In February, 1973, Marvel Comics published 42 individual comic books — a 75% percent increase in production from the previous year, when the second month of 1972 had seen the company release a mere 24 new issues. And notwithstanding such a prodigious expansion in production, the company (which had recently surpassed arch-rival DC Comics in sales numbers for the first time ever) wasn’t nearly done. But Marvel’s next major phase of growth — which in fact began in that very month of February, 1973 — was to be in a different area than the full-color comics line in which it had made its mark.
In a 1998 conversation between Roy Thomas (who in early 1973 was still the “new” editor-in-chief at Marvel) and his former boss Stan Lee (who had himself advanced to the role of publisher at the same time Thomas was promoted), the two recollected the behind-the-scenes origins of Marvel’s major move into the black-and-white comics magazine market:
Roy: …One day you came in and said we were going to do a new book called Dracula Lives! which was about 60 pages of black-&-white material to fill. The next day you came in and said we’re going to do a second black-&-white, too, because we can’t fit non-vampire material in Dracula Lives! so we’ll do Monsters Unleashed. I said that made sense, so I called in Marv [Wolfman], Gerry Conway, Len Wein, and we all got started on this. Then I came in the next day and you said, “Guess what?” I said, “Don’t tell me, you have a third book to add.” You said, “No, two more!” You wanted to do Vampire Tales—vampires that weren’t Dracula—and Tales of the Zombie… So, in less than 48 hours, we suddenly had four gigantic books coming out…!
Stan: I just wanted to make sure that we needed you.
Of course, this wasn’t the first time that Marvel had attempted to enter the black-and-white comics market, or even the second. (Or even the third, depending on how you look at it.*) The Spectacular Spider-Man had debuted as a b&w magazine in April, 1968; it then morphed into a full-color format before vanishing after only two issues. It had been succeeded almost three years later by Savage Tales #1, which proudly proclaimed that it was “rated M for the mature reader”, and featured black-and-white stories of current Marvel color-comics headliners Conan the Barbarian and Ka-Zar, Lord of the Hidden Jungle, as well as the debut of Man-Thing; two years later, a second issue of the supposedly-quarterly periodical had yet to appear.
By most accounts, a major factor in these titles’ lack of success was then-publisher Martin Goodman. While Goodman was hardly averse to publishing magazines — or, for that matter, “mature” content (see earlier footnote*) — he apparently had some anxiety about getting in trouble with the Comics Code Authority (CCA) should the lines between Marvel’s Code-approved color comics and his other periodical operations become blurred. In any event, he hadn’t given more than lukewarm support to Lee’s efforts to move Marvel into the black-and-white comics field, despite how well that area seemed to be paying off for several other companies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, most notably Warren Publishing.
But Martin Goodman had sold his business to Perfect Film and Chemical (later Cadence Industries) in 1968; and though he’d held onto his position as publisher until 1972, he was gone now… which meant that Stan Lee could do pretty much what he wanted. And one thing he definitely wanted to do was take another run at the black-and-white comics magazine market — and this time, not in a tentative, test-the-waters fashion, but with an almost-simultaneous launch of not just one, but four titles — which was one more than even market-leader Warren, which published Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella (as well as the non-comics Famous Monsters of Filmland) then had out on the stands.
My fifteen-year-old self, who’d been buying Warren books on a fairly frequent basis over the past year, happily welcomed this development — and since I was already a fan of Marvel’s version of Count Dracula via the color Tomb of Dracula comic (which I may or may not have remembered had itself originally been promoted as a “mature readers” black-and-white title, way back in early 1971), I was also happy with the choice of subject matter for the first of the four new titles to be released.
That said, when I was actually able to get my hands on a copy of Dracula Lives #1, I suspect I may have been a little taken aback by Boris Vallejo‘s cover painting for the book. This was the Marvel debut for the Peruvian-American fantasy illustrator, who would go on to produce eighteen more such covers for the Marvel magazine line before transitioning into the presumably more lucrative fields of paperback covers, movie posters, and calendars; and it’s rather more surrealistic and symbolic than the later, representationally-oriented work for which the artist would ultimately be best-known. But in 1973, my younger self’s concern was probably more focused on the fact that Vallejo’s rendering of the Count’s face didn’t conform to what I was accustomed to seeing in Tomb of Dracula, to wit: where was Drac’s facial hair?
