a young man from Africa go and visit Hank Gallo's little workshop of horrors.
As Frankenstein's monster is marveling that wow, those balloons like so lifelike, the serpent woman sneaks downstairs and finds a Bluebeard situation going on in the dungeon. She unlocks a room and finds that it's full of bodies. The bodies of her friends, the bearded lady and the dog-faced boy are still in the middle of...processing.
An Uplifting Ending (Only Because So Many People Have Been Skinned and are Now Floating Balloons it's Actually Very Sad)
Part of Frankenstein's monster's thing in the comics is that he isn't very intelligent, and it's the other two circus people who end up defeating the Balloon Maker. They left him and the young man from Africa, thinking them both dead. The comic dates itself in many ways, not least of all that Hank Gallo's other hobby was making safe, fun all-lead toys for children to play with and had a bubbling vat of molten lead.
It's revealed at the end that the young man from Africa was actually the son of the man Gallo murdered when he stole the stretchy liquid. Further making me question whether or not children should read this, he skinned Gallo alive out of revenge, returned home, and made a Gallo balloon to forever float over his father's grave.
When it comes to the circus friends, neither Frankenstein's monster nor the serpent woman could think of what to do with them, so they opened the roof of the Balloon Maker's workshop and let them drift, quote, to heaven.
...I guess not realizing that what goes up must come down, and they were probably leaving their friends to end up in the pacific garbage patch or something.
Want to hear more?
No disclaimer! I think the Balloon Maker is in the public domain due to its copyright not being renewed. You'll want to do your own research, though, if you want to make a story around this character, and we can't be held responsible if you get in trouble. I'm excited about your gritty reboot of "The Balloon Maker", but you'll have to find a way to go harder than the original and that's no small feat.