Markley’s Fevered Brain: Horror from the Past

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

There was a time when Marvel published a large number of magazines featuring a wide variety of classic monsters. These were monsters in the tradition of Universal pictures vs. the classic Lee/Kirby monsters that were all over in the 1950s.  So you had first the comics based on Dracula, Frankenstein (collected in the complete Monster of Frankenstein TPB, which is also very good.), werewolves, and some creatures that only appeared in the magazines, such as zombies and exorcists. Recently Marvel has been collecting a number of these magazines and comics from the ‘70s in full color (and black and white when appropriate) large trades.  I am glad to see this as most of this material is long out of print as it appeared in Marvel Essentials a decade ago or some of it was issued in Omnibuses which have gone out of print and now cost a small fortune. I am also glad to see this work collected and re-issued because I am a big fan of the Marvel magazines of the time period, and a fair amount of that material is being collected in these trades along with the material originally done for the monthly comics, and some of it is collected for the very first time.  I am going to look at four books from Marvel, all of which are recent releases and I am reviewing them from the best, and it really is that good, to the mediocre one, which is still well worth reading, but is not as good as the first two.  Any of these books are perfect for Halloween or just anyone who likes a good horror story with (generally) nice art.

Tomb of Dracula: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

Tomb of Dracula: The Complete Collection Vol. 1


Tomb of Dracula: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 was a tour de force by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. Well, Gene Colan drew all 70 issues of the book but Marv did not start writing it till issue seven with Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin, and Gardner Fox all taking turns writing the first six issues.  With each new writer the stories would take a slightly different turn in direction and theme. With issue seven Marv Wolfman took over as the writer and stayed on the book till its conclusion. Together Wolfman and Colan were able to not only create a masterpiece of storytelling but were able to raise the standard for comics of the time. This series is considered, and rightfully so, one of the best series of the 1970s (along with the recently completed reprinting of Master of Kung Fu in four Omnibuses).  As the series went on the Tomb of Dracula would introduce a number of memorable characters as well as kill a number of characters all the while maintaining a level of storytelling not often seen in comics. Each issue was filled with moody and atmospheric art and unique page layouts by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer adding a new whole new level of depth with his inks.  Wolfman has claimed that he did not get his groove till issue #12 but with issue #10 he introduced the most famous of Dracula’s supporting cast, Blade the Vampire Hunter (who went on to star in his own comics, movies, and TV show), and I think this is where the book really gets going.  Other guest stars throughout the run include Jack (the werewolf) Russell, Dr. Strange, Hannibal King, and many others coming and going.  The stories were more often than not about the heroes, Rachael Van Helsing, Frank Drake, Quincy Harker, and company trying to stop the villain’s current plans, or outright kill him, the villain being Dracula.  While at times Wolfman would paint Dracula in a sympathetic light, most of the time he was clearly a villain who killed as he pleased and was not a good person, ether as a vampire or before that.  This first volume reprints the first 15 issues of the comic and the first four issues of Dracula Lives (which did not necessarily fit into the comic’s continuity, and most time did not, and are also in black and white). Since this series Marvel has kept Dracula around as a villain but over time his appearance has changed from the classic look Gene Colan had given him and a lot of the backstory has also been forgotten. But the modern take on Dracula (who has since fought the X-Men multiple times) is still a villain.  With this volume you get to see the beginnings of the wonder that is to come, so while I highly recommend this volume, it is really the whole series which I am so high on so do not be put off if this first volume does not live up to the expectations I have created here.  In the past Marvel has reprinted the all of these stories in four black and white essentials, three omnibuses, and two previous (and smaller) trades, but this newest collection is by far the best one currently available.  (The omnibuses are nicer due to the size, but they are long out of print).  Get this first volume and imagine what you have to look forward to.  My guess this series will run four volumes.

Werewolf By Night: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

Werewolf By Night: The Complete Collection Vol. 1


Werewolf by Night: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 reprints Marvel Spotlight #2-4, Werewolf by Night #1-15, Marvel Team-Up #12, and Tomb of Dracula #18.  This is a very large collection, almost 450 pages, collecting the saga of Jack Russel from his first appearance in Marvel Spotlight #2 through the first 15 issues of his own book and the guest appearances of Jack’s furry alter ego.  There is so much to recommend this book for.  Perhaps first off is the great art by Michael Ploog who did the all of the Marvel Spotlight issues and Werewolf by Night #1-8, 13-15, along with a number of inkers. Other artists include Gil Kane, Tom Sutton, and Werner Roth.  All of stories up to #10 were written by Gerry Conway then Marv Wolfman took over (Wolfman writing Werewolf…get it?). In terms of the story and Marvel history probably the most important thing in these stories was the introduction of the Darkhold, a mystical book of evil, that Jack Russell’s (the Werewolf) father wrote, and his father was a warlock so the mystical overtones run through many of these stories.  The Darkhold landed up to be a major part of many of the future Marvel supernatural titles as well as season 4 of the Agents of Shield TV show. The stories generally revolve around the werewolf wanting to get to the woods and do some killing, and some evil people trying to capture, stop, or kill the werewolf.  There are also a number of subplots about Jack’s friends Buck Cowen and his sister Lissa. These are not suspenseful stories (for that read the Morbius stories in Vampire Tales) per say, but they are fun and are an entertaining read.  The art by Ploog greatly raises the level enjoyment of reading this collection.  It is also nice to see both parts of Werewolf/Dracula crossover. I do admit I find it a bit odd that the narration of the stories is Jack saying what the werewolf was thinking although all the time saying the werewolf does not think.  It works well enough as a storytelling device, but I found it strange.  There is enough material for 2 more collections of Werewolf by Night and the second collection is scheduled for the spring.  The only other way to get this material is the now out of print Werewolf By Night Omnibus or Essential collection, so this trade is really a bargain given the prices of the omnibus now.  Much better than I remembered it being when I first read these stories in the early 1970s.