Thankfully, I would find myself on more familiar ground once I turned to the issue’s first story; though before I could get there, I first had to go through the following introductory page…
Obviously, actor Christopher Lee’s depiction of the Count, as seen in Hammer Films’ series of Dracula movies, didn’t sport any facial hair, either; somehow, though, this photographic representation of the character felt more legit than Vallejo’s version, as would the images of Bela Lugosi used later in the issue. Go figure.
As for the “humorous” dialogue given Drac here… well, while I didn’t find it particularly funny, it was very much in the same vein (no pun intended) as the introductory text that appeared in most of the other horror anthology comic I’d read (usually coming out of the mouths o “host” characters like Warren’s Cousin Eerie, or DC’s Cain the Caretaker), so I didn’t consider it out of place. I doubt that it occurred to me at the time that by fronting every story in the issue with a full-page movie still, Marvel was filling out the issue’s page count at less expense than an equivalent page of comics would cost.
Anyway, I finally arrived at the first story:
As I’ve already said, I was on familiar turf here. Gerry Conway had scripted the first two issues of Tomb of Dracula, Tom Palmer had inked issues #3-7, and Gene Colan had, of course, pencilled every issue to date.
On the other hand, the setting of “A Poison in the Blood” was a novelty. Thus far, all of the stories in ToD had taken place either in Transylvania or in the United Kingdom. Dracula in America? This was something new.
I’m pretty sure that, in early 1973, I had yet to hear either of Scientology or of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard; so Conway’s “Mysticology” and “Jackson Kubbard” analogues went right over my head.
As for the 18th century Italian occultist Cagliostro, I was equally unfamiliar with that real-world personage — though Marvel was about to make me more cognizant of his legend (if not necessarily his actual history), not only in Dracula Lives, but in upcoming issues of Marvel Premiere (featuring Doctor Strange) as well.
Madeline Rogers invites her new acquaintance to have a seat, and he does. They continue to chat about the Mysticologists, and when Dracula expresses an interest in meeting Jackson Kubbard, she invites him to come along with her to a meeting of the sect later that same night…
Dracula begins to realize that the blood of the first drug addict he feasted on has infected him with that addict’s own cravings, and that he’s beginning to feel the pains of withdrawal. Madeline thus has little trouble convincing him that if he’s dead set against her calling for an ambulance, then at least they should take a cab the rest of the way to where they’re going.
As the taxi ride commences, the story shifts briefly into flashback mode — and Marvel splurges on a bit of red ink (something they’ll do on several further occasions over the course of this issue, as well)…
The location of the meeting is a well-appointed edifice with its own reception desk; Madeline speaks briefly with the young woman on duty, explaining that her new friend — who gives his name as “Drake” — would like to meet Mr. Kubbard. The receptionist says she’ll see what she can do…
For what it’s worth, Colan doesn’t seem to have based the appearance of Jackson Kubbard on that of L. Ron Hubbard (probably a wise decision).
Madeline leads “Mr. Drake” to the door to Kubbard’s private quarters, where a guard initially refuses them admittance. (“No junkie’s gonna see Mr. Kubbard… It’s freezin’ in here — and he’s sweatin’ like a pig.“) But after a quick look into Drac’s hypnotic gaze, he opens the door wide… at which point, Dracula informs Madeline that he no longer requires her assistance: “You may leave.”
While I’m sure I enjoyed this story just fine back in 1973, I have to admit that fifty years later, it doesn’t hold up all that well. The two main threads of Conway’s plot — Dracula’s investigation of Hubbard, and his inadvertent heroin addiction — never come together in any meaningful way; it’s as though the writer had ideas for two different stories, and unable to flesh either out to his satisfaction, ultimately decided simply to mash them both together. The most successful aspect of the story, in my opinion, is the character arc of Madeline Rogers, of whom it’s intimated that she may go on to start up her very own cult of Dracula (though if she did, Marvel Comics never told us any more about it). Conversely, on the artistic side, Colan and Palmer’s work looks just as good today as it did when it was first published.
