Friday, October 9, 2015

Young Fears 9: Uncanny X-Men #159

Each October I like to run a series of Halloween-themed posts on this blog. All this month, I'll be telling anecdotes about things which frightened me while growing up.

So far I've written primarily about film and television programs which frightened me as a child; naturally, as a prime consumer of comic books, I also have a few comic book examples.

When I was very young - before I even had an allowance - comic books were something which came into my home as presents, usually via my parents and sometimes as community property (ie, shared with my siblings). Occasionally I could convince my parents to purchase a comic book for me from a spinner rack. At the tender age of four, I had no conception of how far the comic book medium ranged in terms of content. The very idea that some comic books were not intended for me would have been unthinkable.

My parents had a friend who was an avid reader of comic books but evidently not too interested in preserving his collection; when he was done with the books they became presents to my siblings and I. So it was that at age four I received a hefty stack of John Byrne's Fantastic Four and Chris Claremont's Uncanny X-Men. It included Uncanny X-Men #159.

My first few brushes with the X-Men were not favourable because the content somehow always seemed repellent. The only issues I seemed to receive were the ones with scary situations in them. And so it was that Uncanny X-Men #159 became my formal introduction to that kooky count from Transylvania, Dracula!

At the time, Dracula's long-running series Tomb of Dracula by Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan had ended. I'm not sure why Claremont felt the time was ripe to bring Dracula into the X-Men franchise, but he did - #159 was the first of two appearances the count made. I know that some of Claremont's earliest writing for Marvel Comics appeared in Giant-Size Dracula, but his take on the count seems at odds with Wolfman & Colan. Certainly, he became much more of a super-villain in this story, right down to his transformation into a hybrid man-bat thing (Man-Bat?). Dracula's attempts to woo Storm also fit into Claremont's frequent episodes where a kingly villain would try to make the poor woman their bride (see also: Doctor Doom, Arkon).

But that sequence where Dracula hypnotized Storm and prepared to transform her into his bride - that was chilling stuff. Sure, the X-Men won out in the end, but I think this comic was deliberately "lost" from my collection, probably at the hands of my dutifully concerned parents. Later at the age of twelve they would sit down with me to discuss their concern with the supernatural-themed comics I had been buying, but it didn't really stop me; yes, some comic books could upset me, but at times I wanted to be made upset.

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