Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy Halloween from the Tomb of DRACULA!

So what I'm going to do is tell you a thing or two about these stories, which are just good enough storytelling to make me smile. Tomb of Dracula was not only very different from any other comic book before it, but it was also a surprise success, sparking off a trend of ghouls and goblins and things stranger still, like the Man-Thing. How could you write a comic book with a villain as its "hero"? For one, you don't white wash him as a hero, though in his own mind, while he is not good, he is eternally justified and dedicated to survival. Once you give him an enemy like Blade, and stay far away from the rest of the super-hero world, you have an international hunt for a timeless killer, a ruthless warrior and haunted soul, with little to save his intended victims. But what will save Dracula from himself?

My first vote went to the story where the vampire hunters created by Archie Goodwin in issue three, descendants of the the novel's Victorian protagonists, lose one of their own to Dracula. Then, they get theirs back, with the first death of Dracula in the series! But as someone raised all his young life in church, the horrible sequel, as a misguided preacher raises Dracula from the grave, has a certain satisfaction of its own. He subsumes purity in Edith Harker; he subsumes piety in Josiah, a one shot character primary to issue fourteen. Now, nothing seems safe from Dracula, and the series is really off to its thematic apex.

Rachel Van Helsing and Dracula crash in the mountains. He needs blood to survive, and so he keeps his nemesis with him. Her courage and their desperate symbiosis create a thrilling tension!

It so happens the weakened Dracula becomes captive of Dr. Sun, a disembodied Chinese surgeon who can control computers with his scientifically-preserved brain---done here before they tried it on a memorable episode of Wonder Woman I haven't seen in twenty five years, easily! Anyway, Dr. Sun brings back a vampire made from a criminal named Brand to give Dracula's memories. It's the first skirmish in a war between the Lord of Vampires and the bodiless mad scientist that stretches the next two years! Now, there's a natural predator to the natural predator.

I will mention the stories in between at length, but if you want to capture the flavor of this comic and only want to try a single issue, this one, #30, has three stories, including the original, then-as-yet untold encounter with Blade a few years before. The sense of history between the characters gives it a depth achieved by few serials I've seen---my favorite sustained horror story arc in comics.
So: can I narrow this seventy-issue series down to maybe its ten best episodes? Here's a few of those choices.

Best; these, I’d talk about

Ten #12 (and really, 12-14 are one story!)
Nine #14 Resurrection! Josiah Stone? Earliest best, for sure!
#19, Rachel and Dracula alone in the mountains? Hells yeah! The train one, 17, rocks, too. 23? That one introduces Dracula's first human lover in the series, Sheila Whittier, or rather, continues her story from a special published earlier that month.
Seven #21 Dracula, Brand, Doctor Sun
A great song about a vampire!

Wonder if #30 is not actually a better read, though, than even #14 or 21. It's a three part compilation of Dracula's reminiscences, complete with a peek at the vampire hunters, moving in their separate directions in life for a time. Saddened by his emotional involvement with Sheila Whittier, Dracula thinks back to a time when trusting a woman led him into peril. The first story is the German Prime Minister plot with Lisa Stang---the behind-the-scenes intrigue at the time of Otto Von Bismark. The second features his vengeance for the little blind girl. The last is Blade's first encounter with Dracula. Written as his melancholy journal.this one is an interlude and an excellent sample of mood, storytelling, and the warped morality of its main character, who is still recognizably human in his misunderstandings and failings. If you only try one issue, this one has it all.

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