The Marvel U version of Dracula has gotten a lot of play in recent years, particularly with his appearance in Paul Cornell’s all-too-brief run of Captain Britain and MI-13, and his even more recent appearance as a dead vampire in the Curse of the Mutants event running through the X-titles. Cornell’s use of the character, in particular, was really fun, with Dracula being a megalomaniacal schemer who was kind of a little racist. Apparently, Cornell was pulling a page from Marv Wolfman’s spectacular run with the character in the 1970’s Tomb of Dracula, where the Lord of the Vampires is evil , cunning, and a straight-up racist.
Gimme a minute to quote the marketing copy for this one:
Trap him in Hell or trap him in humanity, Dracula will fight to the finish, fang and claw! But after centuries of being haunted by his demonic daughter, the Transylvanian tyrant faces an even worse family skeleton: A son who's an absolute angel! Plus the menaces of Dr. Sun, Dr. Frost, and Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Strange! Guest-starring Blade, Hannibal King, and the Silver Surfer! Collecting TOMB OF DRACULA #32-70, GIANT-SIZE DRACULA #5 and DR. STRANGE #14.
Breathless copy aside, this collection is crazy—crazy crazy and crazy good. The included stories come from the era when the Comics Code didn’t hold quite as much sway with publishers as before (some of the action in ToD gets pretty gruesome). Dracula’s killing businessmen, cops, models, monster hunters, holding pretty ladies hostage, getting into and (out of) death traps, and of course, hating on brothers of other colors (especially Blade).
Why do I keep coming back to that last point, anyway? Because it was great shorthand in Wolfman’s plots to clarify that the character was kind of an old-world jerk. He was all the things a good, effective villain should be: entitled, occasionally petulant, temperamental, and above all, powerful. So the kind of adventures he’d typically get into would be challenges to his outsize personality. In fact, this volume starts with Dracula learning that he’s slowly losing his powers and dying due to causes unknown, and having to rely on lackeys and secondhand operators to keep him alive and in fresh blood. He talks a big game in these issues but ultimately, he’s a scared, old monster.
And it is a monster story: you get old-school capes and slacks vampires, vampire-killing dogs, zombies, and all manner of supernatural menaces for the title character to either ally with or fight against. While technically, the focus of the book is on Dracula’s nemesis, the wheelchair-bound Dr. Quincy Harker (son of John and Mina), Wolfman’s scripts aren’t afraid to stick with the bad guy for a while, rarely shaking off the evil angle, and if anything, reinforcing what a truly bad dude Dracula could be.
And the art: Gene Colan draws a mean Dracula. The artist (responsible for most of the issues in this collection) makes some slight exaggerations to the Count’s features to make him look more devilish, from the slight point to his ears, to the elongation of his face and thin lips. His Dracula is in full-on flowing cape mode, fitting in well alongside not only the horror-focused Marvel U but the capes and tights Marvel U proper. It’s Dracula as supervillain. Also, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the kind of guys who wear pencil-thin moustaches are the kind of guys you don’t want to deal with.
The one big downside to the collection is that you’ll have to start in the middle of the story, given that the first volume has been out of print for a while. Still, you can track this one down for a great horror/superhero/70’s read as we get closer to Halloween.
WRITTEN BY: Marv Wolfman
ART BY: Gene Coloan, Tom Palmer, Virgilio Redando
PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics