The Tomb of Dracula is an American horror comic book series published by Marvel Comics from April 1972 to August 1979.
The seventy issue series featured a group of vampire hunters who fought Count Dracula and other supernatural menaces. On rare occasions, Dracula would work with these vampire hunters against a common threat or battle other supernatural threats on his own, but more often than not, he was the antagonist rather than protagonist.
In addition to his supernatural battles in this series, Marvel’s Dracula often served as a supervillain to other characters in the Marvel Universe, battling the likes of Blade, Spider-Man, Werewolf by Night, the X-Men, and the licensed Robert E. Howard character Solomon Kane.
In 1971, the Comics Code Authority relaxed some of its longstanding rules regarding horror comics, such as a virtual ban on vampires. Marvel had already tested the waters with a “quasi-vampire” character, Morbius, the Living Vampire, but the company was now prepared to launch a regular vampire title as part of its new line of horror books.
After some discussion, it was decided to use the Dracula character, in large part because it was the most famous vampire to the general public, and also because Bram Stoker’s creation and secondary characters were by that time in the public domain.
The series suffered from lack of direction for its first year; most significantly, each of the first three issues was plotted by a different writer. Though Gerry Conway is credited as sole writer of issue #1, the plot was actually written by Roy Thomas and editor Stan Lee, and Conway did not get his hands on the issue until it had already been fully drawn. Conway was allowed to plot issue #2 by himself, and wrote a story heavily influenced by the British Hammer Films – a striking departure from the first issue, which was derivative of Universal’s monster movies. Conway then quit the book due to an overabundance of writing assignments, and was replaced by Archie Goodwin with issue #3. Goodwin quit after only two issues, but also made major changes to the series’s direction, including the introduction of cast members Rachel Van Helsing and Taj Nital.
New writer Gardner Fox took the series in yet another direction, and introduced a romance between Frank Drake and Rachel Van Helsing, which would remain a subplot for the rest of the series. However, Thomas (who had by this time succeeded Lee as the editor of The Tomb of Dracula) felt that Fox’s take didn’t work, and took him off the book after only two issues.
The title gained stability and hit its stride when Marv Wolfman became scripter with the seventh issue. The entire run of The Tomb of Dracula was penciled by Gene Colan, with Tom Palmer inking all but #1, 2, and 8-11. Gil Kane drew many of the covers for the first few years, as he did for many other Marvel titles. Colan based the visual appearance of Marvel’s Dracula not on Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, or any other actor who had played the vampire on film, but rather on actor Jack Palance. Palance would subsequently play Dracula in a television production of Stoker’s novel the year after The Tomb of Dracula debuted.
The Tomb of Dracula #44 featured a crossover story with Doctor Strange #14, another series which was being drawn by Colan at the time. The Tomb of Dracula ran for 70 issues, until 1979. As cancellation loomed, Wolfman made to wrap up the storyline and lingering threads by issue #72. But Jim Shooter, then the editor-in-chief, retroactively cut two issues after the artwork had been completed for three. As Wolfman recalled,
I think I realized we were doing a finite story and to continue that storyline would have pushed it into repetition. … I wrote the final three issues and they were drawn. Jim was someone that when he liked you there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you, and when he didn’t, there was nothing he would do. He and I had butted heads often since I had been editor-in-chief before him … and I was also the editor of TOD, which rankled him as I didn’t have to listen to his ideas. Anyway, I said the stories were done and I needed the room. He gave me a double-sized last issue, I really needed a triple-sized book. I was stuck and had to find a way to cut 14 pages from the printed book. Thank God I hadn’t dialogued them all yet, so I cut [up] pages, rearranged stuff then dialogued it so it read smoothly.’
Twelve of those pages, which Wolfman had saved as photocopies, appeared in the hardcover reprint collection Tomb of Dracula Omnibus Vol. 2. The series culminated with the death of Quincy Harker and Dracula’s apparent death and dispersal.
The color title was succeeded by a black-and-white magazine, with stories also drawn by Gene Colan, that lasted six issues. This featured stand-alone Dracula stories and also included artwork from other artists, notably Steve Ditko. These stories were more adult in nature than the original comic, and they have been subsequently edited to remove nudity from the collected volumes that appeared as part of the Marvel Essentials series.
An earlier magazine, Dracula Lives!, published by the Marvel imprint Curtis Magazines, ran from 1973 to 1975. This was also the title of Marvel’s UK horror comic, which reprinted stories from Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Man-Thing and other Marvel horror titles. The colour comic was also supplemented by a “Giant-Size” companion quarterly that ran for five issues in the mid-1970s. Artist John Byrne’s first story for Marvel Comics was “Dark Asylum” published in Giant-Size Dracula #5 (June 1975).
Several years later, Dracula encountered the X-Men twice. Although Dracula (and all other vampires in the Marvel Universe) were eventually destroyed by the mystical Montessi Formula in the pages of Doctor Strange #62 (December 1983), the vampire lord was revived. Marvel published a four-issue Tomb of Dracula miniseries, reuniting Wolfman and Colan, under its Epic Comics imprint in 1991, and revived Dracula and his foes in the short-lived Nightstalkers and Blade series in the 1990s. Some unresolved plot threads from The Tomb of Dracula were addressed in the final three issues of Nightstalkers. These included the fates of Dracula’s bride Domini, their son Janus, and vampire-hunter Taj Nital. Dracula took the title role in the miniseries Dracula: Lord of the Undead.
Two more four-issue miniseries followed. Stoker’s Dracula continued and concluded the adaptation of the original Bram Stoker novel Dracula by writer Roy Thomas and artist Dick Giordano, which had begun in Dracula Lives 30 years prior.Another Tomb of Dracula miniseries followed found Blade joined a new team of vampire hunters to prevent Dracula achieving godhood. Apocalypse vs. Dracula featured Dracula battling Apocalypse, an immortal foe of the superhero team the X-Men, in Victorian London.
In 1980, a poor quality anime television movie based on The Tomb of Dracula was released. The film was called Yami no Teiō: Kyūketsuki Dracula (Dracula: The Vampire Emperor of Darkness). Much of the main plot was condensed and many characters and subplots were truncated or omitted. The film was animated in Japan by Toei and sparsely released on cable TV in North America in 1983 by Harmony Gold dubbed into English and under the title Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned.
A more significant film spin-off from the comic came in 1998 with Blade, based on the character introduced in #10 of the comic. Dracula would not appear as a character until the third Blade film, Blade: Trinity in 2004.
David Flint, Horrorpedia
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