Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dracula: Review,commentary (Sitting Up With the Undead)

To enter the world of Dracula as born in the pages of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel is sleep walk into a night world of mysteries. Every good vampire story, and no less, its Undead Lord, unveils itself in a unhurried tease of facts. I attempted to take myself back to the readership which did not know what was coming next, nor the nature of the menace itself. Only Van Helsing suspects and researches the truth of what they face, and in an age of Victorian reliance on science and common sense, he holds this close to the vest as long as possible, lest none believe him.

I realize most of us followed the introduction of the character through his famous movie incarnations, not to mention the proliferation of his and other vampire imagery throughout popular culture. Vampires were long part of folklore, in Japan, India, and the Balkan states from which Stoker drew his gypsies, his Transylvania.

Thanks to Stoker, and most of all Legosi, Hammer Films and all that followed, they are part of our own. The dynamics of the romance and the picture of the times have shifted shape, through the modern prism of Twilight, and Anne Rice’s books in the decade before.

To write about this novel could be a paper, or book in itself. The piety of the heroes is played up in contrast to the blasphemous nature of Dracula. I suspect Stoker may have gone the extra mile in establishing their moral goodness and Christianity for both his own tastes and to deflect criticism from the grisly narrative and celebration of sorts of unholy powers. The loving friendships between the characters, as conveyed in the letters and diaries that make up the novel, give it a coherence and humanity that makes for a rather rich, humanistic work. The structure and pace stand up well, of their own literary merits. The eloquence of our loquacious protagonists, all of whom sound groomed by finishing schools, may create language that is a challenge for some modern readers, but without fail, it carries a worthy poetic sense.

I suppose the point that would be examined by many modern critics would be the period piece depiction of the genders. I do believe, in providing a chance for the female victim to avenge herself in concerted efforts with the gentlemen, Stoker thought of his Mina Murray character as relatively progressive and well-rounded. More, on this, can be said.

continues after break

Myebook - D'n'A Comics #1 As promised: the
online version of DNA #1!!!Myebook - D'n'A  Comics #1 - click here to open my ebook

Let me take one of many fine instances that build the picture of Victorian sexuality and social norms, below. This is from Johnathon Harker's journal, after he finds himself an increasingly reluctant guest of Castle Dracula:

“The fair girl went on her knees and bent over me, fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white, sharp, teeth” (Stoker 50).

Amanda Podonsky writes: "This particular passage describes the mixed feelings men had towards forward women; temptation made the “unnatural” occurrence of female sexual advances desirable (as it was the “forbidden fruit”), yet from a God-believing gentleman’s standpoint, it was purely evil and almost animalistic. Alluding to the fact that, again, a man’s sexual attraction was not entirely his own fault or “responsibility” (per say), this passage also insinuates that women can only be seductively appealing when deliberately tempting a man to “take the forbidden fruit” himself; another reference to evil’s association with a woman’s sexuality.

Even if a woman tempted a man and he took the bate (sic), it would still be considered the woman’s fault for defying the set social expectations for proper ladies, as the men could not easily control what was natural to them. Expectations and standards concerning ladylike behavior were very confining and limited the expression of many natural emotions and freedoms."

The language between characters-- depicting their regard for one another-- builds a deep concern in the sensitive reader. The metaphors and analogies in which the speakers engage lend a beautiful glimpse of a pinnacle in human conversation in Victorian times. Compound sentences build intense moments by their sheer inundation of detail.

The bond between the characters, and the opportunity to bring smoldering human passions to the fore, afforded by the magical plot, is conveyed fully through the epistles and memoirs of the characters themselves. It's gone near the top of my favorite books, without so much as a beloved, insightful instructor in sight, rewarding faith in one's own intelligence and painting a countryside world in transporting descriptions.

Three essays follow.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Halloween! Dracula LIves! The Best of Tomb of Dracula

Here are some of my favorite cover images from the series:

This one, in particular, is the first one I remember,

appearing in Mighty Marvel Checklist of my copy of Marvel Tales #66, 1976,
one of my first comics, bought as a surprise
at a surplus store by my parents---one of their very few gifts of comics, but all the ones in my kids year were pivotal!

Despite their great showdown, Harker's not on the cover of TOD #70 below. Truthfully, cool as this is for showing them in battle and Dracula using his powers, the one; (#32) where Harker's crawling away just barely out of reach of the flying Dracula is just tight, tight, TIGHT!

Finally, it looks like the eventual conclusion to the Domini storyline had some pretty cool execution, though Wolfman had to know the end of the series drew upon the horizon by this point.

In chronological order, these are the last four of my picks from the Tomb of Dracula four color series by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, with Tom Palmer and more. (You can find the others in previously tagged blogs October 15 and September 15, 2011).

