Comedian books — that nice gutter medium — have all the time been worlds of fads and crazes. Cowboys, cops, romances, and, beginning within the late 1940s, horror. Publishers like EC, Avon, and Atlas churned out lurid tales of homicide, betrayal, and inky gore for the subsequent few years.
After which, sweeping throughout the moors in 1954, howling canines of American morality led by censorious psychiatrist Fredric Wertham drove the business right into a panic. Determined to outlive, publishers adopted the Comics Code, a strict system of guidelines describing what might and couldn’t seem on the newsstand.
Seemingly in a single day, ghouls, creeps, slashers, and vampires have been eradicated from the pages of the funnies, changed by anodyne teen hijinks and long-underwear heroes.
However one creature of the night time ended up rising once more… and once more… and once more….
Out of the tomb
The Comics Code was revised a number of instances within the early 1970s — as soon as on the behest of author Marv Wolfman, who couldn’t be credited for his tales as a result of “wolfman” was a forbidden idea — however most germane to our story was a 1971 adjustment that famous “vampires, ghouls and werewolves shall be permitted for use when dealt with within the traditional custom.”
That “traditional custom” was simply obscure sufficient to encourage Stan Lee to launch a brand new line of horror-influenced characters together with Ghost Rider, Werewolf by Evening, and Man-Factor. Amongst these efforts was the publication of Tomb of Dracula #1 in April of 1972. After a reasonably generic first few points, the e-book launched its sturdy supporting forged of vampire hunters like Quincy Harker, Hannibal King, Frank Drake, and the daywalker Blade.
Dracula’s first interplay with the common Marvel universe got here in 1974’s Large-Measurement Spider-Man, the place the wall-crawler winds up at a fancy dress celebration on a cruise ship with the vampire lord and a passel of gangster goons trying to steal an experimental vaccine, the form of factor you’ll completely carry to a masquerade on the excessive seas.
In the meantime, Depend Dracula was additionally getting bizarre in his personal e-book. In difficulty 21, we meet Physician Solar, an evil Chinese language scientist who had his mind eliminated and positioned in a jar, giving him a thirst for blood himself. Solar hatched a goofy scheme to steal Dracula’s powers and, in difficulty 39, had his henchman Juno kill the vampire for the primary time with a silver lance via the guts.
What’s Tomb of Dracula with out Dracula? Only a tomb? Our protagonists battled Physician Solar for a pair points earlier than they realized that they wanted the assistance of their former foe, and in #41, supporting character Aurora Rabinowitz cried virginal tears into Dracula’s ashy coffin, returning the lich lord to unlife and letting him lay a well-deserved ass-whooping on Solar. Dracula then fought Physician Unusual a number of points later and faked his personal dying to get out of the confrontation, which doesn’t rely for the operating tally we’re going to be preserving. He does that rather a lot, for consideration most likely.
Tomb of Dracula got here to a detailed in 1979, throughout a contraction within the enterprise that led to the cancellation of a lot of the firm’s odder titles (together with Howard the Duck and John Carter, Warlord of Mars). New editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, a superhero fanboy to the core, set about trimming what he thought of to be the fats of the road. Within the last difficulty of the collection, Quincy Harker lastly will get his revenge on the demon, stabbing him via the chest with a silver stake to kill him for Dracula’s second dying, exploding Fort Dracula round him.
Tomb of Dracula obtained six extra points in black-and-white journal format, which was the place Marvel threw stuff they didn’t know what to do with, however these tales are largely out of continuity. The vampire additionally appeared in a Defenders story and crossed paths with the aforementioned Howard the Duck.
Stakes is excessive
Even together with his personal collection gone, Dracula was now an inextricable a part of the Marvel universe, and he subsequent confirmed up in X-Males courtesy of author Chris Claremont, who by no means met a mind-control plotline he didn’t like. In difficulty 159, Storm is discovered unconscious in an alley, with two little punctures on her neck. Dracula has bitten Ororo, and the crew should help her in breaking his thrall.
