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Monday, October 14, 2019

The Origin of Dracula - a Review from Dracula Lives! 2

Dracula Lives! #2 (September 1973)
"That Dracula May Live Again!"
Marv Wolfman-Neal Adams

Today's story was recommended to me a few years ago when I'd mentioned on Twitter that I was reading the first volume of the Tomb of Dracula: The Complete Collection. I was asked if it contained the material from the black and white magazine. Well, as you can see - yes, yes it does! Not long after the conversation, I got round to my encounter with this telling of Count Dracula's "origin", and all the accolades heaped upon it were realized to be true. It's quite a different looking Count, if you're only used to those wonderful Gene Colan renderings. But just about any character in the hands of Neal Adams is going to turn out special. Let's check it out.

100-Word Review:
We open on the battlefield in Transylvania, 1459. The Turks are pushing north and west from their Ottoman homeland, but the forces of Dracula stand in the way of Muslim advance across Europe. The battle rages, and eventually the prince is struck down and captured by the Turks. Dracula’s personal history is then related, bringing to light the legend of Vlad the Impaler. A Roma woman is enlisted to heal the prince; recognizing him, she instead curses him with the blood of the vampire. As Dracula’s Turkish captors torture him mind and body, he breaks free to enact his vengeance.

The Good: Hokey smokes, will you look at the art! I don't think I've ever seen a job from Neal Adams that I didn't just "ooh!" and "aah!" over (exceptions being some of the tinkering he's done on his reprinted Batman work), and this short story isn't going to change my mind. It is stunning. The panel layouts, the way figures cross barriers to almost leap off the page, facial expressions, the illusion of motion on the 2-D page, and the inclusion of that splash of red every so often all conspire to create a visual euphoria. Adams is great when he inks his own work; Tom Palmer and Dick Giordano were notable in their partnerships with Adams on the X-Men and Batman runs, respectively, but their absence here is largely not felt. Have I said that I like this?


How do you feel about Marv Wolfman? I know there are many fans who don't necessarily rank him among their top scribes, and I guess I'd be in that camp. As I look across his career, I don't hold him in the same regard as I hold Gerry Conway, Doug Moench, or Roy Thomas (to name a few). Yet when I reflect on Wolfman's tenures on Tomb of Dracula and Crisis on Infinite Earths, I'm left with warm regards. I think he must have really clicked with the character of Dracula (or Dracula the character clicked with him), because there is an ownership evident in this story. Wolfman is shepherding Vlad the Impaler through the seminal story of Marvel's version of the Dracula mythos and it's quite nice.

The story itself is brutal, from battlefield to conclusion. High body count, certainly R-rated events and themes, and a quandary for the reader: what does one do when both protagonist and antagonist are despicable human beings? The creators leave no doubt in our minds that we are to root against the Turks, and specifically their leader, Lord Turac. When Turac recounts the behaviors of Prince Dracula and his affinity for impaling decapitated skulls on lances, of running bodies through and then displaying the corpses, there's not a whole lot for which we can cheer. Then Wolfman and Adams put us in the position where we find Dracula to be the hero - when his wife details that she was gang-raped by the Turks and the infant son of theirs is threatened, our sense of justice hopes that Dracula prevails! I found it a tough road to navigate, and was left with a sense that I'd just read a quality comic book story.

The Bad: Nothing here. Amazing story.

The Ugly: Personally, I am repulsed by rape. It murders the souls of both victim and perpetrator, and leaves the victim with an altered perception of themselves at the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. So although the gang rape took place off camera, I found it not much less impactful. As a literary device, confounding my "allegiances" to the Turks or to Vlad the Impaler, Marv Wolfman used the incident effectively.


  1. Hiya,

    I think that black and white magazines like Dracula Lives and the Warren line of books is where Adams work shone. I sometimes have trouble with his story telling choices, sometimes the narrative gets lost in the rendering, but here he is absolutely spot on.

    Dracula Lives was a fun book. Other creatives got a crack at producing material featuring the Count who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity.

    It was also an chance to see certain artists get a chance to work together. In the third issue there was a story with layouts by Jim Starlin and finishes by Syd Shores that is particularly memorable. Give it a shot if you can.

    Thanks for the memories


    1. Hiya,

      The Terror That Stalked Castle Dracula by Gerber, Isabella, Starlin, and Shores.

      Follow the link and enjoy, I hope.



    2. Thanks for both comments, PFG. I will check out the Starlin/Shores collaboration - that one sounds very intriguing!

      I understand what you mean about Adams at times losing the story in the midst of the pretty pictures. But overall his work is high atop the pile of artists in my library.


  2. Yeah, in stories like this you pretty much have to accept the fact that there's no real good guys - which is often the case in actual human history, unfortunately. But yeah, this looks like a beautiful rendered and effective story.
    That third issue of Dracula Lives mentioned by PFG also contains a story in which you have a protagonist you can root for: Solomon Kane (I have the story in a Solomon Kane reprint collection). Kane encounters Drac on his wanderings through Europe, and almost kills him. It's a solid story by Roy Thomas with art by Alan Weiss.

    As for Wolfman as a writer, I can't say he's my favorite, but he's up there in the higher ranks for me; any consideration of his work shouldn't overlook the first 50 or so issues of New Teen Titans. There wasn't a misfire throughout that run.

    1. Edo, Alan Weiss is a guy I just never know what to do with. I've seen his work fall in the "Wow!" category, but it seems it just as often lands near the "way too busy" pile. And this isn't a past consideration, nor something I've recently come across. He's always registered that way with me.

      I have the Solomon Kane "Essentials", and I believe that story was also reprinted in my copy of Tomb of Dracula Classic (or The Complete Collection - I forget which version I have). I will check that out!

      Be well,


  3. This coming Saturday (October 19th) is exactly 45 years since Marvel UK launched two new weeklies on the same day - Dracula Lives and Planet Of The Apes :)

    1. I trust you will commemorate the day, Colin!



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