Dracula Lives offers a considerable bang for its six-bit cover price. There are three new Dracula features and three old Marvel (from the Atlas days) reprint strips. The reprints are from black and white horror comics and perfectly match Lives’s format. There’s also a Marv Wolfman article covering Dracula movies; Wolfman doesn’t contribute a script for any of the comics. The only places the comic’s not successful are the vampire movie stills with new dialogue; not sure if it was Bullpen interns or if the Marvel guys just aren’t funny, but they’re charmless. Worth skimming to get to the next comic, but charmless.
The first story is the main attraction—Gene Colan and Tom Palmer in glorious black and white. Gerry Conway writes; freed from the Comic Code, it’s so far his best work on a Marvel Dracula. The Count heads to New York City after reading a news blurb about a successful counter-culture psychic who says he’s reincarnated from some old foe of Dracula’s. So naturally, Drac’s going over to take revenge for past insults but isn’t prepared for the New York lifestyle… specifically sucking the blood of heroin addicts.
Though I suppose it’s the early seventies, they could’ve been potheads, which would make the entire thing much more amusing. Dracula whining about having too many edibles for a dozen pages.
But, no, it’s seemingly smack, so Dracula doesn’t just have to recover; he’s got to find a way to get around town in a beleaguered state. He meets a cool chick, and she helps him out—he keeps not having a good opportunity to bite her—before the showdown with the possibly reincarnated nemesis.
It’s a great comic. Colan and Palmer do a foggy, shadowy Manhattan with a good balance of horror and hip folks. And, again, Conway’s best writing on the character.
The second comic is another original Dracula, set in the past, about the first time the Count went to the United States. There’s a brief reference to it in the opening story (having been there before), but I wasn’t expecting an entire feature to explain it.
Roy Thomas writes, Alan Weiss and Dick Giordano do the art. It’s a Salem witch trial story. Dracula’s sick of his low-class vampire brides back in Transylvania, so he uses his dark magic to seek out a willing witchy wife. He, you know, murdered his current wives, turning them into vampires against their will, so they’re damaged goods. It’s not an inappropriate take, given Dracula’s an actual bad guy.
The art’s good, and Dracula’s kind of a swashbuckler-type when he’s around. Most of the story is about his bride-to-be’s problems with gross men (versus suave vampire men). It’s predictable but acceptable.
Then come the reprints, three in a row—interrupted, obviously, by the movie still bumpers and then Wolfman’s essay—and I kept wondering if there’d be another original story. They save it for last.
The first reprint is a Haitian zombie one with art by Tony DiPreta and no credited writer. It’s a little long at six pages but reasonably compelling. It’s moody as hell.
The second reprint is a two-pager about some guy wanting magic powers and the cost incurred from getting them. Bill La Cava art, no credited writer. It’s low okay, kind of set up for a punchline, but it’s a horror punchline, not a funny or ironic one.
The third reprint’s the best. Stan Lee script, Russ Heath art. An evil asylum owner gets what’s coming to him over seven surprising pages. The Heath art’s fantastic, but Lee’s has good characterizations and solid twists.
Then comes the final story, written by Steve Gerber, with art by Rich Buckler and Pablo Marcos. Buckler and Marcos somehow combine John Carradine’s Dracula with the swashbuckler to great effect. It’s the second-best, art-wise, with some great detail.
Dracula’s heard about a French scientist who can cure vampirism, and, feeling sad over that girl he knew from Salem a few hundred years ago, he heads over to see what’s up.
It’s not the best Dracula characterization—Gerber writes him a little too naive, especially if this story comes after the feature (though the loose continuity is only to the second, flashback story, not the contemporaneous one)—but the writing’s not bad. The plot’s predictable; the art’s where the story excels.
Dracula Lives is off to a superb start.