Vampirella #18 (August, 1972)

As regular readers of this blog may recall, I first encountered Warren Publishing’s Vampirella in the summer of 1971, courtesy of the series’ 1972 Annual — a collection of reprinted material from Vampi’s first two years by the likes of Neal Adams, Ernie Colón, and Wally Wood, with the exception of a single new story, “The Origin of Vampirella”.  I enjoyed it, but for reasons I can no longer recall, my younger self nevertheless waited until March, 1972 before deigning to pick up a regular issue of the title. Still, I evidently liked what I found within the pages of Vampirella #17, since I came back three months later for more.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that I would have picked up issue #18 even if I’d been indifferent to, or even actively disliked, the contents of #17 — since #18’s gorgeous cover by the Barcelonan painter Enrich Torres promised an appearance by Dracula.  And in 1972, I was into any and all things having to do with Transylvania’s most famous fictional (?) denizen.

As it happened, this wasn’t even Dracula’s first appearance in Vampirella; he’d first shown up in issue #16, published back in December, 1971.  So, you may well wonder, if my fourteen-year-old self was such a big Dracula fan, why hadn’t I bought that one?  I dunno; maybe I never saw it on the racks.  Or maybe I did, but couldn’t work up the nerve at the time to purchase an item I knew I was going to have to smuggle into the house past my sure-to-disapprove parents.  In any event, I did eventually get Vampirella #16 as a back issue — and not all that long after it came out, if memory serves, though I’m not sure if I read it before I did its two-issues-later follow-up.  Whether I did or not, however, I think our collective appreciation of #18’s “Dracula Still Lives!” will benefit from a quick recap of #16’s “”…And Be a Bride of Chaos”.

And, honestly, to make much sense of that story, we probably need to spend a little time explaining the overarching premise that governed the “Vampirella” feature around this time.  As we previously noted in our 1972 Annual post, Vampirella as a character had started out essentially as a horror host — a more, shall we say, stimulating counterpart to her two Warren colleagues, Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie.  But in the eighth issue of her titular magazine, writer Archie Goodwin had reimagined her as a legitimate horror-adventure series protagonist.  While the basics of the origin established for her in Vampirella #1 — that she was an émigré from the planet Drakulon, where the rivers ran with blood rather than water — were retained, Goodwin’s Vampi was an earnest, well-intentioned young woman who only drained the blood of human beings to survive.

In issue #8’s “Who Serves the Cause of Chaos?”, Vampirella ran afoul of the Cult of Chaos, members of which attempted to sacrifice her on an altar to one of the demonic servants of their mad god, called (what else?) Chaos.  Vampi ultimately escaped their clutches, of course, and during the course of her adventure even managed to acquire a special serum that would keep her alive without her having to drink blood, as long as she took a does every 24 hours.  Meanwhile, the brother and nephew of one of her most recent meals victims began a quest to hunt her down and destroy her — and since victim, brother, and nephew were not only all descendants of the famous vampire-hunter Abraham van Helsing (originally introduced in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula), but also well versed in the family trade, the odds were good that they might well accomplish their aim.

Over the next seven issues, Vampirella fought against various members of the Cult of Chaos, while trying to stay one step ahead of her pursuers — the physically blind, but “second” sighted Conrad van Helsing, and his handsome young son Adam.  Along the way, she picked up a companion, a somewhat disreputable, but amiable and good-hearted, stage magician named Pendragon (no relation to Arthur, as far as I know).  Meanwhile, Adam became attracted to Vampi (well, duh; I mean, he’s not blind, and he also appears to be heterosexual); and eventually, after meeting her and hearing her backstory, he decided that she wasn’t evil — or even a threat to public health and safety, at least so long as she kept taking her blood-substitute serum.  Conrad, as you might imagine, was less convinced of our heroine’s harmlessness (she did kill his brother, after all).

By issue #16 — Goodwin’s last as writer* — Vampi and Adam had embarked on a tentative romance… just in time for the girl from Drakulon to once again be kidnapped by the Cult of Chaos and chained to an altar (that was kind of their thing, as you’ve probably already gleaned from the covers shown above).  This time, however, their goal was to offer her up not as a blood sacrifice to one of Chaos’ lieutenants, but as a bride for the mad god himself — and guess who was on hand to preside over the proceedings?

