Graphic Novel: An Illustrated Biography of Mary Shelley
by Derek Marks with Charles Cuykendall Carter
The work of Brooklyn-based illustrator Derek Marks has a moody, dark, and yet whimsical style — “perfect to illustrate the life of Mary Shelley, one of history’s most important horror writers,” says Charles C. Carter, bibliographer for The New York Public Library’s Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle. Accordingly, Marks and Carter collaborated on a biography of the author of Frankenstein in graphic-novel format.
To ensure historical accuracy, the pair worked with imagery of Mary Shelley and her circle drawn primarily from materials held by the Pforzheimer Collection. These include an 1804 oil portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft; a 1790s engraving of William Godwin; and a Gothic novella from the period, the frontispiece of which inspired the design of baby Mary’s gown.
The graphic novel’s creators drew on resident expertise. Elizabeth Denlinger, the curator of the Pforzheimer Collection, advised, as did the staff of the Shelley and His Circle publication project. Where the historical facts were unknown, Marks’s brilliant imagination filled in any gaps. He also added a helping of the supernatural, some witty word balloons, and, overall, an appealing aesthetic.
“Derek’s eerily gorgeous blue watercolor technique thrills me,” Carter says. “It’s been an honor to collaborate with such a talented artist on this project, and I am exceedingly proud to present An Illustrated Biography of Mary Shelley.”