Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dracula Month Day 25: Uncanny X-Men #159

I think my first encounter with the character of Dracula may have been Uncanny X-Men #159 (1982) and the story "Night Screams!" by writer Chris Claremont and artists Bill Sienkiewicz & Bob Wiacek. It came to me in the same batch of comic books which included Uncanny X-Men #161, which you may recall I blogged about how it frightened me as a child. Well, "Night Screams" certainly did as well. The story pits Dracula against the X-Men and includes scenes of him attempting to convert Storm into one of his brides (because it's a Chris Claremont comic - of course there's a theme of attempted corruption and of course the intended victim is Storm).

At the time of this story's publication Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan's Tomb of Dracula had wrapped up - indeed, both men had left Marvel for greener pastures at DC Comics. This appearance of Dracula was one of several he made around that period in various Marvel super hero titles (ie, Thor), but like virtually all of Marvel 1970s horror leads he would soon be put to rest (until the horror characters returned in the 1990s). Claremont had dabbled a little in the black & white Dracula Lives magazine earlier in his career so he had some legitimacy in picking up the character, but Dracula can't help but suffer when pit against a Marvel super hero. Claremont demonstrated some interesting ideas in this issue with regards to the cast members' faith (notably, Wolverine's atheism, Nightcrawler's Catholicism & Kitty Pryde's Judaism) but scenes of Dracula turning into a man-bat feel tonally wrong for the character Wolfman & Colan portrayed.

As the story was drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, you'd think it's pretty chilling material, right? Um, think again. This is still early in Sienkiewicz's career back in his Neal Adams phase and the rough edges of his art were considerably softened by Wiacek's inks. Claremont & Sienkiewicz would later prove they could combine super heroes and horror effectively in New Mutants, but this story lacks a little in atmosphere. As a tiny tot scenes of Dracula looming over Storm's throat were almost too much for me to bear; as a grown man it's simply 'all right.'

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