The second story of the issue is written by another Marvel mainstay — editor-in-chief Roy Thomas, himself — and pencilled by a relative newcomer, Alan Weiss. The inks are by Dick Giordano — a veteran artist (and editor) whose work had appeared all but exclusively at DC since 1968, though he’d previously worked for Marvel near the beginning of his career, in the late 1950s and early 1960s:
I don’t know whether or not Thomas intended for the three female vampires we meet in the opening scene of “Suffer Not a Witch…” to be the exact same three “brides” of Dracula that Bram Stoker wrote about in his 1897 novel… but I’m pretty sure that my younger self assumed that they were the same toothy (and toothsome) ladies. After all, if Dracula had been around over two hundred years before the events of Stoker’s book, why couldn’t the brides have been, as well?
The provocative sight of Charity Brown in her sheer nightdress is the first real indication we’ve had thus far that Dracula Lives is, in fact, a “mature readers” title. This scene may be tame stuff by the standards of, say, Warren Publishing, but it’s definitely outside the prim boundaries of what the Comics Code Authority would allow in 1973.
Is it entirely credible that Dracula’s “once-soul” had to journey all the way to colonial America to find a suitably “virtuous” bride? That there were no suitably “untouched, untrammeled” maidens not just in Transylvania, but in the whole of Europe? Probably not; but if he had found someone matching his specifications closer to home, this would be a very different story, so…
Among the various praiseworthy elements of Weiss and Giordano’s artwork for this story is their successful creation of numerous distinctive, realistic physiognomies for the tale’s minor characters.
Not that the artists’ convincing rendering of the town elders sitting in judgment on Charity Brown does the young woman herself any good, of course; as will doubtless come as no surprise, she is found guilty of the crime of witchcraft, and sentenced to death by hanging.
Meanwhile, Dracula — completely ignorant of these developments, of course — is coming for Charity as quickly as he can…
The next images to follow, while not excessively gory, are further evidence that we’re not in Comics Code-approved territory anymore…
Dracula quickly dispatches Miles Alden by the expedient, if brutal method of wrapping his arms around the man’s torso and squeezing until his bones break. Then…
You probably saw that ending coming, right? Perhaps the twist is an obvious one to a contemporary audience, but I’m pretty sure that my fifteen-year-old self — who had scant knowledge of the Salem Witch Trials, and definitely had yet to read (or see) The Crucible — was quite surprised by it back in 1973. And once I got the chance to do a little research (which, in those per-Internet days, probably included a trip to the library), and discovered that the enslaved woman Tituba had indeed been an actual historical personage, I was quite impressed, as well.
Despite the undeniable contrivance involved in getting Dracula to Salem, I believe this story still works, for the most part. It stands out as an early exemplar of what would be perhaps the magazine’s greatest strength — i.e., placing the character in the context not just of different historical periods, but of significant events within those periods. And perhaps of equal importance, Thomas — without going so far as to turn Dracula into any sort of “good guy” — nevertheless encourages us to empathize with the vampire, at least a little, as we witness him suffer a tragic loss. Combined with Weiss and Giordano’s visualization of Dracula — which, with all due respect to Gene Colan, was in early 1973 the hottest version of the character yet presented by Marvel — served to make the Marvel Universe’s Count more of a capital-“R” Romantic figure than we’d previously seen.
At this point in the magazine, Dracula Lives #1 takes a break from its comics content for a one-and-a-half page editorial, very likely written by Roy Thomas. I’m sharing the entire piece here, as I think it provides valuable insight into how the powers-that-were at Marvel in ’73 saw the advent not just of this magazine, but of their whole new b&w comics line… and offers some interesting behind-the-scenes information, as well:
One bit of information worth noting appears in the editorial’s second paragraph, which asserts that the original idea for a Dracula black-and-white magazine, way back in 1970, had been neither Stan Lee’s nor even Roy Thomas’, but rather Martin Goodman’s — a statement that, if true, suggests that the founder of Marvel Comics wasn’t quite as dead set against the b&w format as is commonly assumed. Perhaps we’d come closer to the truth to postulate that Goodman vacillated between enthusiasm for the format’s potential for commercial success, and anxiety over its potential for causing trouble with the CCA, with the latter, more cautious attitude always winning out in in the end.
