The Tomb of Dracula

I have started this project three or four times in the past but have always abandoned it before completion. Today I am going to abandon my usual prolix introduction and get right to it.

#1-2. GERRY CONWAY: Gene Colan lobbied hard for Tomb of Dracula, not only to pencil it but to ink it as well. He was allowed to ink his own pencils on the first issue, but that was the only one (possibly because he could earn more money penciling two comics as opposed to panciling and inking one. Gerry Conway introduces the main cast of characters: Frank Drake (Dracula's descendant), Clifton Graves (Frank's treacherous "best friend"), Jeannie (Frank's girlfriend, Clifton's former girlfriend), and of course, Dracula. Drake inherits Dracula's castle and Clifton convinces him to turn it into a tourist attraction. Clifton frees Dracula and becomes his Renfield (or "Willie Loomis" if you prefer) almost immediately. Jeanie becomes a vampire by the end of the first issue and is laid to her final rest in issue #2.

#3-4. ARCHIE GOODWIN: The art team supreme (Gene Colan inked by Tom Palmer) appears for the first time in issue #3, but Palmer stays only for five issues initially. Goodwin introduces new supporting characters Rachel van Helsing (granddaughter of Abraham van Helsing from Stoker's novel) and Taj Nital, her mute East Indian companion. They are vampire hunters and quickly enlist Frank Drake to their cause. Drake has sold the castle to Ilsa Strangway, an aging movie star who sees vampirism as her path to youth and immortality. Dracula plays along with her, but her doesn't reveal that drinking blood will make her only as young as the day she became a vampire. Dracula gets his castle and Rachel puts Strangways to her final rest. (Rachel's weapon of choice is the crossbow, BTW.) At the end of #4, Taj tackles Dracula and they fall through an occult mirror into another dimension.

#5-6. GARDNER FOX: Gardner Fox was a learned man. He resolved the occult mirror plot as well as brought over a version of his "Shaggy Man" (first introduced in Justice League of America #45) from DC, but Fox did not adapt well to the "Marvel method" of comic book storytelling, and these are the only two issues he wrote. Also, Frank and Rachel admit that they love each other.

#7-11: MARV WOLFMAN: For one brief issue, Wolfman, Colan and Palmer were together, but issue #8-11 were inked by Ernie, Chan, Vince Colletta and Jack Abel. None of them were bad on their own (and inked Colan as well as Palmer), but the inconsistency caused the work to suffer. Marv Wolfman was still getting a handle on the characters in these issues, but he did introduce Quincy Harker, the now elderly son of Jonathan Harker and Mina Murry from the novel, and his daughter Edith to the supporting cast. Dracula mentally turns a group of children against then in #7-8;  in #9 Dracula runs ahoul of a gang of bikers and later attacks a small village; #10 introduces Blade, the Vampire Slayer and Clifton Graves loses his life; in #11 Dracula revenges himself upon the biker gang.

Concurrent with The Tomb of Dracula #8, Marvel launched the black & white magazine Dracula Lives! I debated with myself whether to title this thread "The Tomb of Dracula" or "Marvel's Dracula." I went wit the former to keep myself on track to finish all 70 issues of ToD, but I reserve the right to supplement the discussion with other Dracula-related Marvel stories. Dracula Lives! #1 features a story set in Vienna in the late 1800s, written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Rich Buckler and Pablo Marcos. Steve Gerber's Dracula was somewhat different from Marv Wolfman's in that Gerber's hated being a vampire and Wolfman's revelled in it, but a line of dialogue in #8 rectified the discrepancy. The story in Dracula Lives! #2, by Marv Wolfman and Neal Adams, tells part one of the vampire's origin, and #3 (art by John Buscema and Syd Shores) tells part two.

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  • I'm not surprised Colan was down. There are a couple of Silver Age Iron Man stories where he's clearly leaning into horror-movie tropes in his art and it's clear he's having fun.

  • Tomb of Dracula was by far the most succesful horror book from Marvel. Ever.  The team of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan really worked, and there was nothing else quite like it coming from the Big Two at the time.

  • This is the tryout piece Gene Colan created to show Stan Lee he was the man for the job when he learned that Marvel was planning to launch a Dracula series.


  • ISSUE #12:

    Back in the '90s, before The Tomb of Dracula had been reprinted in Essential, Epic and Masterworks formats, I decided to collect it as backissues and individual reprints. I had heard that the entire 70-issue series read more like a novel than a comic book series, and I had gained a new appreciation for Gene Colan from series such as Ragamuffins and Nathanial Dusk. One of the reprints I acquired was 1996's Halloween Megazine which reprintes storied from ToD #12-16. "Night of the Screaming House" (#12) struck me as an odd place to begin becuse it seemed to pick up directly from the end of #11, but it didn't; it simply began in medias res.

    Known today for its tightly orchestrated plots, realistic characters and novelistic approach, issue #12 is where the series really began to gel. Wolfman, Colan and Palmer were all in place and would remain so for the rest of the series. It is also the point at which Marv Wolfman began thinking about the stories years in advance, not in terms of specific plots, but individual character arcs. Wolfman: "I wanted to know where each character would be in two issues, then five issues, then a year and finally several years. I had no idea what monster or plot was going to be in each issue but I knew where each character would be. Once I focused on them, I was confident the plots would follow."

