Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween recommendations IV: Tomb of Dracula

I was reluctant to get involved with horror comics. Super heroes were and are my favorite aspect of the comics and by the early 90s they were a major passion. Somehow, that's when I discovered a comic which hadn't been published since 1979.

I think my enjoyment of Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan's Tomb of Dracula comes from my interest in Bram Stoker's original novel. I know that in modern readings people tend to prefer Dracula to the actual protagonists, but when I read it (I think I was 12?) I liked the good guys; John Seward, Jonathan & Mina Harker, Quincey Morris and Abraham Van Helsing were the point of view characters in the novel and their trials while facing the menace of Dracula was what engaged me as a reader.

Similarly, Wolfman often ran Tomb of Dracula from the perspective of the people hunting him; Frank Drake, Quincy Harker, Rachel Van Helsing, Harold H. Harold, Taj Nital and, of course, Blade. I enjoyed all of these characters but the stories which really stood out were the offbeat tales; Dracula writing an entry in his diary (#15), or a hardboiled detective story where the narrating private eye runs into Dracula (#25); those were gold.

Dracula himself was always a strong figure, usually being followed in hot pursuit by the vampire hunters, but occasionally pit against someone more evil than he was (like Dr. Sun or Satan himself). I really appreciated that Tomb of Dracula didn't over-romanticize Dracula (a problem a lot of contemporary vampire fiction has), notably in issue #50 where he meets a woman who thinks of him as a romantic ends badly for her (Buffy fans may be reminded of "Lie to Me"). And unlike most comics, Christianity plays a part when God himself takes a dim view of Dracula and when Dracula has a son, a battle plays out for his soul. It's rare to see God utilized in a comic book (for something other than mockery).

Marv Wolfman didn't arrive until issue #7 of Tomb of Dracula but he made it his own; Gene Colan was there from start to finish and he's probably more strongly associated with Tomb of Dracula than anything else in his 60+ year career.

Tomb of Dracula is collected into four black and white Essential volumes; there's also an Omnibus collecting the first thirty-one issues (volume two should have the other thirty nine).


Nitz the Bloody said...

I've always wanted to get ahold of the Tomb of Dracula Essentials, but last I checked the first one was long out of print...this was a while back, though. Have all the Essentials been put back into circulation?

Raptor Lewis said...

That reminds me that Marvel had Spider-man team up with Dracula on several occasions. Hmm.....apparently H. sapiens are VERY creative when their fears are involved. lol! History conveys this fact vividly.

Michael Hoskin said...

I think all of the Essentials are currently in print; at least, my LCS is fully stocked.

You might want the Omnibuses though -- fewer volumes. The only real advantage in the Essentials is that Colan's artwork is BEAUTIFUL in black & white.