Another notable item, coming a bit later in the piece, is the justification for the 76-page magazine’s inclusion of “a dozen or so pages” (15, to be precise) of reprint material on the basis of how expensive it was for Marvel to produce such a package. The claim by the anonymous (but probably Thomas) editorial writer that the page rate paid by Marvel to its freelance writers and artists was “at least as high as any in the industry, and much higher than those on most other black-and-white publications” has been challenged by comics historian Richard J. Arndt, who in his 2013 book Horror Comics in Black and White says: “This was not strictly true, as Warren paid its top artists more than either Marvel or DC, although the going rate for their writers was considerably less.” It’s a difficult claim to prove definitively one way or the other, considering that at this time Warren was heavily reliant upon a set of Spanish artists whose services were contracted through a single agency in Barcelona; on the other hand, there’s no question that several young writers who were working fairly regularly for Warren as of early 1973 — Don McGregor and Doug Moench being two of the best-known — would soon be employed more or less exclusively by Marvel.
Finally, we’ll take note of the editorial’s name-checking of another young writer — Marv Wolfman (“his real name — honest!”) — identified here (though not on the magazine’s masthead) as “our new assistant editor”. Wolfman had been serving a mostly uncredited stint of several months on the editorial staff of Warren Publishing when, by his own account, he was recruited by Roy Thomas to come shepherd the new line of books Marvel was launching in direct competition with Warren. As he told Richard Arndt in 2011 for an interview published in Alter Ego #113 (Oct., 2012):
I was specifically hired away from Warren by Roy to become the editor on the black-&-white mags as he concentrated on the color books… I’m sure that Roy went over the first issues, but though I don’t remember specifics, I believe I was commissioning the stories and editing the books from day one.
Whatever else he might have contributed to getting the first issue of Dracula Lives together, Wolfman was definitely responsible for the main piece of non-reprint content used to help fill the magazine’s pages more cheaply (and quickly) than could be done by commissioning brand new comics stories — namely, a six-page text article on the history of Dracula in the movies, the first two pages of which are reproduced below:
I’m sure that my horror-flick-loving younger self appreciated this piece, which still reads as a decent overview of its topic, fifty years later — although I suspect that Wolfman’s attempts at humor fell just about as flat for me then as they do today. (Actually, the article may get an inadvertent boost in the amusement department for the contemporary reader, assuming that reader has come across any of the several public statements made by Wolfman over the years in which he’s admitted that he had never seen a Dracula movie before he started working with the character in comics… which means that, when he writes here that Universal Pictures’ Dracula (1931) “is more frightening than World War II, and more bubbly than ‘The Golddiggers of 1933′”, he’s really just guessing.)
The article comes in the middle of the magazine’s reprint material, following the 6-page “Zombie!” (which was drawn by Tony DiPreta, and originally published in Journey into Mystery #5 [Feb., 1953]) and the 2-page “Ghost of a Chance!” (probably drawn by Bill La Clava, and first published in Adventures into Terror #8 [Feb., 1952] under the title “The Miracle”)… and preceding what’s probably the best of the bunch, “Fright!” (written by Stan Lee, drawn by Russ Heath, and, like “Zombie!”, originally published in Journey into Mystery #5) — the opening splash panel of which I’ve shared below:
All three of the reprinted stories are worth the time it takes to read them; on the other hand, I doubt that many fans felt that the fifteen pages devoted to them — a total which rises to eighteen, if you count the full-page movie stills-with-humorous-dialogue that introduce the tales (yes, even the two-pager got one) — was the very best use of those pages that one could hope for. And while I don’t recall ever begrudging the reprints personally, I don’t think that I shed any tears when Marvel managed to phase them out around six issues later.
