In 1954, the Comics Code prohibited vampires from being shown in comic books that bore its seal. That didn’t last… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Tomb of Dracula #1 awaits!
Writer: Gerry Conway/Roy Thomas (Plot)
Penciler: Gene Colan
Inker: Gene Colan
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 20 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $146.00
Previously in Tomb of Dracula: In 1971, the Comics Code Authority (a body assembled by the Comics Magazine Association of America, using a code based on the Hays Commission movie production code of the 1930s) adjusted their regulations to allow not only the depiction of corruption in public officials, but a soupçon of sexual content and the protrayal of vampires, werewolves and other monsters for the first time in over a decade. The response at Marvel Comics was a wave of “monster heroes”, such as Morbius, Werewolf By Night and Ghost Rider, but none had the cache of today’s protagonist: Bram Stoker’s Dracula himself! We open with a man named Frank Drake, along with his friend and his lady love, making their way through the European countryside.
Drake has come to the wilds of Transylvania in search of his family inheritance, a castle that has passed down through the generations, since before the Drake family changed their name. Having blown through his family fortune, Frank and his pal Clifton have come in the hopes of finally selling the castle and getting a little liquidity. But even Clifton didn’t entirely believe the rest of the story, the part where Frank explained his original, more famous family name: Dracula!
Bram Stoker’s novel is a non-fiction in the Marvel Universe, my friends, and Frank is living proof. Things are pretty awkward between Frank and Clifton by this time, though, as Frank’s current squeeze, Jeanie, is actually Clifton’s ex. Once they arrive at Castle Dracula, Frank finds things eerily familiar, as though he has been dreaming of the drafty stone hallways all his life. While investigating, Frank’s idiot friend Cliff falls through a rotting floor into a hidden catacomb, where he discovers the tomb of dracula himself. (We have a TITLE DROP!)
But, hey, what’s the worst that could happen?
Cliff’s nefarious intentions of scamming Drake and marrying Jeanie for her money pale in comparison to the awakend blood-thirst of the legendary vampire, who ignores the bullets of Cliff’s revolver before throwing him into his dungeon!
The newly-awakened Count Dracula then sets his sights on the lovely female voice that echoes through his castle. Gene Colan is in rare form in this issue, using the shadows of Castle Dracula to great effect throughout the issue, especially in the hypnotic eyes of Count Dracula. Jeanie is quickly mesmerized by the arcane power of the undead, but since it’s the 1970s, Frank responds with a healing dose of domestic violence.
Only Jeanie’s antique silver compact saves her from a life of the undead, and that only temporarily, as Dracula makes his way to town to drain a barmaid, then returns for Jeanie’s blood! Frank fights valiantly against his “cousin”, only to fall to the strength of the vampire, followed by draining Jean of her life-fluids. Frank uses the silver compact again, stumbling out into the night with the corpse of his beloved, only to have her open her eyes and explain that not only is she NOT dead… she can now NEVER DIE. It’s a chilling ending, made even more so by the creepiness of Colan’s art, and the final panel sets the stage for a long run of Dracula stories. Tomb of Dracula #1 is an unusual book, made even more so by the fact that the title character is actually the villain of the piece, but Colan’s art is excellent, overcoming even the parts where Conway’s dialogue chews the scenery a bit too much, serving as the catalyst for one of Marvel’s most unexpected hits, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.
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TOMB OF DRACULA #1
Wolfman's not here to build the cast and adventures yet, but it's still an interesting launch featuring Gene Colan doing inspired and eerie art throughout.