    Issue #12 brought back Blade, introduced only two issues before but already a popular character. Because they were trying to reach an older audience, Blade's origin was more adult than ususally found in a Code-approved comic. "Years later," says Wolfman, "at a party, I asked the Code administrator why they hadn't been censoring us in Tomb of Dracula. His answer was that after looking at the art and the kind of stories we were telling, the Code felt little kids simply weren't reading us. Their research indicatd our readership was mainly adults, and so they treated us differently." Marvel Masterworks presents a production photostat of #10's cover side-by-side with the original cover art, showing how Blade's dialogue had been altered, probably to gain CCA approval, but not necessarily at the behest of the CCA. On the published cover, Blade is saying, "Drop that girl, Dracula, or this wooden knife will finish you off--forever!" but the original version had read, "Drop that girl, Dracula, or this wooden knife goes right thru your heart!"

    The end of issue #12 was surprising and emotional and horrific as [SPOILER] Quincy Harker's daughter Edith is turned and then put to her final rest. [END SPOILER]

  • I have a digital collection of Tomb of Dracula reprinting  #1 - 15 of the comic book and #1 - 4 of Dracula Lives.  All stories are reproduced in black and white. This was my first time reading this material and as much as I enjoyed the stories from the comic book, the magazine entries didn't do much for me. Too many of the stories seemed like warmed over Hammer horror from the same era. Wolfman, Colon and Palmer did such an outstanding job with the on going color comic that it must have been a challenge for the contributors to the magazine to produce stories that could equal what was coming out in the comic book.

  • All stories are reproduced in black and white.

    Gene Colan's work does look great in black and white, doesn't it? Even though I'm now buying the series in MMW format I'm hanging on to my b&w "Essentials" in the case the mood ever strikes me.

    ...the magazine entries didn't do much for me. 

    A handful of stories from Dracula Lives! are referenced in The Tomb of Dracula, and those are the only ones reprinted in MMW.

    ISSUE #13: The issue begins with the main cast reacting to the death of [see spoiler for #12]. The "Dr. Sun" sub-plot is introduced. Dracula attends a boxing match; his reaction is, perhaps, unexpected. Blade relates the story of his birth. And, last but not least, Dracula is killed in the end.

    ISSUE #14: Dracula is as dead as the Lord of the Undead can be, as dead as he was prior to issue #1. But before his condition can be made permanent by removing his head, Dracula's thralls, still under his mental control, abscond with his body, which is rapidly decomposing. By the time it gets to be little more than a skeleton in a suit, his control fades and those under his control wander away. The coffin is found by a travelling evangelist named Josiah Dawn, who incorporates the corpse into his tent-show sermons. He removes the stake (Blade's wooden knife) from Dracula's chest, but replaces it before the vampire can fully reincorporate, in order to "prove" that only the Lord has the power of life and death. Blade and Frank finally interrupt one of these sermons, however, and Dracula returns fully to unlife, but he takes his revenge upon the Rev. Dawn before escaping. The Dr. Sun sub-plot progesses. This is one of those stories Marv Wolfman fully expected to be rejected by the CCA, but it was not.

  • My recollection is Roy Thomas has said he plotted the first issue.  

    The title's frequency varied over its run. According to Mike's Amazing World, the first issue went on sale over three months before the second, which you wouldn't guess from the cover-dates. It went monthly with #8/#9, but bimonthly again with #60/#61. There was a four-month gap between #69/#70.

    • Hey, Luke... haven't seen you around in a while. Welcome back!

      My recollection is Roy Thomas has said he plotted the first issue.

      Yes, according to Thomas's introduction to MMW ToD v1, Stan Lee dictated the initial story (which consisted of about two sentences), then gave it to Roy Thomas to "felsh out." "From the start, though, I had no intention of being the final scripter of the first or any other issue of this Dracula magazine... With Stan's blessing, as associate editor I turned that task over to newcomer Gerry Conway, who was all of eighteen or so. He did an excellent job with the dialogue, then stayed on long enought o plot and dialogue issue #2 before wandering off to other assignments for reasons forgotten by me and probably by him." Thomas also reveals that, had not Gene Colan lobbied so hard for the art assignment, it probably would have gone to penciler Bill Everett. Thomas goers on to say: "In hindsight, I kind of regret that neither Gerry nor I thought to mention in the splash-page credits that I (or I with Stan, eho at least got credited as editor) had plotted the story."

  • ISSUE #15

    There is no place for lies here in my personal ledger. and though the very precepts of truth-telling sickens me, still it must be written as the facts themselves were presented. These notes must speak with no need of interpretarion. they show at times my innate greatness, and also the still-human frailties that must course forever though my blood.

    Although Bram Stoker's Dracula is an epistolary novel, related through letters, diary entries, police reports and newspaper articles, never was told from Dracula's Pojnt of view. With #15, Wolfman introduces a techique he will return to from time-to-time throughout the series: Dracula's journal. Dracula actually says there is no room for his typical lies within it's pages; it is important for him to tell the truth so that he learns his strengths and weaknesses. This first entry presents several short tales, all woven together, narrated by Dracula himself. My favorite of these stories is the last, about the vampire-hunting Scotsman. It tells of Dracula's defeat in the year 1969 and how he came to be staked in his coffin in Transylvania for Clifton Graves to find in 1972.

    This clears up certain discrepancies in some of the stories told so far. Issue #1 gives the distinct impression that Dracula lay in his coffin for 100 years, or close to it, yet he continually  calls upon human thralls who are still alive. Plus, if he had been in his coffin all that time, when would he have had time to becaome such an enemy of Quincy Harker? this story reduces the time Dracula spent "dead" to a mere three years and opens up a myriad of flashback story potential. 

    • I recall reading somewhere (maybe in Amazing Heroes) Marv Wolfman saying he did the Dracula's Journal stories because he had fragments of story ideas that couldn't fill a full issue, so he put them together as an anthology of sorts.

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