We now come to the final new story of the issue…
All three of the new stories in Dracula Lives #1 have been produced by different creative teams, and all can be read independently of one another; nevertheless, the reference to Charity Brown in this tale, as well as the first story’s allusion to the Count’s previous visit to America, links the three narrative’s together. The effect is to encourage the reader to see the individual stories in this issue — and presumably, in future ones as well — as discrete episodes in Dracula’s fictional biography, rather than as random “Dracula stories”. I don’t know whether this idea was Roy Thomas’, or Marv Wolfman’s, or someone else’s entirely — but it was a really good one.
The story’s writer, Steve Gerber, had been working for Marvel for about seven months at this point; its penciller, Rich Buckler, had landed his first Marvel assignment roughly a year before. But this strip represented the Marvel Comics debut of its inker, Pablo Marcos — an artist who, like Boris Vallejo, had emigrated to America from Peru several years prior.
While Marcos had landed his first American comics art assignment from Warren Publishing in 1971, he had since worked almost exclusively for Skywald Publications, the small company that, prior to the launch of Marvel’s black-and-white comics line, had been Warren’s main competitor in that field. Ironically, Marcos was brought to Marvel by Sol Brodsky — Marvel’s former production manager, who had helped co-found Skywald in 1970, but then left the company to return to his former employer a couple of years late, taking Marcos with him. The artist would go on to become a mainstay of 1970s American comics, and was an especially prominent presence in Marvel’s b&w books.
It’s interesting to compare Rich Buckler’s work on this story with another “Dracula” job he did around the same time, for Warren’s Eerie #48 — allowing for the Marvel’s version’s all-important mustache, the artist’s two versions of the Count look very much the same (though I suppose that’s not all that surprising, really; Dracula is Dracula, after all).
Du Monte agrees to help Dracula, on the condition that the vampire vow not to kill him, “even after our entente is concluded.” Once Dracula has consented, Du Monte sends him on an errand to a house elsewhere in the city, where the doctor says papers that are essential to his research, but have been stolen from him, are hidden…
But, alas for Dracula, betrayal is in the offing. The treacherous doctor whips out a cross — and while holding the Count at bay, he explains that. “…for your curse, no cure exists!”
At first, Drac is disbelieving. “But your articles,” he protests, even as Du Monde forces him back towards a window. “Your researches — !”
It’s probably fair to say that “To Walk Again in Daylight!” offers few surprises over the course of its ten pages. Still, it’s a chilling enough little yarn (especially at the very end), and the Buckler-Marcos artwork is highly enjoyable. One comes to the end of the story — and of the magazine — with the sense that Marvel knows what it’s doing… if not with their whole new quartet of black-and-white horror comics (that, of course, remains to be seen), then at least with this initial offering. For this reader — now, as well as then — Dracula Lives #1 is an entirely successful debut.
When Marv Wolfman came to Marvel Comics, he not only became the de facto editor of the company’s brand new black-and-white line — he also became the regular writer of the color Tomb of Dracula comic. As we discussed in last December’s post about ToD #7, prior to writing his first script for that book, Wolfman read the full text of Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time. From that novel’s epistolary format, Wolfman got the idea of making the series more about the people hunting Dracula than about the vampiric Count himself. As he put it in his 2021 introduction to Marvel Masterworks — The Tomb of Dracula, Vol. 1, “We would keep him in shadow and make him far more mysterious than he would be if we knew his every thought.” The author would continue to follow this approach to the character for the rest of Tomb of Dracula‘s 70-issue run.
It may seem something of an irony, then, that Marv Wolfman would end up at the helm of a title that had no other continuing characters besides Dracula; a title whose stories, even if presented from a different character’s point of view, couldn’t help but ultimately put Drac front and center. On the other hand, Wolfman wasn’t going to be writing most of those stories himself… though he would be responsible for scripting a tale that would appear in the very next issue of Dracula Lives — a tale in which the author wouldn’t easily be able to keep himself from getting well into Dracula’s head, for the very good reason that it was an origin story.