What wasn’t immediately apparent — and, I imagine, rather surprising at the time for veteran Warren readers — was that this wasn’t the first appearance of this particular iteration of the vampiric Count in the pages of the publisher’s comics.  Back in 1966, Goodwin and artist Reed Crandall had produced “The Coffin of Dracula!”, a two-part story that ran in Creepy #8 and #9.  This tale was a direct sequel to Stoker’s novel; it posited that although Abraham van Helsing and his allies had successfully destroyed Dracula’s corporeal body at the climax of that story, his evil spirit had remained “alive” within the confines of his coffin.  When a foolish British aristocrat named Varney decided to lie in the coffin for a laugh, his body was possessed by Dracula — forcing Van Helsing and crew to hunt down the vampire once again.  But though Varney/Dracula was indeed dispatched by the tale’s end, the all-important coffin was lost — sunk to the bottom of the sea.  That, of course, had left the door open for a sequel — which, a mere six years later, Goodwin was at last providing.

As the Count himself helpfully explained via expository dialogue, he’d been restored to life when his coffin got fished out of the drink, and the captain of the smugglers who’d salvaged the box had the same bright idea (mystically suggested by Dracula’s own spirit, of course) to take a little lie-down in it.  Prior to that explanation, however, Dracula let readers in on something Archie Goodwin hadn’t shared with them back in 1966 (mainly because he hadn’t thought of it yet); Dracula, like Vampirella, was originally a native of the planet Drakulon.

He hadn’t been exactly what you’d call a model citizen of his homeworld, though.  While most other Drakulonians were content to take their needed sustenance from rivers and streams, the man who’d one day be known as Dracula was a different breed:

In the end, of course, all his centuries of experience couldn’t save Dracula from being defeated by Vampirella — who fled with both Pendragon and Conrad van Helsing (the latter of whom had temporarily set aside his hunt for Vampi when the opportunity to take out the Big Guy had come up) from Dracula’s castle even as the edifice crumbled into ruins. Dracula himself appeared to perish (again) in the story’s climax, succumbing (again) to a wooden stake through the heart — but as the story’s final panels showed us, his coffin made it through the devastation intact… to be subsequently discovered by a guy scavenging the castle ruins for valuables, who, naturally, immediately had a brilliant idea…

Vampirella #17 brought a new writer to the feature — T. Casey Brennan, who’d sold his first script to Warren in 1969.  Continuing as artist was José González, who’d come on board with #12 (and would remain associated with the strip until its final installment, in 1982).  The new creative team’s initial outing had Vampi going up against a Chaos cultist calling himself Dreamslayer — who, true to his name, tried to kill her, Adam, and Pendragon while they were trapped in a mystical dreamscape.  Though they were able to eventually overcome their foe and return home to the waking world, prior to that victory Vampirella, stranded with no access to her life-sustaining serum, drank Adam’s blood (at his insistence) — and killed him in the process.  Luckily, Adam’s “death” was reversed as soon as the trio left the dreamworld; much less luckily, Conrad van Helsing had psychically registered not only his son’s demise, but his return to life as well — and had come to the logical, but wholly erroneous conclusion that Vampirella had killed Adam, and that the latter had subsequently returned to life as a vampire.  The story ended with Cornrad en route home from the Caribbean island of Côte de Soleil, where he’d been recuperating from his adventure at Dracula’s castle… grimly resolved to take vengeance on Vampirella, and to bring peace to Adam, at the pointy end of a wooden stake.

And now, having covered all that, we’re ready at last to move into Vampirella #18, and “Dracula Still Lives!”…

Of course, the Van Helsing family home is a huge, Gothic mansion.  Conrad sadly but determinedly ascends the wide staircase up towards Adam’s room, his blindness irrelevant in such familiar surroundings… and then…

It’s not super-clear what’s going on with the physical transformation of the derelict so that Dracula once again appears the way he did in Vampirella #16.  One would assume that the process is restoring the Count’s original appearance from the time before Abraham van Helsing originally staked him — but a later chapter of the storyline will firmly establish that this is not what he looked like when Van Helsing and co. first met him in Stoker’s novel, so that explanation doesn’t quite work.

In his very useful (and very entertaining) book Horror Comics in Black and White: A History and Catalog, 1964-2004 (McFarland, 2013), Richard Arndt writes disparagingly of José González’s character design for Dracula, stating that the artist drew the famous vampire as “short, paunchy and looking a bit like an aged Italian count.”  I can sort of see where Arndt is coming from; but back in 1972, I appreciated the fact that González’s Dracula didn’t closely resemble the versions I was then familiar with from films (Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee) and comics (Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula), yet still managed to “look like Dracula” — at least to me. And even in 2022, I find the design acceptable, even if it’s not exactly what I’d call one of my favorite comics Draculas.