She does, as a result of the one factor Chris Claremont loves greater than thoughts management is a powerful feminine protagonist, however Dracula was right here to remain.
Right here’s the factor, although: A superhero universe is a fragile balancing act. You’ll be able to’t let both the great guys or the dangerous guys get too highly effective. So having an immortal vampire of legend bopping round form of throws off the vibe. After the Depend had a number of extra clashes with Thor and the Silver Surfer, Marvel editorial determined it was time to point out Dracula the door.
Roger Stern was tasked with cleansing issues up within the pages of Physician Unusual, and he introduced out the massive broom. In a 1983 storyline operating via points 58-62, Unusual hunts down the legendary Darkhold, a e-book of evil mystical energy liable for creating vampires within the first place. Whereas he fends off Dracula on the astral airplane, his allies recite the spell generally known as the Montesi Formulation, which ends the existence of each single vampire within the Marvel universe in a single fell swoop.
Dracula in Physician Unusual #62
Picture: Roger Stern, Steve Leialoha/Marvel Comics
Evil walks as soon as extra
You realize what they are saying about fell swoops, although. In 1986, Marvel was acquired by TV and film conglomerate New World Leisure. As a part of the deal, quite a few comedian e-book characters have been spun into improvement for potential films and TV exhibits. A kind of was Blade, which Selection initially reported as a south-of-the-border thriller with Blaxploitation icon Richard Roundtree because the hero.
For the film to achieve success, Blade wanted to be seen within the comics of the Marvel Universe. And with no vampires round, that is likely to be a difficulty. What’s a Blade comedian with out Dracula? Simply him doing his dishes? Marvel wanted to reverse course on the Montesi Formulation, and quick.
Dracula was reborn in 1990 courtesy of Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas, who wrote a narrative that:
established Physician Unusual had a youthful brother we’d by no means met, and
that youthful brother died in a automotive accident 10 years earlier than this story, and
Physician Unusual put him in cryogenic sleep so he might revive him sooner or later, and
whereas reciting magic spells at random, Physician Unusual unintentionally revived his brother, and
his brother was now a vampire.
This five-part story, titled “The Vampiric Verses,” might be most well-known for Christian pop singer Amy Grant threatening to sue Marvel for utilizing her picture on the duvet of Physician Unusual difficulty 15. Ultimately, the story arc is an ungodly mess, replete with goofy coincidences, however these occasions did imply that the Montesi Formulation had been reversed and Dracula might come back-ula.
That led into a brand new Tomb of Dracula miniseries by Wolfman and artist Gene Colan, in addition to 1992’s Nightstalkers collection, which reunited Blade with Frank Drake (now wielding a “nanotech gun” named “Linda”) and Hannibal King (now a “neo-vampire”). That very same 12 months, Selection introduced that LL Cool J was excited by enjoying Blade. The Nightstalkers have been primarily occupied with Dracula’s daughter Lilith for the primary few points, nevertheless it was solely a matter of time earlier than the massive man returned.
Within the pages of Nightstalkers, terrorist group HYDRA examined the waters with a Dracula clone named “Bloodstorm One” in 1994 (hilariously known as “a vampire for the ’90s” in a single difficulty), and thru an ungainly collection of occasions the clone merges with Hannibal King and Frank Drake to turn into one gross life type that hosted the consciousness of the unique Dracula. We noticed extra of that man within the 1994 Blade collection.
Dracula obtained his personal e-book once more in 1998, with three problems with Dracula: Lord of the Undead. He managed to not die in that one, regardless of being contaminated with a thinly-disguised HIV metaphor.
His luck was about to expire, although.