As illustrated by Neal Adams at the height of his artistic powers, “That Dracula May Live Again!” would prove to be a high point of the whole run of Dracula Lives — and, arguably, of Marvel’s entire years-long black-and-white publishing initiative. I hope you’ll join me for our discussion of that story — as well as the rest of the contents of Dracula Lives #2, naturally — coming your way in just two short months.
*July, 1968 had seen the release of The Adventures of Pussycat #1 — a collection of black-and-white comics stories that, with one exception, had originally run in the “men’s magazines”, such as Male and Stag, that represented a (mostly) separate division of publisher Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management Co. business than the better-remembered (at least around these parts) Marvel Comics Group. Among the talents who’d produced these bawdy (but non-explicit) spy-genre spoof strips were Wally Wood, Jim Mooney, Larry Lieber, and Stan Lee himself — Marvel Bullpenners all, at one time or another — while yet another Marvel veteran, Bill Everett, contributed the one-shot collected edition’s cover and centerfold. In addition, the indicia of the magazine read “Marvel Comics, Inc.” So, while The Adventures of Pussycat #1 didn’t technically come out of the editorial offices headed by Stan Lee, I think you can see the publication as a Marvel black-and-white comic, if you want to… or not, if you don’t.
UPDATE, Feb. 19, 2023: Actually, you could count the 1973 launch of Marvel’s new horror magazines as the publisher’s fourth attempt to enter the black-and-white comics market, if you’re so inclined. As your humble blogger has been reminded in the hours since this post’s original publication, in 1955 Martin Goodman brought out three issues of a satirical comics magazine named Snafu; clearly made in the image of Mad, this short-lived title was edited by Stan Lee and featured contributions from such “Atlas era” stalwarts as Bill Everett, Joe Maneely, and John Severin. Many thanks to Gene Kehoe of the Nostalgic Comics group on Facebook for the memory nudge.
The twist of the scientist being a cheap fake? I like it. I’ve read all these in the Essential Dracula 4.
Tituba looks very light-colored — for a second I wasn’t sure she was meant to be black.
I never got into the Warrens except briefly late in the 1970s. Magazines cost money! But what little I saw of them, they were cool.
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Alas, during the ’70s, I didn’t get any of Marvel’s magazines. Certainly in 1973 they were just out of my meager budget. A few years later, I did start collecting Mad on a regular basis, but it wouldn’t be until the ’80s that I started getting graphic magazines, such as Epic, regularly. Of course, by then I had a full time job and, hence, more money to “waste” on entertainment!
Lately, btw, I’ve been reading a book about the history of the Balkans from 1801-2011, by Misha Glenn, and just finished a section on the events there during World War II. Having also seen the Dracula film from 1931 several times, probably the first time right around 50 years ago, reading Wolfman’s ill-thought out comment about that film being more “blood-curdling than World War II” couldn’t help but make me cringe. Classic it may be, and exciting enough for audiences 92 years ago, but I think even in 1973 Universal’s Dracula likely seemed very tame fare for fans who had seen more recent cinematic takes on the blood-thirsty Transylvanian count. And anyone familiar with the actual horrors of World War II, or even the Rape of Nanking in the years before Imperialist Japan’s war of conquest against China expanded to other Asian nations and merged with Hitler’s wars of conquest in Europe and north Africa, would know that the reality of WWII was far more blood-curdling than any fictional film. Yeah, I know Wolfman was just engaging in typical hyperbole and was a fairly young man, but still cringe-worthy. And at age 10, I do recall having read a book about WWII that included a section on the Holocaust, so I think even if I had gotten the magazine and read that sentence, I would have regarded it as over the top ridiculousness even back then. But this was just the beginning of Wolfman’s long association with Dracula and with Colan and Palmer, he’d produce one of the best comic runs of the 1970s and which I think holds up pretty well even over 45 years after the conclusion of the comic itself. And as with most everyone else, Wolfman grew wiser as he got older, and, I suspect, less prone to excessive hyperbole.
