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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Comic book Horror - Dracula has risen from the page

Bram Stoker's Dracula has long been a part of popular culture -as well as the books, we've had the movies, the comics, the computer games, the action figures, the cartoons and practically everything else. The count's image has been used to promote everything from sweets to aftershave and much more besides.

When I was a kid there was a UK Marvel comic called, Dracula Lives which was very popular. It was produced in the standard UK size and used reprint material from the varied US based Dracula comics. This was 1974,I was nine years old, and the neck sucker was very hot news largely due to the hugely popular Hammer movies that often played on late night television.



The UK Dracula Lives was a great success and ran for 87 issues. If I remember correctly it was launched at the same time as The Planet of the Apes comic. Eventually when Dracula Lives's sales began to dwindle it was merged into the Planet of the Apes title to become the rather oddly titled, Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives.

. The modern Marvel version of Dracula was created by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan in Tomb of Dracula #1 (1972). He wasn't exactly the count of Stoker's novels nor the Hammer films. The stories were fantastical which was something Marvel have always done well - a synopsis -
In the 20th century, Dracula was returned to vampiric life by Clifton Graves. Dracula then first met and clashes with Frank Drake. He soon first encountered an adult Rachel van Helsing. Not long after that, he renewed his enmity with Quincy Harker.[ He recounted his first clashes with Cagliostro and Solomon Kane. He later battled the Werewolf. He eventually had his first contemporary encounter with his daughter Lilith. Not long after that, he clashed with the N'Garai demons.




Dracula encountered numerous opponents in the 20th century, including Quincy Harker and Rachel van Helsing, the descendants of his enemies described by Stoker, vampire hunter Blade, his only known living descendant Frank Drake. Just before World War I, he was responsible for transforming Lord John Falsworth into Baron Blood.
Doctor Strange destroyed Dracula and all of Earth's vampires by casting the Montesi Formula.

Over the years Marvel's Dracula has been pitched against everyone from the X-Men to Spiderman. Marvel's rivals, DC have also used their own version of the character. But it seems that every other comic publisher have used the Dracula character at one time or another -  One of the more unique versions came in Image's
Sword of Dracula. The series focuses on a group of UN connected commandos called the Polidorium. The series is created by writer Jason Henderson and includes a round-robin group of artists, including Greg Scott, Terry Pallot, and James Fry (as William Belk). Matt Webb colored one issue of the second volume.



In the series, vampires are allegories for terrorists, with Dracula presented as "the Osama Bin Laden of vampires" and a war criminal. The comic also gives Dracula more enhanced powers, including the ability to control human blood with his mind, and even make buildings and weapons out of "bloodwood," or mind-controlled blood.

Variations on the theme though are nothing new and in the 1960's Dell Comics tried to reinvent Dracula as a superhero but the comic was not successful and folded after only three issues. Dracula is a modern day direct descendant of the original Count Dracula now working as a medical researcher in the old family castle in Transylvania where, due to his experiments to develop a cure for brain damage using a serum developed from bat blood, he accidentally gains strange "vampire"-like powers including the ability to turn into a bat and superhuman sight and hearing. He decides to embark on a superhero career in order to redeem his family name, developing his body through diet and exercise to the peak of physical perfection and designing himself his own distinctive crimson-cowled purple costume with a bat-shaped gold belt buckle, after which he vows to fight evil and superstition in all its forms.


And so in this post Twilight world where vampires have been reduced to teenage playthings, is there still room for Dracula...the greatest vampire of them all?

You bet

Marvel's Tomb of Dracula and Dracula Lives are available in collected graphic novels going under the title of  The Essential Tomb of Dracula. Five volumes are currently available














1 comment:

John Cox said...

Thank you for this. I was a reader of Tomb of Dracula when I was kid. I was into all the Marvel monster comics.