Dracula Lives (1973) #8

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I may be committing sacrilege, but I’m not a fan of Pablo Marcos’s Dracula. Sure, the outfit looks good, but Dracula himself—with his seventies stash—looks more like a plumber than the prince of darkness. The issue opens with a Marcos pin-up; I’m not just taking the chance to gripe.

In other words, I was again concerned a few pages into Dracula Lives. Would the book continue its seemingly inevitable downward trajectory?

Nope.

There are still causes for concern. The issue has even less content than the previous one, with no movie review, no Atlas horror reprint, just an even longer prose piece. Chris Claremont has the honors this time. He’s better than many of the prose writers—possibly the best even—but it’s still… a prose piece in a comic book. Also, Claremont repeats the same paragraph structure every third or fourth one, which leaps out. Marcos contributes the art.

And the Bram Stoker’s Dracula adaptation is losing momentum, primarily because of Dick Giordano. This issue’s entry involves Jonathan Harker loitering around Castle Dracula, waiting for the story to take off; Giordano’s got very little enthusiasm for Jonathan Harker. I get it; lack of enthusiasm for Jonathan Harker is the big problem with Dracula.

Harker spends most of this chapter alone, during the day, no vampires in sight. I’m guessing Roy Thomas faithfully adapted the novel because the doldrums are familiar. It’s not a horror story right now; it’s a Victorian hostage thriller; Giordano’s not the guy for Victorian hostage thrillers.

Just like all Dracula adaptations, they promise once Drac gets to London next issue, it’ll start getting good.

But the issue’s also got two excellent original stories. The first is from Doug Moench and Tony DeZuñiga. DeZuñiga’s art is lush and gorgeous and a perfect fit for the plot. Though I just realized the story’s somewhat out-of-order; it’s a “Dracula’s U.S. Vacation,” which Lives has been loosely doing, only I thought he already went home.

Anyway.

Drac’s in New York to get back the artifacts Americans grave robbed from his castle. Moench’s got a simultaneously thin and potent subplot about Dracula becoming a pop icon and everyone being fascinated with him. Neither Lives nor Tomb addresses the general Marvel-616 public’s reaction to Dracula being real. I’m not even sure Moench’s making that flex (it’s thin, after all), but there’s also potential.

But this one’s not about the artifacts (maybe next time). Instead, it’s Dracula versus New York beat cop. Moench cuts from Dracula’s perspective to this copper’s; he hates his job, hates the working poor, and wants to quit; just one more night. And, wouldn’t you know it, Dracula attacks the streetwalker the copper didn’t arrest, and the cop intervenes.

It quickly becomes an action piece; the cop injures Dracula (slightly), but enough Dracula decides to destroy the cop. But he’s also hungry.

Great art from DeZuñiga, good script from Moench. It’s really effective.

The second original is from Len Wein, Gene Colan, and Ernie Chan. Once again, Chan proves a perfectly able inker for Colan—at least in black and white—which continues to surprise.

Thank goodness for the art. Wein’s script is surprisingly okay, but the story’s absolutely goofy. The year is 1936, and Dracula is in Rome. He’s hitting on the ladies, even when those ladies belong to the local mob bosses.

Except these mob bosses aren’t like the Sicilians from The Godfather Part II; they’re 1930s Hollywood gangster types. In the extremis. Incredibly, Colan and Chan can get away with it even as the story lends itself more to a spoofy style. It ought to be absurd comedy; thanks to the art, it’s not.

The more interesting part of the story is Dracula and the ladies. Wein writes brief flirtation and courtship scenes for Dracula and his lady victims, only without Dracula—in his thought balloons—acknowledging he’s going to kill them. They’ll be dead, and he’ll wonder what happened to that lovely Italian gal he liked so much. Still, there are some stories only Len Wein could write, and this story is one of them. Multiple times it seems like it ought to be entirely derailed, only Wein’s chugging along just fine.

Also, Colan and Chan’s Rome is absolutely incredible. Such good art.

Even as its problems continue piling up, Dracula Lives remains a very worthy read.

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