Thursday, December 07, 2017

A Tour of the Supernatural

The Tomb of Dracula #1 (Marvel, October 1979, $1.25)
This 68-page black-and-white newsstand magazine was published after the 70-issue full-color comic book run and freed the creators and publisher from the constraints of the Comics Code Authority. The first issue featured four pieces: a 43-page uninterrupted comics story and three journalistic articles about various aspects of Dracula film fandom.

The comics piece is the highlight, written by Marv Wolfman, drawn by Gene Colan, and inked by Bob McLeod. "Black Genesis" is a story about Sandy Sommers's self-esteem and relationships with men, the wife of a wizard and her mysterious ring, and a "tour of the supernatural" that takes a group of Americans to Dracula's castle in Transylvania.

The group of tourists goes to the site of his castle, recently destroyed, and the woman with the mysterious ring finds "the final remains of—Dracula!" Somehow, Dracula soon lives again. That is bad news for Betty, for the reporter with the crucifix, for most everyone. But it's good news for the reader because the story is adequately dark and looming—black and white is particularly well suited to this book. There are some appropriately horrific moments—the rats and David Lorning in the old London hotel—and being non-Code even allows some showing of breasts, tastefully done and suitable for the erotic nature of the vampire myth.

The story behind Florence Ebers's ring is promising. While the effect on the bearer is unclear—panel six on p. 32 suggests that touching the original meteorite killed Gholen Yazdi, its finder, but he didn't actually die—its powers to "make reality out of thought" are ample. Ebers and Dracula team up to find the rest of the jewel—so she can revive her husband Augustus. But he has other plans. A good read.

Jason Thomas contributes "The Newest Dracula," a five-page article about the 1979 Dracula starring Frank Langella. (Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing!) It is mostly a walk through earlier film versions of Dracula from Nosferatu to Love at First Bite. The 1979 film followed a Broadway play that also starred Langella—and featured Edward Gorey set designs! The rest of the piece describes the plot of the then-new movie.

Tom Rogers's three-page "Love at First Bite" recounts the American International spoof starring George Hamilton. It mostly retells the plot with some light review elements. Finally, Rogers's six-page "Legend: According to the Movies" draws on the rich history of vampire cinema to address how to find and destroy a vampire. You know, just in case.

That article includes a surprisingly wide range of movies, including Scream, Blacula, Scream; Does Dracula Really Suck?; The Vampire's Coffin; Curse of the Blood-Ghouls; and Dracula in Istanbul. Rogers really did his research, and the piece provides an awesome list of vampire movies. Comic aside, that last article is enough reason to track down this magazine, which sits squarely between horror comics and monster movie fanzines. More of these, please!

Availability: The Tomb of Dracula #1 was reprinted in Tomb of Dracula - Volume 3 (Tomb of Dracula Omnibus).

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