The Tomb of Dracula 25, 1974 “Night of the Blood Stalker!”

After spotlighting generic vampires, Morbius multiple times, and Dracula in a special issue and magazines, I thought it was well past time to dive into Marvel’s best horror comic of the decade (and all time), The Tomb of Dracula! Most probably know this villain from either the Universal film (starring Bela Lugosi), or the Hammer Studio films (starring the insanely menacing Christopher Lee as the count). The character has been embedded in our culture for a very long time (thanks to Bram Stoker). By the time the 1970s rolled around, and the comics code was loosened, it was high time for this horror giant to get his own series! This issue is a favorite of mine, as it features the first appearance of vampire detective Hannibal King, and my favorite panel of the series of all time (final image at the bottom).

Marv Wolfman (writer) has gone on record saying he really had no interest in writing this book, but as fortune would have it, he did anyway (starting with issue #7). He and artist Gene Colan (pencils) would work very close together on this title, and for seventy issues, they knocked it out of the park. Another reason the book succeeded was inker Tom Palmer. Colan has very intricate pencils, and quite a few inkers have had a tough time not drowning the pencils out, but Palmer was perfect for the job. Palmer also colored quite a few issues as well (including this one), and again you get a quality and consistency from a tight-knit team working hand in hand. The letters were provided by John Costanza. A lot of the covers were provided by the comic book giant, Gil Kane (Palmer on inks here as well). Kane’s incredible covers carried Marvel through most of the decade, and it just adds to his enormous breadth of work.

 

 

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Spider-Man vs Dracula (Giant-Size Spider-Man 1, 1974)!

Back in the 1990s, there was still a good bit of material being reprinted from decades earlier. Case in point, Marvel Tales ran until 1994 (starting in 1966)! Almost thirty years of reprinted material, and that feat is nothing short of…dare I say spectacular? There were also one-shots, oversized books, etc., including this one from 1993/4. “The Spider and the Bat” recounts the first ever meeting between the 1970s king of monsters, Dracula, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

The cover for the original book is pretty good (John Romita, cover at the very bottom, borrowed from the interwebs), but the reprint isn’t the greatest. I’m not the biggest Joe Mad fan, (so keep that in mind) but I can’t imagine too many people thinking this is one of his (or anyone else) best. The story is by perennial comic book great, the late Len Wein. The man was seemingly one of the nicest men to ever grace the industry ( I met him once at a NYCC and he was cool), and created some very good content in his day, plus was editor on some of the best works in the industry. For the artistic duties, we have the team of Ross Andru (pencils) and Don Heck (inks). A solid team as far as this book goes for sure, and they tell a great visual story together.  John Kalisz (colors) John Costanza (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative force behind this cool book! There are also two reprints from the Silver Age in the back as well and both are about vampires!

 

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 142, 1971 “The Man from Transilvane!”

If you would’ve told a comic book reader in the 1960s that Jack Kirby would soon be working for DC comics, and writing/drawing/editing a story about Superman vs a vampire, I’m sure there would’ve been some laughs. Well, welcome to 1971, where Kirby has again returned to DC and was given the freedom to create with very little oversight (other than DC being fools and redrawing his faces). He took over the lowly title of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, as to not bump another creator off of a good book. Yeah, that’s the kind of guy he was!

Inside we see the normal bombastic Kirby images that are larger than life, and exploding off of the page. A vampire, a werewolf (type creature), and of course the regulars from Metropolis. Clark and Jimmy need to find out why Laura Conway is acting strangely and why she has two puncture wounds on her neck! It doesn’t take long for the perpetrator to rear his sinister head, and the action is full on!

The cover has inks by Mike Royer, and his work with Kirby in this era is great (more of their work coming soon!). The interiors were inked by the oft maligned Vince Colletta, but honestly, they look fine in this issue. There are also a few pages of bonus material by the King, and a Newsboy Legion reprint with Joe Simon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dracula Lives! 11, 1975 “Pit of Death!” and ” Lilith Unleashed!”

In trying to focus on more mags from the Bronze Age, I thought it was time Dracula made an appearance! The Count has a long history in Marvel Comics, and although the black and white mags are awesome, nothing compares to the Tomb of Dracula series that Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan worked on together. That said, don’t sell these stories short, because they have some fantastic creators on them! Speaking of which, inside the front cover, we see an incredible illustration by Bob Hall (first image after the cover)! It remains one of my all time favorite images of Dracula.

The meat of the book has some excellent work. The biggest part of the book is the adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel Dracula by Roy “The Boy” Thomas and Dick Giordano. It’s only one chapter but the pages are incredible. It was never finished in these format but both men finished it years later and it was reproduced in a trade/HC.

Another magnificent tale (part two) “Agents of Hell” is by Doug Moench and Tony DeZuniga. We see a young man trapped in the catacombs of a castle, and he must fight off the brides of Dracula, but even if he survives, can he defeat the greatest vampire that ever existed? That story is followed by “The Vampire of Mednegna.” This story shows a man named Arnold Paole, as he returns from a trip to Greece, but he has returned a very different man. Again, we get Doug Moench (writer) but the artwork was by Golden Age stalwart, Win Mortimer!

Finally we see a very graphic tale starring none other than Dracula’s daughter, Lilith! Within just a few short panels, she tears a rapist to pieces! This is a very different story though (not just blood and guts), and a must read because the author is none other than Steve “Baby” Gerber! The artwork is credited to three gentlemen that are names synonymous with the Bronze Age- Bob Brown, Frank Chiaramonte, and Pablo Marcos!

And let us not forget the cover that was painted by Steve Fabian!

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Top Ten Hammer Films!