The Conjuress explains to Dracula that it’s still not too late for him, indeed, she has returned to help him find his way to redemption, if he’s willing — though she warns him the journey “will be fraught with suffering”.  Dracula says he will accept any ordeal, if only for the Conjuress’ sake; and so, she promptly magics them both away to an otherworldly realm…

Conrad can’t actually see what the mirror shows, of course, but by a combination of Adam and Vampi’s oral descriptions and his own psychic perceptions, he’s able to dope out that Drac “has entered some other plane of existence!”  That puts him out of their reach by any conventional means — but fortunately, in addition to being a great scrying tool, Merlin’s Mirror is also a “teleportation device“!  (A teleportation device capable only of letting one travel between different “planes of existence”, one must assume, since if it worked for getting one around from place to place on Earth the Van Helsings would surely have had less need of the planes, cars, and so forth we’ve seen them using for travel in this and previous issues.)

Conrad explains that they can send Vampirella through the mirror to destroy Dracula; Adam protests, saying it’s too dangerous for her, and he should go instead.  Vampirella gently points out that for all her boyfriend’s gallantry, she — with her Drakulon-born super-powers — is much better suited for the task…

Meanwhile, in the other world, the Conjuress has led Dracula to a stone slab she calls the “Altar of Repentance”.  “Lie upon it,” she tells him, “and all you have ever been will pass through your mind!  For you — who have been evil for so long — it will not be easy!”  Oh, and one other thing — while he’s undergoing this ordeal, she can’t be there…

At this point, Vampirella arrives on the scene.  Wondering what’s wrong with Dracula, she leans in close — and Dracula, dimly aware of her presence but nevertheless delirious, calls her “Conjuress”…

Just two issues after Dracula’s origin was told in Vampirella #16, and it’s already being retconned.

Did #16’s scene of the criminal Drac being sentenced by the elders of Drakulon, then zapped into another dimension, remind you just a little of the opening scene in Superman: The Movie where Zod and company get zapped into the Phantom Zone by Jor-El and his fellow Kryptonian councilors?  Then I’m sure that this scene reminds you even more strongly of the second scene in that1978 film — you know, the one where Jor-El tries (and fails) to convince his fellow councilors that Krypton is doomed unless they take action.

Of course, neither Goodwin or Brennan could have been influenced by the Superman movie, six years before it came out — but its comic-book source material is a whole ‘nother matter.  That said, I think it’s anyone’s guess whether Goodwin was thinking about General Zod or the other Phantom Zone baddies when he crafted his Dracula origin story — but as to Brennan copping a story beat from Superman’s birth narrative for his take?  No doubt about it.

In some ways, Brennan’s reworking of Goodwin’s backstory for Dracula can be considered an improvement (for example, Goodwin’s having the first, fateful meeting of Dracula and Chaos occur in the Nether-Void, to which the former had accidentally been exiled to, asks the reader to accept one whopper of a coincidence) — though the “Jor-El solution” is perhaps a little too derivative a means of tightening things up.  Still, if you’ve determined that you’re going to put Count Dracula through a Barnabas Collins-style redemption arc — as Brennan evidently has — he needs to have been a decent guy at some point; something which Goodwin’s Dracula, “raised to love the hunt, the kill, the excitement” clearly never was.  Thus, the additions/alterations to the issue #16 origin became necessary.

But to return to our story… back in our world, Conrad asks Adam to go fetch him a glass of water while they wait.  But it’s a subterfuge, meant to get the younger Van Helsing out of the room long enough for his dad to find his way to the candelabra he knows is standing on a table nearby…

The Conjuress tells Vampirella that by learning to be merciful, even to her enemies, she’s passed the test she was brought there for.  If she had instead gone through with her initial intention of killing Dracula, she would have failed, as the vampire was under the Conjuress’ protection — and she would have subsequently have had to remain in this otherworld forever.  But since Vampi aced the exam, all is groovy, and the Conjuress sends our heroine back where she belongs with a single magical gesture…

Vampirella tells Adam and Conrad everything that happened, including her decision not to kill Dracula.  Conrad says he can’t hold that against her, seeing as how his own actions almost got her killed.  Everybody makes up, at which point Pendragon, who’s been unseen all issue, makes a belated entrance:  “Say — someone broke an antique mirror!  What a shame!  Bad luck too!”