Mainly, there are two stories I want to relate:

The Boston battles of Doctor Sun and Dracula: the natural epic climax of the series, in a way, as far as that it precedes the Janus storyline, which features an added plot carrying the series through its last two years. True, Sun was added around #17 or so, himself, but everything else relies on the basic elements of the series, so while it kept going, I've read this is the true artistic climax of the suspense. After Dracula's slain this time, it can never quite have the same impact: his revenge here is his very life, given back to him by his arch rivals! His defeat of the vampire hunters and death itself could never truly be repeated. If there were no commercial considerations in keeping the serialized adventures in publication, I think Dr. Sun's defeat of Dracula would've made a cool final death, indeed, if only the good guys had found some way to defeat Dr. Sun, anyway. But Dracula, let's face it, had to be part of any such victory---it's HIS title! Nevertheless, the innocent life he takes immediately is so personally disgusting and shameful to the vampire hunters, it's a sinister resurrection, indeed, and most insidious.

Four #39 (Destruction of Dracula; which is more epic an issue?) 40? 37-42
Three #42 (Destruction of Sun)

Two #44 / Doc Strange 14 Second part is the most awesome! There's a continuity error about location, and location can be very important, as our last story below proves. Can you find the mistake? If you don't worry about it, still, very suspenseful stuff. Vampire Doctor Strange is an unexpected twist; the evil of his resurrected nature makes for a ruthless battle of wits. His tortuous spell at the end has a very unique nature. I think the way religious good and evil conflicts were thought of in these days gives us an interesting prism into which to project the entertainment then intended for mass audiences. By now, we fans of the Doctor Strange character anticipate the huge movie premiering in less than a week (it's Oct. 16, 2016 here as I update my five-year old entry.)

A one month crossover between the books, they each win a round on home turf, but the battle itself is one for the ages! Gene Colan, penciler on both series, does what he does best, the cinematic and shadowy, with both of them, as no other artist could have. Classic stuff.

One #70 final showdown with Quincy Harker I have to imagine, though I don’t own it, (65-70) I read about it in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe when I was about eleven, and decided immediately Tomb of Dracula would be a series I'd find and collect one day! In this story, Harker battles Dracula to the death, sealing the thematic structure of this incarnation of the vampire, and his series in this decade.

I wasn't worried about anything but chronological order, rather than rank, but how about I take #1 as an opportunity to suggest to you, the single Dracula comic book done-in-one that totes the quality of the series on its giant-sized shoulder.

I'm talking about...Giant-Size Dracula!

Look, this has been a fun ride through the series, but say you want a single, scary Dracula comic book story to enjoy. Look no further.

Written by David Anthony Kraft, not to be confused with busy Marvel horror writer Doug Moench, and believe me, he refuses to be,
this blood-chiller features supernatual terror within a demon-clawed mountain, where a horror mind-blowing to Dracula himself beats
with stolen blood. It's so vivid, I'm going by memory here. I'll have to treat myself to another read? I first read it in my Essentials: Tomb of Dracula, vol. 2, though it's reprinted in newer color editions. Give it a look here and see if you don't find yourself wanting it in your collection- the Lord of Vampires comm- I mean, I dare ya! This link's missing a few early story pages, however.

The captions, from page one, do it right: not over-written, but appropriately purple, with incisive thoughts carried within its observations. Meanwhile, the art's free to do its story-telling. From a blood-draining aboard an ocean-bound steamer, our story goes deep within the haunted heart of the American West. A hidden source of hatred has gained visceral control of a farmer, who confesses for fear of his immortal soul to his priest.

The spine-tingling secret of the town lies in its murderous ritual, to serve the dark, awful power concealed within the stone mesa heart of the Native American reservation- inspired by the author's own life and travels in South Dakota.
Dracula's never better than when pitted against another mighty evil, so read Vlad and be glad!

Furthermore, DAK's next outing in Giant Size Dracula #5, with Death in a dirigible floating across skies of mountainous doom, is every bit as good as any single issue of Tomb of Dracula.

Originally, my picks included TOD #1, Tomb of Dracula limited series, 1993. I decided for clarity I’d just deal with the original color run, but TOD sequel 14 years later was a chilling contemporary update and reflection of all that made the series work.

Those four issues were my true gateway into the Wolfman/ Colan Dracula, as my local comic shop---I did not buy mail order comics back then, though I'd day dreamed over Mile High Comics ads for hours as a lad---lost most of its great 70's comics in a fire in 1987. Otherwise, there I would've found my early Starlin, Gerber, Wolfman, and Englehart comics, in addition to the Marvel Team Ups and such things as only a young Spider-Man absorbed fan would collect, without much knowledge of Man-Thing, Korvac, or Howard the Duck, which, again, were gone by the time I was earning enough dough to really collect.

As it is, ASM #123 with Luke Cage and Spider-Man was one of my first back issue buys, the first I ever tried to barter down (without success; still not my strength), and the Spidey and Iron Man goodies in the dime boxes back then were my pride and joy on those rare comics shop trips. As an adult, I have had a ball reading and even examining these stories for their craft and wit. The past two years have been a particular old comics delight, as California's been the place for several Comic Cons and eventually, the creation of D'n'A, our first comic book, as well as whatever we've produced since, as I write this September 4th, truly planning ahead for Dracula week.

