"Marilyn's Monsters" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Humanoids
Written and illustrated by Tommy Redolfi
2018, 248 Pages
Graphic novel released on September 18th, 2018
Marilyn Monroe is a cultural icon, but she wasn't always a blonde bombshell. First she was a shy girl named Norma Jean Baker who had dreams of fame and fortune. Writer / artist Tommy Redolfi looks at this perilous journey from wallflower to pinup through a twisted lens, showing the lengths this woman was willing to go to realize her dreams and the sacrifices she would make along the way.
Marilyn's Monsters is a trippy read. Redolfi's art style is somewhat non-traditional, with short characters with large heads. It all adds to the overall eerie look and feel of the story. When someone smiles, even when it's genuine, it's just a bit too big, like they're hiding something. This contributes to the suspicious nature of those surrounding Norma Jean.
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The comic exposes a dark cabal controlling who rises and falls in Hollywood. When Norma Jean gets the attention of someone from this group, strings are pulled and she's on her way, but not without a cost. She's poked and prodded before ultimately going under the knife to emerge as a brand new person.
These scenes are depicted in a harsh light as we watch this innocent young woman fall prey to the talons of Hollywood. Redolfi focuses on some specific details throughout Marilyn's Monsters, repeating panels to add some additional time to a moment and really letting it sink it. This is especially unsettling for the more harrowing scenes. You may not want to look at them for longer than you have to, but you're forced to do so and feel the full impact of what's going on.
Redolfi excels at showing without telling. Much is implied about Norma Jean / Marilyn's life. We can read between the lines based on the images we're seeing. He trusts the reader to put the pieces together and interpret them like tea leaves. This makes for an interesting read that could be experienced differently from each person that picks it up.
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Norma Jean really does undergo a transformation into Marilyn Monroe. She is a completely different person after the surgery and makeovers. She even appears in a new light. Whereas Norma Jean would blend into the background with darker, earthier shades, Marilyn is a burst of sunshine. You can see the light radiating off of her when she enters a room. Everyone's eyes are immediately drawn to her, as you can't not notice this angelic presence.
Marilyn's Monsters is an impressive and disturbing look at a world renowned sex symbol. There's an unsettling quality to Redolfi's artwork that fills you with paranoia, making you question every character's motives. This is a book that will stay with you for some time. At the bare minimum, it will make you think twice before hanging up that Marilyn Monroe poster you bought at Target.