That’s right, “next issue”!  Hey, you didn’t think Brennan and González were going to wrap Drac’s redemption arc up in a single episode, did you?  Don’t worry, we’ll eventually cover how it all turned out in the end… though that’ll have to wait for another post, since we still have four more stories in this 76-page magazine to take a look at… starting with this one:

Esteban Maroto’s “Kali” (inspired, though not much else, by the Hindu goddess of that name) is the second installment in the artist-writer’s “Tomb of the Gods” series, which would ultimately run through Vampirella #22.  Like the “Dax the Warrior” series concurrently running in Warren’s Eerie, the “Tomb” strips were reprints of work that had originally appeared in a Spanish publication a couple of years earlier; unlike “Dax”, this series had no continuing characters, the individual episodes being linked only by a general theme of godhood, mostly (but not entirely) derived from one mythological pantheon or another.

As Maroto, by all accounts, neither spoke nor wrote English, the texts of these stories have, at the very least, been translated from Spanish; while I haven’t been able to verify this definitively, I strongly suspect that each one was further worked over by one or another of Warren’s American writers, who may (or may not) have diverged greatly from Maroto’s original plots in crafting their scripts.

Kali and the butterfly-winged fella frolic through a couple of inconsequential, if lovely, panel-tiers — it’s all a dream, you see — and then…

As Caligor and the other tribesmen return to their village, Kali wakes to find herself about to become the tigers’ dinner.  She shouts her defiance — “I will not renounce my life for the whim of a self-serving god and his evil magician!” — but her fate appears sealed…

Ultimately, Kali emerges from the strange “silken womb”, now possessed of “powers yet unknown to mortal man”…

So… what just happened, besides Kali acquiring a couple of extra arms?  My interpretation since 1972 has been that the newborn goddess destroys Caligor and his followers, leaving nothing behind but a few skulls, then transcends to a more appropriately divine plane of existence.  But a review of Vampirella #18 posted by Quiddity on “A Very Creepy Blog” offers a different reading, in which Caligor and co. are successful in overcoming and killing Kali in the end.  And I can’t say for sure that my fellow blogger is wrong, considering how vague the story’s closing narration is — not to mention that final image of a near-naked young woman about to be sacrificed on an altar (yes, that again) by a turbaned man with a knife.  If they aren’t Kali and Caligor, and if that’s not the end of the story, then who are they and why are they here?  My fifty-year-old reading doesn’t provide a good answer to that question; I think I’ve always just put that image’s inclusion down to symbolism, or decoration, or… whatever.

There’s one more thing we need to note about that closing image, though — and it’s that it’s a blatant swipe of Frank Frazetta’s cover for the 1968 Lancer Books paperback Conan the Avenger.  As you can see, about the only significant difference between Frazetta’s composition and Maroto’s, other than that one is a color painting and the other a black-and-white line drawing, is that Conan himself has been cropped out of the latter picture.

I’ve gone on the record on this blog (specifically, in reply to a reader comment on my Eerie #40 post, where the subject of Maroto’s “borrowing” from other artists not so coincidentally came up) that I don’t believe that an artist’s occasional use of swipes automatically negates the value of the rest of their work.  Even so, it’s disconcerting whenever one stumbles across such a clear example of outright artistic theft.  (For the record, I didn’t notice the swipe back in 1972, even though I probably owned a copy of Conan the Avenger by that time; my younger self just wasn’t that observant, I guess.)

Setting that one undeniable transgression aside, however, “Kali” is on the main awfully pretty to look at — though not a particularly compelling, or even entirely comprehensible, narrative.

Moving on, our next story is “Song of a Sad-Eyed Sorceress”, by Don McGregor and Luis García.

Like every other artist featured in this particular issue of Vampirella, Luis García was a Spanish illustrator whose work appeared in Warren’s magazines via an arrangement between the publisher and the Barcelonan agency Selecciones Ilustradas (SI).  In his book The Warren Companion (TwoMorrows, 2001), author David A. Roach describes García as “undeniably the strongest draftsman of any of the Spaniards (though he was also more reliant on photo reference [and the occasional swipe] and less interested in storytelling than he should have been).”  By contrast, Don McGregor was a young American writer who’d sold his first script to Warren in 1971; “Song of a Sad-Eyed Sorceress” was his seventh such story to see print.