The series really flows without breaking up, so it’s in actuality one story: that of Harker and Dracula.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

To play the vampire! Rome Little Theatre's Dracula friend got sick waiting for pictures

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to the Bite: Dracula's female predecessor

wiki from; carmilla; by Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla selected exclusively female victims, though only became emotionally involved with a few. Carmilla had nocturnal habits, but was not confined to the darkness. She had unearthly beauty and was able to change her form and to pass through solid walls. Her animal alter ego was a monstrous black cat, not a large dog as in Dracula. She did, however, sleep in a coffin.

 Some critics, among them William Veeder, suggest that Carmilla, notably in its outlandish use of narrative frames, was an important influence on Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Although Carmilla is a lesser known and far shorter Gothic vampire story than the generally-considered master work of that genre, Dracula, the latter is heavily influenced by Le Fanu's short story.

 In the earliest manuscript of Dracula, dated 8 March 1890, the castle is set in Styria, although the setting was changed to Transylvania six days later. Stoker's posthumously published short story "Dracula's Guest", known as the deleted first chapter to Dracula, shows a more obvious and intact debt to "Carmilla": Both stories are told in the first person. Dracula expands on the idea of a first person account by creating a series of journal entries and logs of different persons and creating a plausible background story for them having been compiled.

 Stoker also indulges the air of mystery further than Le Fanu by allowing the characters to solve the enigma of the vampire along with the reader. The descriptions of Carmilla and the character of Lucy in Dracula are similar, and have become archetypes for the appearance of the waif-like victims and seducers in vampire stories as being tall, slender, languid, and with large eyes, full lips and soft voices. Both women also sleepwalk. Stoker's Dr. Abraham Van Helsing is a direct parallel to Le Fanu's vampire expert Baron Vordenburg: both characters used to investigate and catalyse actions in opposition to the vampire, and symbolically represent knowledge of the unknown and stability of mind in the onslaught of chaos and death.[5]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

haunted halloween from the Tomb of Dracula! Resurrected

sorry! have to replace my keyboard! update soon! Lue

Six #28 (#s 26-29) four! But one story, really. 27’s a most bitchin’ one, but #29’s so poignant.
Five #32 Dracula 30-33 There’s four! But, another story, a single post. Diary, cross-threading plots

These two multi-part stories made a fast paced ride of terror in their serial form, published in 1974.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Patsy Walker and the revenge of the romance comic

When Patsy Walker gained the costume and powers of Hellcat in Avengers #144, the character was not, pardon the expression, made from whole cloth. In fact, writer Steve Englehart had rescued her from cancellation and obscurity by bringing her into the superhero comics of the day as a friend to his newly-transformed Hank McCoy, a.k.a. the Beast, created from X-Men comics. Patsy was the stand-alone survivor now of what was once the biggest comics genre of its day, a day when women readers, female adults, no less, were the surprising core of comics readership in America. From the site, "A very brief history of romance comics":

For the first and last time, adult women were major consumers of comics. (A)lthough the genre is largely dismissed by comics aficionados today, it was created by two of the most revered artists and writers of the time: Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, who kicked off Young Romance in 1947. Kirby and Simon had created Captain America in the early '40s, and Kirby is responsible for many famous superheroes, including Mighty Thor, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. Success followed the pair into romance comics, and by 1949 there were 120 romantic titles on the market, most of which were intended for an adult audience. (In fact, comics with more explicit themes, which were very common before the code, often carried bright orange labels which read For the more ADULT Reader of Comics.) By 1950, there were 148 different titles, and by the mid-fifties pretty much every comics publisher was churning out romance comics.
The Hellcat herself was born of another female superhero character, the Cat, whose day had come and gone in 1973, when she was written by Linda Fite (who I believe married longtime Hulk artist Herb Trimpe?). That character lives on today as Tigra, occasional Avenger herself. As for Hellcat, in DEFENDERS #44 she joined the team with which she became most identified. She's the last of the b and c list characters I planned to visit in this part of my blog. She was written as having different attitudes than her sister characters who seemed rushed out to take advantage of the new social trend of feminism, in that, for one, she actually liked men and took pleasure in their company. It's possible this involved a little wish fulfillment, but her friendship with feminist-banner character the Valkyrie, her unique enmity with her ex-husband Col. Buzz Baxter (also a carry-over from her romance comics days), her determination, guts and humor made her more than a symbol, and something like a relatable character, albeit with a bit of Mae West charm. However, she did not really get a star turn in those days, and is probably largely regarded as some kind of Catwoman knock-off---but of course, no Batman. Much ultra-serious strangeness involving Hell and insanity has been visited upon the character. Were she mine to write, as when I wrote her into my TRANZ pastiche (listed under the Defenders in this very blog), she'd be a sly, very modern woman, a quick friend with a devil may care attitude. Most superheroes probably have a two-dimensional personality with some additional complications added for dramatic potential. Someone adapted her in a limited series as a sort of Sex in the City character. One can only imagine a day when more women are comfortable enjoying the lost art of the comic book. With soap operas fading from the networks, there's a wide-open place in the pop culture for a serial adventure with strong women characters and the dazzling range of personalities that come with the fairer gender.