Friday 2 April 2010

Tomb of Dracula #23.

Tomb of Dracula #23 What would happen if Dracula came up against Aleister Crowley?

He'd flatten him of course.

And that's exactly what happens in this tale, as the count of crepuscular comes up against the ghost of Alestar Dunwick, a villain so clearly based on, "The world's wickedest man," that writer Marv Wolfman couldn't even be bothered with changing his name completely.

Dunwick's ghost is being a naughty boy, keeping his niece prisoner in his ex-home for purposes of evil-doing. Needless to say, Dracula soon puts a stop to that and, in the niece, has a new recruit to his cause,

I might as well own up, when it comes to my favourite Marvel title of the 1970s, it's a toss-up between Steve Gerber's Defenders and Marv Wolfman/Gene Colan's Tomb of Dracula, and this issue, #23, was the first TOD tale I ever had.

It shows how perspective changes as you get older because, aside from the fact it was about Dracula, the thing that made me buy this issue as a kid was the front cover. Which is ironic because, with its cheap melodrama - not to mention wild misrepresentation of events within - I'd now see it as the weakest thing about the comic. Still, it does give Gil Kane and Tom Palmer a chance to join forces and I'm not sure if they ever did so outside the covers of Tomb of Dracula, so at least it has something to recommend it.

As always with this strip, the story inside's a wonderfully atmospheric thing. Gene Colan had a style that wasn't always suited to super-heroes - although he did have distinguished runs on Daredevil and Iron Man - but, when it came to horror, his love of light, shade and awkward angles was perfect. And who better to ink him than Tom Palmer, a man equally adept with light and shade and who was, along with the now sadly departed Dick Giordano, my favourite inker of the era.

With a villain clearly modelled on Crowley and a plot lifted from Roddy McDowalls' Legend of Hell House, Marv Wolfman wasn't exactly being original with this tale but that doesn't matter. Tomb of Dracula was always about style and mood and, as with most of the Wolfman/Colan run, this has it in spades. The only negative I'd have to make about it is it features a quick glimpse of Dracula's daughter Lilith who always tied Dracula's comic too closely to the mainstream world of Marvel by running around dressed like a super-villain. Whereas Werewolf by Night could somehow get away with inhabiting the same world as the likes of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, the presence of such things in the world of Dracula was always jarring and, for me, had a weakening effect on the strip whenever they appeared.


Simon B said...

That's a great issue, Steve! I love Drac's payoff line to Dunwick:
"I am Dracula, ghost... and I am a greater hell than any you could ever imagine."

BTW I wonder if Marv adapted the character's surname from Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror?

Steve said...

I think it's a safe bet that's where Wolfie got the surname from. Speaking of names, was there ever a more appropriate name for a writer of horror comics than "Wolfman"?

tharg said...

I'm reading the Essential series of ToD at the moment.

Well, when I say "reading", I mean I am mostly gaping in awe at Gene Colan's artwork. He did fantastic work on Daredevil as well of course.

Colan had a real talent at indicating movement. Its hard to imagine any other artist doing the "Drac turning into bat or smoke" trick in such a believable way.

More ToD reviews please! :-)

Steve W. said...

Tharg, there's a couple more TOD reviews here - - along with some other Dracula-related postings.