For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula Complete Collection Vol. 1

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

In 1971, comic books were allowed to grow up. It was at that point the Comics Code Authority rewrote their guidelines since its inception in 1954, reflecting changing social mores and tastes. Unshackled, color comics could now tackle all manner of subject matter previously forbidden and Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee, wasn’t going to waste a moment.

Tomb of Dracula #3

Tomb of Dracula #3


He wanted to dive in beginning with a Dracula comic, bringing Bram Stoker’s vampire from prose to comics. Lee and Roy Thomas brainstormed the broad strokes of the series and Thomas began plotting around New Year’s Eve 1971 but turned it over to Gerry Conway who handed it off to Archie Goodwin who dumped it on legendary DC author Gardner Fox and when his work didn’t thrill Thomas, it went to Marv Wolfman. And then something magical happened.

Tomb of Dracula Complete Collection Vol. 1

Tomb of Dracula Complete Collection Vol. 1


Wolfman, with artist Gene Colan, clicked and largely left alone, began giving the series a voice and tone unlike anything else from the House of Ideas. Readers noticed and sales rose eventually making Tomb of Dracula one of Marvel’s best loved series of all time. Coming this fall is Tomb of Dracula Complete Collection including the first fifteen issues of the monthly comic along with the first four issues of the Dracula Lives! black and white magazine.

Thomas introduced readers to Frank Drake, Dracula’s human descendant, along with the Lord of Vampires. Goodwin’s two-parter introduced Rachel Van Helsing while Fox set up the long-running romance between Frank and Rachel. When Wolfman settled in with issue #7, he and Colan introduced wheelchair-bound Quincy Harker, son of Stoker’s Jonathan and Mina Harker, and leading an international hunt for the vampire as Abraham Van Helsing’s successor. This set the stage for all that followed.

Tomb of Dracula #7

Tomb of Dracula #7


Interestingly, Colan had to fight for the assignment after Lee initially promised it to him and then forgot, assigning it to Bill Everett. At his wife’s urging, Colan did a sample page that convinced Lee to give him the book. The next fight, to let Colan ink it, was a lost one, as he was too valuable a penciller although he did ink the first issue as a consolation prize.

His Dracula was inspired by actor Jack Palance, with Colan explaining to Jon B. Cooke, “Well, I had seen him do Jekyll and Hyde for television, and right there and then I knew that Jack Palance would do the perfect Dracula. He had that cadaverous look, a serpentine look on his face….”

Wolfman recounted at Alter Ego, “ToD was the book I learned to write on. At the time my writing wasn’t strong and my super-hero writing was, well, honestly awful. Although I’d been reading super-hero comics from day one, I just didn’t get how to write them. But I’d written mystery stories for DC and Marvel, and I think Roy must’ve felt it really didn’t make a difference who wrote the Dracula title because it would probably be dead soon enough.

“I’ve said this before and it’s true: when Roy asked me to write Tomb of Dracula, I didn’t like vampires. I’d never seen a vampire or Dracula movie, including the Bela Lugosi original. Still haven’t, by the way. I re-read the original Bram Stoker Dracula novel and BAM! It was like nothing I had expected. I loved it. Really loved it.

Tomb of Dracula #10, the debut of Blade

Tomb of Dracula #10, the debut of Blade


“As I said, because he drew real people with real expressions, Gene’s art allowed me to write stories about people. I think that allowed me to tell very different kinds of stories from what were being done elsewhere. It certainly opened me up to a whole new way of writing comics and the kinds of stories I could tell. I started to take a more novelistic approach to ToD than the standard comic of the time.

“Perhaps. I was thinking [in terms of] grand themes, smaller arcs, and telling character-driven stories. I actually plotted the book, in writing, two years in advance, so I could tell those larger stories. Once I began to develop the more nuanced approach to the humans in the book, it affected how I wrote Dracula himself. Although almost all of the dialogue today makes me cringe, it is 40 years later and our approach to dialogue has greatly changed, but I think the overall stories still work.”

Dracula Lives! #1

Dracula Lives! #1


By 1973, the title performed so well, Lee commissioned Dracula Lives! as a companion magazine featuring a mix of Dracula tales, articles, and horror reprints from the 1950s.

While Wolfman and Colan spun their own contemporary tale of terror, the anthology could cover Dracula’s life through the centuries with an interesting collection of writers and artists producing stories. Conway and Fox wrote some of the stories as Roy Thomas, Steve Gerber, and even Chris Claremont in an illustrated prose tale. Wolfman partnered with Neal Adams for a memorable origin story. Artists contributing here began with Colan but included Alan Weiss, Dick Giordano, Rich Buckler, Pablo Marcos, Jim Starlin, Syd Shores, Alfonso Font, Vicente Alcazar, Mike Ploog, and Dick Ayers. Painted covers came from Boris Vallejo, Jordi Penalva, Earl Norem, and Adams.

Tomb of Dracula #12

Tomb of Dracula #12


Wolfman admitted that it took several issues to find his voice and direction, considering himself comfortable beginning with issue #12, the arc concluding this volume. Just before that, though, he did introduce readers to Blade the vampire hunter, one of the most popular character introductions during that era.

Summing up the book’s legacy, Wolfman said, “…in the 1970s the readership was growing up. We were no longer having to write comics only for the 8-to-12-year-old crowd. I was writing Dracula for a college audience and above, as was Roy with Conan or Steve Gerber with Howard the Duck. Gene’s realistic art, which wasn’t all about fists and flexing, certainly was better appreciated and understood by an older and more discriminating reader. So I think that Tomb of Dracula was the right book with the right team at the right time taking the right approach.”

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Tomb of Dracula Complete Collection Vol. 1 SC

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.

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