The story follows a rigid structure, with pages alternating between the present, seen from the viewpoint of David Winters, and the past, viewed from the perspective of Harriet Stone.  The “Harriet” pages, which mostly focus on the young woman’s mundane day-to-day life, feature a straightforward layout of rectangular panels, the effect of which is underscored by a frequent usage of heavy black borders; conversely, the “David” pages feature progressively less conventional layouts as well as a wider range of graphic effects, reflecting the more fantastical nature of the young man’s encounter with the mysterious Nahemah.

The next page returns to the past, and Harrier’s point-of-view, as we see how, after several weeks of her and David “playing the usual male-female politics” at the office, she finally invited him home to her apartment…

In the past, we witness the progress of Harriet and David’s relationship, as Harriet “played the game and played it well, trying to remain aware of the fact that that was all it was: a game.”  Finally, on a night that found the couple once again in Harriet’s apartment…

When, in The Warren Companion, David A. Roach characterizes García’s artwork for Warren as “a seething mass of textures, tones, and almost manic scratching”; he surely must have pages like the one above in mind.

In the present, David manages to pull himself back up onto the mostly-destroyed bridge; then, finally, he’s made it across, to join Nahemah…

Back in 1972, I was already familiar with the concept of the succubus. But I had no clue as to whether Don McGregor had drawn the empusae, or Nahemah herself, from folklore, or just msde ’em up on his own — and no easy way of finding out. Today, however, thanks to the Internet, I have learned that the writer did indeed derive the former concept from Greek mythology, and the latter character from the Jewish mystical tradition of the Kabbalah; and now, so have you.

If I recall correctly, Harriet’s fate at the story’s conclusion surprised my fourteen-year-old self, at least a little.  (I understood David’s fate to be a given, of course, pretty much from the first page on.)  Not so much because she didn’t “get away with it” — I was accustomed to finding a moral universe in horror fiction in which contriving to have another person killed generally didn’t end well for the contriver, regardless of how much of a creep their victim was — but because of how Nahemah finds her at fault for her self-pity, even as she judges David for his selfish using of others.  One might argue whether such a comparison is really fair — but the fact that the story lends itself to such concerns at all is worth noting, I think.  It’s an example of how the content of the Warren horror anthologies could, at least at times, be legitimately considered more mature than that of their counterparts at the color comics companies, in ways that had nothing to do with nudity or gore.

At 12 pages, “Song of a Sad-Eyed Sorceress” is several pages longer than the standard Warren one-off — a factor that’s almost certainly attributable to the particular proclivities of its scripter.  As Don McGregor explained a couple of decades ago in an interview for The Warren Companion:

…when I first started submitting scripts to Warren, think they were paying $25 a story… The traditional Warren stories were eight-pagers. I think length could fluctuate. I only did one eight-pager…  The second story I did, I decided did one eight-page story and I just couldn’t live with that so I started going to ten-page stories. But whether you did an eight-page story or whether you did a ten-page story, you still got paid $25. [laughs] It didn’t matter.

Evidently, it was more important to the young writer to follow his muse than to chase a paycheck, since he effectively cheated himself out of eight bucks and some change by sending Warren a 12-page script when an 8-page one would have paid the same.  Say what else you want about Don McGregor, you can’t fault him for being overly mercenary.

McGregor’s penchant for verbosity would follow him to his next gig, which would be coming up not all that long after Vampirella #18 went to press.  By late 1972, he was working for Marvel Comics as a proofreader, and within several months’ time had scored the scripting assignments for the two series for which he’d ultimately be best known: “Black Panther” in Jungle Action, and “Killraven” in Amazing Adventures.  Of course, at Marvel McGregor wouldn’t have the “luxury” of turning in a, say, 25-page script when a 19-pager was what was required (because anything longer wouldn’t fit in a 20-cent comic book); arguably, that didn’t stop him from using as many words in 19 pages as most of his peers would spread over 25.

Interestingly, Luis García didn’t stick with Warren for much longer than it took McGregor to find his new home at Marvel.  The artist’s ninth, and last, direct sale to the publisher appeared in Vampirella #21, which was released in October.  While several García-illustrated tales did appear in Vampirella several years later, in 1975, these were all reprints of work he’d already had published in Europe; according to David A. Roach, these stories rank “among the most realistically drawn strips ever to appear in the comic medium,” and demonstrate “a stronger grasp of storytelling techniques” than can generally be found in García’s earlier Warren material.  (Though for the record, I personally think that the artist’s storytelling in “Song of a Sad-Eyed Sorceress” is just fine.)

