There’s a thirteen-page Neal Adams warlord Dracula comic this issue, and I don’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Like, it’s gorgeous. Of course, the other stories have good art, too… well, the Gene Colan and Dick Giordano one, but the Adams one is kind of an immediate classic.
I started reading Dracula Lives because the Tomb of Dracula editors’ notes promised it’d fill in the backstory. Given Tomb’s unsteady continuity, I got curious; I’d also heard Dracula Lives was pretty good, the PG-17 version of TOD. But it’s not addressing the main series’s continuity issues.
Adams’s art is on the Dracula origin story, written by Marv Wolfman. Set in the fifteenth century, it begins with Dracula falling in battle against the Turks. They find him almost dead and decide to puppet him around to get everyone else to surrender, bringing him to a gypsy who swears she’ll make him right. Well, maybe, baby, the gypsy lied. She’s a vampire, and she’s going to turn Dracula for being such a shit to her people.
So, a note. Punishing a megalomaniac by making them immortal seems like a strange choice.
But the story does give vampire Dracula a better origin than, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He renounces his bad acts, which put his loving wife and little baby son in danger. He’s sympathetic, partially because the lead Turk is cartoonishly evil—though not cartoonish because Adams’s art is detailed and exuberantly so. It’s a good origin. Well-written by Wolfman, singular art by Adams.
Doesn’t answer any questions about Dracula knowing the vampire hunters from after the novel and before TOD #1.
Then there’s an old Atlas horror reprint; no credited writer, and Joe Sinnott art. It’s about a grave keeper swindling the local vampires. It’s a fairly by-the-numbers horror strip, and it’s pretty dang good. Sinnott’s got a good sense of humor, a lot of personality in his characters, and great use of shadows.
So there are two reprints, three original stories, and some of those one-page Dracula movie stills with new “dialogue,” but there’s also Chris Claremont doing a text piece. It’s a letter to the editor about how Bram Stoker got Dracula wrong. It’s not great, but it’s okay. What’s strange about it is the timing–Dracula Lives #2 came out in 1973, and two years later, Fred Saberhagen’s The Dracula Tape came out. Tape’s all from Dracula’s perspective; it’s different from Claremont’s piece, but there are resemblances. Enough to wonder.
The text piece delays the weak comic. Written by Tony Isabella, from a Steve Gerber plot, with art by Jim Starlin (layouts by Jim Starlin) and Syd Shores finishing. Shores draws everyone like a caricature, which is something. But the story’s about Castle Dracula during World War II when Nazis occupied it and terrorized the local gypsies. One night a vampire appears, but it can’t be Dracula because Van Helsing killed him.
It should be good.
It’s not. But it should be. The art’s not good enough, the writing’s not good enough, but the concept’s not terrible. Though it directly contradicts TOD continuity.
The second reprint is a Stan Lee-penned entry, also an Atlas, about a corrupt politician who hires guys to vote using dead people’s names. Men, specifically, though that detail’s not a plot point.
Fred Kida does the art.
Art’s fine. Story’s really long without much pay-off.
The art in the final story, another original, makes up for it. It’s the Colan and Giordano art. Dracula in New Orleans. Gene Colan drawing the French Quarter with Dick Giordano inking. It’s glorious.
Roy Thomas writes. It’s an okay story about Dracula mysteriously waking up in New Orleans—directly following last issue’s New York adventure—and it’s got something to do with voodoo queen Marie Laveau. The story opens with a cemetery tour where the guide is talking about Laveau (then saying people who go into debt deserve to die, don’t you agree, which is a bizarre bit of dialogue), and it just happens to figure into the Dracula plot.
Story doesn’t matter; it’s all about the art. Art’s absolutely fantastic and not even as good as the Adams art on the first story.
The story also has a panel with The Zombie (Simon Garth), telling everyone to check out his new comic, which is an interesting bit of Marvel shared universe cross-promotion. It’s like reading a Spider-Man comic or something.
So, overall, three of the five stories are good, two are middling, the text piece isn’t terrible, and the photo dialogue things are bad but brief. Dracula Lives is a heck of a comic. Especially when it’s got such exceptional art.