Enjoyed reading your take on this old magazine, Alan!
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It beats the Spider-Man story in Civil War that equates him unmasking under the Superhero Registration rules to Japanese Americans going to the camps out of patriotism (and the camps were really nice, honest!) — https://www.cbr.com/things-that-turned-out-bad-that-time-marvel-compared-japanese-internment-camps-to-spider-mans-secret-identity/
The Spanish-language version of Dracula, shot simultaneously with the original, is more intense, though still not comparable to WW II.
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Pablo Marcos became a regular cover artist on the British Marvel Dracula Lives, which was a weekly reprinting half an issue of Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night and The Monster of Frankenstein in each issue. Marcos did pretty much every second cover, with the original Tomb of Dracula ones being used on the other weeks.
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One of the many things I like about this blog isn’t just the chance to re-visit comics I loved and haven’t thought about in years, is the opportunity to find out more about comics I didn’t care for and was never interested in, not fifty years ago, and not now. Marvel’s b&w books fall under that designation.
I’d never liked horror comics and still don’t to this day. As good as the art may be, it’s difficult to make a drawing “scary” (moody, atmospheric, eerie, perhaps, but not scary) and the restrictions on the industry at the time made “being scary” even harder. I remember reading Stoker’s novel while in college and making myself read it during the day because it was just too damn scary to read at night. No horror story in a comic has ever made me feel that way. I didn’t start giving horror movies any serious attention until after college in the 80’s and have seen the original Dracula with Lugosi several times and have found it to be largely uninspiring (though I hear the Spanish version is quite effective). And while I gained an appreciation for a number of cinematic horror stories and really fell in love with the novels of Stephen King and others, horror comics have never held an interest for me. Also, not to repeat myself, but you know how I feel about anthology books, and it didn’t help that most horror books fell into that category.
I appreciate the re-cap, Alan and am thrilled that you read Dracula, so I didn’t have to, but aside from a few well-rendered pages here and there, I have never understood what all the fuss was about and don’t feel as though I really missed anything at all.
“I remember reading Stoker’s novel while in college and making myself read it during the day because it was just too damn scary to read at night. No horror story in a comic has ever made me feel that way.”
I can’t say that I’ve *never* been scared by a comic-book horror story — two of the first “House of Mystery” shorts I encountered, at the age of 12 or 13, got me pretty damn good. But it’s been a long, long time.
On the other hand, that’s never really been the point for me. Probably since the moment I first tuned in (literally) to “Dark Shadows”, Gothic horror — especially when it involves continuing characters like Barnabas Collins, Swamp Thing, or Marvel’s Dracula — has always been just another branch of the fantasy genre as far I was concerned. While I do enjoy being creeped out from time to time, I don’t go into a horror story — in any medium, really — with the expectation of being scared; I just want to be entertained by a well-told wonder tale.
Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed this blog post, Don, despite your having no interest in horror comics in general, or in Marvel’s black-and-white line in particular… ’cause there’ll be quite a few more coming your way in the next few years. 😉
I never was a fan of the Dracula mag or comic book, even though some very good artists worked in them.
The inherit problem, for me at least, is that with Dracula as a villain (or anti-hero at best) the reader knows that, however many times he will have a stake driven through his heart or be exposed to sunlight, he’ll come out of it somehow—-and that takes a lot of the dramatic tension out of the story.
And yet the same is true of the super-hero comics. I guess that, psychologically speaking, the reader is rooting for the good guy/gal, whereas a nefarious character like Drac is hard (for me, anyway) to get behind, especially in an ongoing series.
You may recall Berni Wrightson saying in A Look Back that he felt “vampires are such snooty creatures” and was not very excited about drawing one in his 1974 volume The Monsters: Color the Creature book.
That is probably why he and Len Wein never had the Swamp Thing face off against one in their run of the comic book.
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*Snotty, not snooty
*Inherent, not inherit
I think both words work equally well, actually. 🙂
I agree with your analysis — though at the same time, I loved TOD.
I am heartily sick of “vampire crime syndicate” as a trope in urban fantasy though.
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