Our penultimate story, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, features the art of Auraleón, an illustrator whose credits at Warren would ultimately be as numerous as Luis García’s were sparse, with over 70 strips appearing between 1971 and 1983.  Its writer, Doug Moench, was nearly as prolific (at least in terms of his rate of production), with close to 40 of his scripts seeing print in Warren’s three titles before he, like Don McGregor before him, was hired away by Marvel first to proofread, and then to write; Moench would go on to deliver an even greater number of scripts for Marvel’s black-and-white and color comics lines, with perhaps his best-known work for the House of Ideas being the Master of Kung Fu and Moon Knight series.

Gee, do the unhappy couple in the bartender’s yarn remind you of anybody?  Our guy Ralph doesn’t have the visual, of course, but he’s nevertheless uneasily reminded of his own marital situation, albeit with the genders swapped.  His ears perk up even more when the bartender reminds his local listener “…how his wife was driven to the brink of insanity by his unfounded accusations… until finally she took one of his axes from the display on the house’s wall…”

“…his love is vengeance that’s never free…”  A line that offers additional proof (if any were needed beyond the story’s title) that Doug Moench was a big fan of the Who’s classic 1971 album Who’s Next.

As Ralph rushes out the door, the bartender picks up the phone.  “Who’re you calling,” the local customer asks jokingly, “Ghost Hunters Incorporated?”  “No!” comes the reply.  “The police.”

Ralph hurries back to the Cates house, afraid that the ghost, wanting revenge on his wife, will kill Jean — and because of the letter she’s written her lawyer, he’ll get stuck with the rap…

Yes, it’s the cops, who — having been tipped off by the bartender — arrive not quite on time, but close enough.  As they drive a stunned Ralph away in their squad car, a figure steps out of the shadows near the house, then slips inside…

“It was such a complicated set-up,” Beth says in the first panel of the last page, above, and who could argue?  Surely not Doug Moench, who may have been giving us a wink right there to let us know he knew he was asking readers to swallow a whole lot of plot contrivance even before he brought in the axe-wielding, one-armed ghost at the end.  Personally, I think the wrap-up was worth it — but if you disagree, well, Mr. Moench has nearly 40 other Warren stories where that one came from… maybe you’d like one of them better.

The final story in Vampirella #18 is written by Don Glut — a young writer who’d sold his first story to Warren in 1969, and had been a regular fixture in the magazines ever since, but would soon be moving on to write for other comics publishers.  (Gee, where have I heard that before?).  The art is by Félix Mas, a veteran illustrator whose most recent work prior to his coming to Warren in 1971 had appeared mainly in British and Spanish romance comics.  For those, he had (in the words of David A. Roach) developed a style “mixing elements of pop-art, fashion drawing, and art nouveau”  – all of which are on view in the following story as well, though necessarily modified for the horror idiom.

As Barbara happens to be a literate person (or maybe she just likes movies), the striking parallel between Gordon Hatfield and the protagonist of Oscar Wilde’s classic 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray isn’t lost on her.  But even as she’s pondering this, an elderly woman approaches her and offers to tell her the whole true story of Gordon Hatfield, on the condition that Barbara promises to do as she asks, afterwards.  Figuring she’s got nothing to lose, Barbara agrees…

Leaving the cemetery, Barbara goes straight to Hatfield’s house and uses her newly-acquired key to gain admittance.  Finding the place empty of life, she ascends the stairwell and opens the door to the room where she’s certain she’ll find the painting… and yes, there it is, though it’s covered by a cloth she then has to pull away…

“…by drinking blood!”

“You’re a vampire!”, Barbara exclaims, thereby demonstrating a keen grasp of the obvious.  “You… died in that train wreck like all the others!  And came back from the dead… undead eternally!”

Sure thing, replies Gordon, as he moves forward to finish Barbara off.  Not so fast, she says; if he comes any closer she’ll take the paintbrush she’s holding and stab him through the heart with the wooden end — the heart of the image in his painting, that is.

“Go ahead!” he taunts her.  “It’s just a painting!  There is no bond there like in your ‘Dorian Gray” story!”

“Heart and soul”?  OK, maybe that’s a stretch, in terms of how voodoo is usually shown to work in stories like this one.  But, hey, it’s not like we’re dealing with the laws of physics here, folks, so I’m going to allow Mr. Glut the license.  At a tidy six pages, this one comes in and gets the job done, in both script and art.  That’s how I felt in 1972, at least… and I guess I still do, in 2022.


