Everybody remembers Marv Wolfman as the co-creator of the New Teen Titans, the series that save DC Comics.  But did you know that, nearly a decade before, his first big comic hit featured the vamp that out-vamped ’em all?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Tomb Of Dracula #10 awaits!

TombOfDracula10CoverTOMB OF DRACULA #10
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciler: Gene Colan
Inker: Jack Abel
Colorist: Petra Goldberg
Letterer: Denise Wohl
Editor: Roy Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 20 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $320.00

Previously in Tomb Of Dracula: In 1971, The Comics Code Authority, whose code of conduct had been ironclad since 1954, loosened the strictures regarding the appearance of traditional monsters in comics.  Though they had already tested the waters with Spider-Man villain Morbius (whose “living vampire” shtick was named specifically to remind readers that he was NOT undead), Marvel decided to mine the public domain for their newest protagonist.  The first few issues of ‘Tomb Of Dracula’ were somethign a mish-mash, some drawing heavily on Hammer Horror, others on Universal Monsters, but none really had (you should excuse the expression) teeth.  That is, none had teeth until young Marv Wolfman, freshly arrived from the Distinguished Competition to take over the title with issue #7.  Just three issues into his run, Wolfman, along with legendary penciler Gene Colan and company, created a character who would have longer-lasting effect than anyone could have imagined.

We open on an abandoned dock, as a group of vampires swoops in to eat an innocent couple, only to be interrupted by an unwelcome visitor!

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Blade, The Vampire Killer knows how to make one hell of an entrance, taking out two blood-suckers in four panels with his special knives made of teak-wood (what modern-day Buffy fans would probably just call a “stake”) and turning his attention to the third…

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Even in his bat-form (which, I have to mention, is super-creepy, so kudos to Colan and Abel), the monster isn’t fast enough to escape Blade’s eponymous weapon.  As the creature returns to human form in death, Blade remarks that the creature is “not the one”, an odd statement that doesn’t get closure, thanks to the arrival of Quincy Harker, the now-elderly son of the heroes of the original Dracula novel from 1890-something…

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Harker, the head of an extensive international organization dedicated to destroying Count Dracula, has harsh words for the hot-headed young interloper, blaming him for sabotaging Harker’s own attempts to track Drac.  Blade has no use for Harker’s rhetoric, stalking (or is that “night-stalking?”) away into the night, barely missing Quincy Harker’s quiet admission of admiration for his tenacity and skills.  As for the titular Dracula, he is off-shore, as the special guest of a moneyed do-nothing jerk who wants to show off for his likewise-rich friends…

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The dilettantes and debutantes are charmed by his old-world appeal, and Dracula plays his part well, demurring that his family is merely plagued by rumors of drinking blood and impalements.  After all, were the stories true, he’d have to be well over 500 years old…

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Of course, it’s all a facade: He DOES drink blood, his is a centuries-old monster, and his plan is to use those abilities to control and influence the minds of the weak-willed heiresses and layabouts, thereby building his empire in the new world.  Draining the pretty blonde woman for strength, Count Dracula swiftly takes action, commandeering the ship!

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One thing that always impressed me about ‘Tomb’, artist Gene Colan didn’t draw his visual influence from Christopher Lee or Bela Lugosi, the big-name Draculas of film, but instead from actor Jack Palance…  (Believe it…  or NOT.)  It’s a strong visual choice, and one that gives Marvel’s Dracula the ability for wild expressions to match Colan’s flowing pencils.  Moving the ship to his course, Dracula then undertakes the task of subjugating the wills of the passengers…

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Firearms prove useless against a creature of legend, but a hidden cross turns the tables on the uber-vampire, allowing the panicked passengers to overwhelm him…

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As Blade arrives (by scuba-suit, which is right on the border between super-cool and goofy as heck), the Count easily escapes their clumsy attacks, going full-on crazy blah King of Darkness in their confused faces…

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And thus, for the first time ever, the greatest Vampire in all history faces down with the greatest Vampire Slayer not portrayed by a woman named Sarah, in stake-to-fang combat!

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At a time when super-hero stories were getting pretty moribund (especially at Marvel, whose sixties fountain of creativity had become much more of a status-quo-is-God world), the anti-heroes of the “monster books” made for an interesting new paradigm.  Blade isn’t really heroic at all (readers would soon find that he had a very specific goal in his vamp-hunting) and the character who headlines the book is a literal monster, giving us the first taste of the anti-hero model that would sweep the entire comic industry 20 years later.  Blade’s distraction (and the return of the blonde whom Dracula had vampirized) breaks his hold on the cruise ship slaves, leading the King Of The Vampires to retreat…

Of course, he loaded the ship with explosives, just in case.

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What a jerk…

As first appearances go, Blade could have done worse.  His basic M.O. and determination are clearly present, the big duffel coat isn’t the worst early costume of Marvel’s 70s debuts (witness Ms. Marvel’s drafty one-piece) and even though we don’t find out his biggest secret yet, it’s hinted at throughout the issue.  Moreover, he gets one up on the biggest name in vampires, leaving Tomb Of Dracula #10 with a well-deserved 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  At a time when Marvel was searching for a new voice, Wolfman provided it, making a surprise hit out of ‘Tomb’ and eventually resulting in superstar status for Blade, which led to his movies and paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  So, in short, this comic is the pathway to 35 years of Marvel stories, which makes the high pricetag in high grade perfectly understandable…

Everybody remembers Marv Wolfman as the co-creator of the New Teen Titans, the series that save DC Comics.  But did you know that, nearly a decade before, his first big comic hit featured the vamp that out-vamped 'em all?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Tomb Of Dracula #10 awaits! TOMB OF DRACULA #10 Writer: Marv Wolfman Penciler: Gene Colan Inker: Jack Abel Colorist: Petra Goldberg Letterer: Denise Wohl Editor: Roy Thomas Publisher: Marvel Comics Cover Price: 20 Cents Current Near-Mint Pricing: $320.00 Previously in Tomb Of Dracula: In 1971, The Comics Code Authority, whose code of conduct had been…
Colan is a genius, Wolfman is finding his stride, and Blade gets a strong debut, making for a pretty good read...

TOMB OF DRACULA #10

Writing
Art
Coloring

Colan is a genius, Wolfman is finding his stride, and Blade gets a strong debut, making for a pretty good read...

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. July 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm — Reply

    Is it a lack of imagination or a deliberate rip-off of that Batman logo that is artistically drawn into Tomb of Dracula?

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