Marvel Horror: The Magazine Collection

Marvel Horror: The Magazine Collection


Marvel Horror: The Magazine Collection TP is next.  In the 1970s Marvel was on a tear doing magazines based on horror characters (and Kung Fu and Apes). Titles included Dracula Lives, Tales of the Zombie, Monsters Unleashed, Haunt of Horror, Vampire Tales, and others.  Most of these magazines features characters from the monthly comics, such as Dracula Lives had stories with the same Dracula as was seen in the Tomb of Dracula series, as well as an excellent adaptation of the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker by Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano. Monsters Unleahsed had stores featuring Frankenstein from Monster of Frankenstein (set in present day vs. 1800s in the comic, which were reprinted in the Monster of Frankenstein TP), Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, and others.  Vampire Tales featured Morbius in an excellent story. Also Lilith, the Daughter of Dracula and stories with Blade, Vampire Slayer.  All of the Vampire Tales were collected into 3 digest sized collections back in 2010. Tales of the Zombie featured the adventures of Simon Garth, the Zombie as well as Brother Voodoo and others.  These were all collected into an Essential edition back in 2006 but it is long out of print.    Haunt of Horror is a bit unique as it was originally a digest that ran 2 issue with mostly prose stories that came out in 1973. (A personal story, I saw this digest when I was 12 at a local newsstand. At the time, being 75 cents I did not buy it as it was so expensive.  But the cover always haunted me. I wanted it.  Then in 1993 I was in Atlanta and visiting comic book stores and one of the stores had a pile of issue #2 for a $1. I was thrilled.  Then I had to find #1.  I finally did a few years later when I was working at DC and I was in Denny O’Neil’s office and he was cleaning his office and on top of the pile of his discards items was Haunt of Horror #1. He said I could have it as he did not care and I was thrilled.)   Marvel revived the Haunt of Horror as full sized magazine in 1974. Here was more Werewolf by Night, as well as Gabriel the Devil Hunter and others.  This leads to this trade collection as it reprints a lot of material from Haunt of Horror (magazine) including the complete Gabriel the Devil Hunter, Lady Daemon , Blade the Vampire Hunter, and others.  I like this book because it is such a diverse mix of characters and creators.  Some of the creators in this tome include Chris Claremont, Doug Moench, Tony DeZuniga, Rico Rival, Vicente Alcazar, Ernie Chan, and more.  Again this is not the best material but the diversity and originality that a lot of these stories have make this collection worth recommending for your reading.  It reprints stories from the following Marvel Magazines, Marvel Preview, Haunt of Horror, Monster Unleashed, and Bizarre Adventures.

Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters

Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters


Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters is another large collection over 300 pages, collecting an eclectic collection of stories featuring Ulysses Bloodstone (from Marvel Presents as well as all of the black and white back up stories from the pages of Rampaging Hulk magazine, which I do not think have I seen in print since they first appeared in 1977). It is also is interesting that Marshal Rogers drew some of these early Bloodstone stories. Now be fair, these stories are not great, and are barely good, but they are interesting due to the impact they would have later on the Marvel Universe. This collection also has the complete miniseries Elsa Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters.  This was a great read but the art did not appeal to me. There is also tons of short stories and reference material from a variety of places including Marvel Monsters from the Files of Ulysses Bloodstone and the Monster Hunters, Girl Comics #2, and many others. Over the last 40 years Marvel has moved from Ulysses to Elsa Bloodstone (his daughter) as the lead monster hunter in the Marvel Universe and Elsa played a major part in the Monsters Unleased miniseries and she continues to play a part in the ongoing monthly Monsters Unleased book.  While this is the weakest of all of these collections, I still enjoyed it enough to mildly recommend it.  It is not Marvel’s best material, but it is entertaining.

That wraps it up for this month.  I love that Marvel is collecting and reprinting all of this classic material from the ‘70s in affordable (compared to the omnibuses) trade paperbacks.  There is an amazing wealth of good material here as well a number of characters and themes that would later make a huge influence on the Marvel Universe, although I doubt that was ever the plan when the ideas were first introduced.  While the Tomb of Dracula is clearly the best of all of these collections, all of them have their own virtues that make them worth reading. I would love to know if you have read any of these books, ether originally back in the ‘70s like me, or more recently. What did you think? Did you enjoy them? Do they hold up? I am curious as to your thoughts, as I find your responses fascinating. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or at Facebook at Wayne Markley. (By the way, thank you for the feedback on my last column on Scooby-Doo).  Everything I have written here is my opinion and does not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees.  As always…

Thank you.

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