So ends the 18th issue of Vampirella… an issue that turns out to exemplify some aspects of the state of things at Warren Publishing circa mid-1972, in ways I hadn’t quite anticipated when I started work on this post.

That’s due to a couple of factors — the first, which we’ve already noted, is that every artist featured in the book was a Spaniard; the second, which has become evident as we’ve progressed through the issue, is that almost all of the stories were written by young American authors whose tenure at Warren might be considered something of an apprenticeship, as all would soon be moving on to work for other publishers.** (The notable exception to the latter is of course Maroto’s “Kali”, and even it may have been ghost-rewritten by one of Warren’s stateside scribes.)

The near future of Vampirella, as well as the other Warren comics magazines, would bring subtle but definite changes, in the form of a new managing editor, Bill DuBay, as well as a new crop of young American writers — names like Budd Lewis, Gerry Boudreau, Jim Stenstrum, and others, who, having been cultivated by DuBay (who also wrote) would, unlike most of their predecessors, pretty much stick with Warren for the bulk of their professional careers.  As for artists, while the “Barcelona school” would continue to dominate, they’d be joined on DuBay’s watch by Americans like Rich Corben (whose first Warren story had actually appeared in 1970) and, eventually, Bernie Wrightson (who would come over from DC in 1974) — as well as by several illustrators who hailed from countries that were neither America nor Spain, such as Luis Dominguez (Argentina) and Paul Neary (United Kingdom).  But, naturally, more discussion along these lines will need to wait for another post, another day…

 

*Somewhat ironically, Goodwin was leaving Warren (again) to focus on his gig writing for Marvel Comics — where one of his next assignments would be to script issues #3 and #4 of… Tomb of Dracula.

**Even the least prolific of the writers represented in this issue, T. Casey Brennan, would go on to pen a smattering of short tales for Archie Comics’ Red Circle Sorcery, WaRP Graphics’ Fantasy Quarterly, and DC Comics’ House of Mystery before more or less exiting the comics field at the end of the decade.

10 comments

  1. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · 25 Days Ago

    I don’t really have much to say about this one. I was not a big fan of anthology books, any more than I am of anthology TV shows today. I like recurring characters and continuing plotlines that carry through the material throughout it’s entire run and hold the whole thing together. That was how I was in 72 and certainly how I am today. The only reason I ever read the black and white Warren horror books was for the art. I was fascinated by the realistic style of the Barecelona artists and the “European Style” of layout and design showcased in their stories. Plus, a lot of the women were naked and at age 14, that was a pretty big draw (no pun intended). I know some of these guys wound up breaking into mainstream comics to have respectable careers (not that a career with Warren wasn’t respectable), but it’s a shame their beautiful artistic touch wasn’t more influential among American artists. Really incredible work. I’ve been experimenting with ink washes in my own work lately and it’s obvious I still have a lot to learn from these guys.

    As to the stories, they were OK. Melodramatic and over-wrought, but OK. Archie Goodwin and Doug Moench turned out to be two of my faves once they switched over the the Big Two publishers, but none of these were really anything to write home about. The Dracula story was probably the strongest and I liked a few of the touches the author added to Drac’s over-all origin, but he really didn’t look much like I expected Dracula to look and that really threw me out of the story in a couple of places. Oh well, it didn’t suck (see what I did there?)…and with a vampire story, that’s about all you can hope for.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. frednotfaith2 · 24 Days Ago