Lets cut to the chase, I’m a Hammer studios addict, and that being said, we all know they’re the greatest studio to produce horror films that ever was, is, and will be. With stars like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Veronica Carlson, then adding great character actors like Michael Ripper, Oliver Reed, Andrew Keir, Andre Morell, etc., and under the direction of Terence Fisher, John Gilling, Anthony Hinds, and Jimmy Sangster, their films have no competition (overall in the broad sense).

Obviously an argument could be made for Universal, but I tend to look at it as Universal being the foundation and Hammer being the house. Yes, you do need a solid foundation but no one looking to be a home owner is excited about stone and mortar. When is the last time a party-goer entered a house and complimented the owner on the cinder blocks? Important, yes. The best part, I think not.

So, with all that being said, here are my top ten Hammer Studio films! Keep in mind, just straight up horror films here for the most part! Enjoy!

 

10. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

  • This film isn’t perfect by any means, and the rape scene is absolutely ludicrous (Dr. Frankenstein would never commit that act). But when there is action a-plenty, gruesome murders, and one scene of dialogue in particular that sums up the good doctor perfectly. Cushing is on top of his game for sure in this film, as usual. Oh, and the gorgeous (and most beautiful Hammer girl in my humble opinion) Veronica Carlson is in this film.

9. The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)

  • A Hammer film about a Yeti? Yes! This black and white gem is nothing short of incredible. It’s not because a Yeti invades an encampment and starts tearing people’s limbs off, then beating them over the head with them (although that would be cool), it’s because the film builds tension and the suspense is great. Think John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Yes, in that film there are plenty of gruesome moments, but its the suspense he builds that makes the film outstanding.

8. The Reptile (1966)

  • 1966 was a great year for Hammer studios. Five films and four of them were very solid films. This one in particular is a favorite of mine because of Jacqueline Pearce. She portrays a young woman who is seemingly kept prisoner by her own father. We later find out why he’s so overbearing. Her performance is quite good along with a larger than usual role for Hammer stalwart, Michael Ripper. Anytime he gets more screen time, the film is better for it! Good sets and atmosphere in this flick.

7. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

  • Not wanting to be typecast, Christopher Lee bowed out of playing Dracula after Hammer’s first film starring the count (more on that one later). The franchise did suffer without him briefly, but he returned to the role that put him on the map a few years later in this film. With no dialogue (Lee has his version why and so does Jimmy Sangster (the writer) about why), Lee manages to be extremely menacing and cements himself as the best Dracula ever.

6. The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

  • In this movie, André Morell shows us just how good he can be in a horror film. Not only is he the “hero,” but also a concerned, loving father, a friend, a smartypants, and a gentleman, all at once. throw in another appearance by the lovely Jacqueline Pearce, along with Diane Clare, John Carson (a great lout in this one!), and once again, Michael Ripper! Great atmospherics, music (James Bernard), and sets in this one.

5. The Gorgon (1964)

  • This one is based on a classic Greek myth of old and stars Cushing, Lee, Shelley, and had Terence Fisher directing, and John Gilling writing. The gang’s all here for this one, and it really does put on quite a show. An insane asylum, a corrupt town hiding a secret, Cushing in more of a heel role with Lee more of the hero along with a fine performance by Richard Pasco. This is a film that can be watched every so often and never get tiresome. Another film with a noteworthy musical score as well as excellent sets.

4. (Horror of) Dracula (1958)

  • The first Dracula film by Hammer, and it’s still probably the best Cushing/Lee team up of all time. Cushing is an excellent Dr. Van Helsing, and Lee was born to wear the fangs and hiss at audiences with blood dripping from his lips. Michael Gough is also on top of his game here with George Woodbridge in a small role as he had in multiple Hammer films. Never miss an opportunity to see this film.

3. The Mummy (1959)

  • Hammer really went away from the original 1932 film (Boris Karloff), borrowing elements from other films and adding in their own ingredients, and mixing it all together. This film is definitely in Peter Cushing’s top five performances of all time. He really commands the scenes and shows why he, along with Lee are the faces of Hammer films. Very good sets, and the action scenes are tremendous.

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

  • Another film with the dual threat of Cushing and Lee, we also get André Morell as well! In this adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous novel, we see Cushing (Sherlock Homes) and André Morell (Dr. Watson), play off of each other wonderfully. Throw in a solid performance by Christopher Lee, an incredible score by James Bernard, all under the watchful eye of director Terence Fisher, and you get one of Hammer’s best films no matter what genre you compare it to!

And the number one film is…

 

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

  • In this first horror film collaboration between Cushing and Lee, you can see the teamwork and power these two have together. Cushing is perfect for his role as the morally ambiguous doctor, as is Lee in his depiction of the unfortunate creature. Good performances by Robert Urquhart, Hazel Court, and Valerie Gaunt, add to the great gift this film truly is for film addicts. The beginning of the film, the flashback that dovetails around right back to the beginning/end is marvelous in every sense that a film can be. This is the one that started it all (the great horror run for Hammer)!

Honorable mention for films that didn’t quite make the cut (pardon the pun)!

Brides of Dracula (1961)

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

 

 

Giant Size Dracula #4, 1974! “The Demon of Devil’s Lake”

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You know, I’m a huge fan of the Tomb of Dracula series, mostly because of Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman, but anything with Dracula is worth reading in my opinion! Check out this great cover by Gil Kane! This story was exceptional, and I look forward to talking about the entire series, plus great books like this Giant Size offering from David Kraft, Marv Wolfman, Don Heck, Frank Springer, Artie Simek, Petra Goldberg, and Len Wein! Enjoy!