    In my case, although I in my collecting habits as a kid, I was thoroughly hooked with Marvel superheroes and other serial-style comics but I also enjoyed the occasional anthology style comics too, although I never collected any Warren magazines on a regular basis. Maybe if I’d been older in the early ’70s and had more money than was the case back then, I might have, but so it goes.
    Perusing your samplings of the art & story, Alan, I love the art, even if the version of Dracula herein looks like an “Italian count” (I don’t recall any prominent comics Draculas drawn to more closely resemble the historical Wallachian count born in Transylvania, with his long hair and long, bushy mustache). I’ve also read enough of old vampire lore to recognize the name Varney as that of a vampire of a popular series of novels from the mid-1800s, a few decades prior to Bran Stoker’s masterstroke. Varney, alas, sounds too much like Barney, and just isn’t a name as evocative of horror as Dracula, which does have a much more sinister-sounding tinge about it. Or maybe that’s just an impact of decades of social-conditioning, with Dracula actually having centuries of lore behind the name while in the more modern era Varney just evokes the most famous Barneys, a hilariously incompetent small southern town deputy, a short-statured second banana to Fred Flintstone and a small, kid-friendly mostly purple dinosaur. Sort of like the difference between the names Hitler and Schicklgruber. Amusing tidbit I came across — apparently, Prince Charles of the United Kingdom is also a 16 times great-grandson of the historical Dracula (https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/prince-charles-descendant-dracula-owns-5326083).
    As to Doug Moench’s tale, he had a thing for using lyrics from songs and albums he really liked in his stories, as more famously with his incorporation of lyrics from Rumors in a few of his Master of Kung Fu tales. Of course, I’d also rate Who’s Next and Rumors among my all-time favorite albums, and Moench’s run on MoKF was one of the best-written comics of the latter half of the ’70s and early ’80s. The set up for the story is also just the sort of horror tale cliche so amusingly spoofed in the Rocky Horror Picture Show — “Well, you got caught with a flat!/ Well, how about that?” — Dr. Frank N. Furter
    The title of Don McGregor’s tale evokes Bob Dylan’s song “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”.and the story itself exemplifies his penchant for bringing aspect of current social changes into his writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. B Smith · 24 Days Ago

    “Goodwin was leaving Warren (again) to focus on his gig writing for Marvel Comics — where one of his next assignments would be to script issues #3 and #4 of… Tomb of Dracula.”

    Wherein #4 the tale is told of Dracula being offered a mirror that can transport one into other times and dimensions…what a coincidence! It was the zeitgeist, one supposes.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Quiddity · 23 Days Ago

    Good stuff, this was an enjoyable read like your previous blog posts on other Warren issues.

    This version of Dracula seems to be the rare Warren character that jumps around in a whole bunch of different series; beyond the original Creepy series you mentioned here and his time in Vampirella, he’ll get a three part series in Eerie a year or two down the line which ends rather abruptly and a three part series in Vampirella as well, totally disconnected from the titular heroine. Although alas, for me, none of these series were particularly memorable. At least for recurring characters, Warren was at its best when it created entirely new ones rather than relying totally on classic horror icons like Dracula or in the case of some other Warren series, the Mummy or Werewolf.

    While when I first read them, I was excited to see the Tomb of the Gods stories, due to Esteban Maroto’s art, but looking back at them after several rereads they are largely total messes. Even Kali, which my recollection is has the most coherent narrative of the bunch is quite hard to comprehend (as such our differing interpretations of the ending). My understanding is that for the Dax series they never bothered having any continuity with the American writers who “translated”/rewrote the original and that comes across here with Tomb of the Gods as well, although it is less necessary in this series.

    “Song of a Sad Eyed Sorceress” seems like Don McGregor reworking his prior story “Welcome to the Witches Coven” from Vampirella #15 (also drawn by Luis Garcia). This one is a better story and I like the supernatural stuff, but like with nearly all of Don McGregor’s work, the pretentiousness is really over the top. You’re writing horror stories, not teaching at a university. Love Garcia’s work here; he was my favorite of the Spanish artists that worked for Warren.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · 23 Days Ago

      “…he’ll get a three part series in Eerie a year or two down the line which ends rather abruptly and a three part series in Vampirella as well, totally disconnected from the titular heroine.”

      I followed Drac into the Eerie series way back when (it’ll likely come in for at least a mention in a future post), but I wasn’t aware of the later series in Vampirella. I may need to look that one up, just for curiosity’s sake.

      Like

      • Quiddity · 23 Days Ago

        My recollection is that it appears in Vampirella #39 – 41. Drawn by Esteban Maroto and in color for the first two stories.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Chris A. · 23 Days Ago

    I own Creepy 1 – 19, Eerie 2 – 12, Blazing Combat 1 – 4, and a handful of early Vampirella issues (with Frazetta, Neal Adams, Wallace Wood, & Jeffrey Jones art). Otherwise, my Warren collection stopped (for the most part) until Wrightson came on board in early 1974.

    So many of these can be read in their entirety at archive.org

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kyle · 2 Days Ago

    “As Maroto, by all accounts, neither spoke nor wrote English, the texts of these stories have, at the very least, been translated from Spanish . . . I strongly suspect that each one was further worked over by one or another of Warren’s American writers . . .”

    As a boy I saw two versions of a Dax story, one in a regular issue and the other in a collection. The captions and dialogue were all different, but I forget whether the plot changed too.

    Liked by 1 person

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