Evil walks as soon as extra as soon as extra
In 2004, Marvel launched one other Tomb of Dracula joint, a four-issue mini written by Robert Rodi. In it, Dracula is making ready for a mystical convergence that occurs each thousand years by which a vampire can ascend to godhood. He dies on the finish, once more, nevertheless it’s value noting that one of many plans to take him out entails a nuclear bomb in Transylvania.
Irritated in any respect the effort of residing (and dying) on Earth, Dracula got here again to life by undisclosed means after which relocated his base of operations to the moon, the place he tried to conduct an invasion of England within the pages of Captain Britain and MI13. This 2009 arc is without doubt one of the very best Marvel Dracula tales, stuffed with double-crosses and wild set-pieces like vampires careening to Earth like thirsty missiles from orbit. On the finish, Dracula’s ambitions are stifled, and he’s stabbed via the guts with Excalibur and killed as soon as extra.
Captain Britain and MI13 author Paul Cornell beloved utilizing the vampire king, saying in an interview with Polygon, “One of many joys of the Marvel Universe for me is how all kinds of various genres are devoured up by it, from historical astronauts to H.G. Wells to Bram Stoker. I feel it provides an actual power to the universe, which doesn’t a lot transfer between genres, like Physician Who does, as symbolize all genres directly, fairly like the actual universe.”
Dracula in Loss of life of Dracula #1
Picture: Victor Gischler, Giuseppe Camuncoli/Marvel Comics
The following 12 months, Marvel printed the Loss of life of Dracula one-shot as a part of its “Heroic Age” line-wide gross sales cash-in relaunch. In that e-book, written by Victor Gischler, we meet Dracula’s extraordinarily early-2000s son Xarus. Miffed at his previous man’s lack of ability to overcome the world and switch people into transportable Massive Gulps, Xarus kills Dracula, unites the vampire clans below his management, and units out to rule the world.
Just some quick months later, our man was again up and about. Within the X-Males story “Curse of the Mutants,” Xarus assaults the X-Males’s dwelling base of San Francisco with a plan to show all of the mutants into vampires. The great guys win, courtesy of a convoluted scheme that entails shutting off Wolverine’s therapeutic issue with out his information. On the best way, Scott Summers retrieves Dracula’s physique and severed head and squishes them again collectively, bringing him again to life as an insurance coverage coverage towards his son.
Right here’s the factor, although: The X-Males received with out Dracula’s assist, making the entire occasion appear a bit pointless. However what’s a stake with out a level? Only a dumb piece of wooden.
Evil retains on walkin’
What do you do after you’ve returned from the sleep of dying? When you’re Dracula, you get married. Within the digital pages of 2014 Marvel digital comedian Deadpool: The Gauntlet, issues went south for the vampire king when he was pressured to rent Deadpool to carry him his new bride: Shiklah, Queen of the Monsters. Sadly, as sometimes occurs in Deadpool tales, issues obtained a bit out of hand. He wound up married to Shiklah himself, which naturally didn’t please Dracula an excessive amount of. To not fear, although — we get a juicy struggle scene that ends with Deadpool staking Dracula together with his personal severed hand. RIP bozo.
After returning to his fort in Romania, Dracula as soon as once more got down to create a vampire kingdom, solely to be foiled by Wolverine and Jubilee (who was additionally a vampire at this level) of the X-Males. After a bloody battle, Wolverine decapitates Dracula and has his head thrown into the solar.
Don’t fear. He’s tremendous. They didn’t even trouble to clarify this one. As a substitute, he strikes to Latvia and turns into obsessive about on-line gaming. After one other run-in with Deadpool, Dracula reconciled with Shiklah and the 2 obtained married, solely to abdicate their merry monster kingdom and presumably divorce off-panel.
At press time, Dracula is strolling the Earth as soon as extra, residing in radiation-polluted Chernobyl together with his vampire military and plotting ever extra nefarious hijinks. I wouldn’t get too comfy, dude. If there’s one factor we’ve discovered from all this, it’s that an immortal vampire lord is likely to be essentially the most harmful factor to be in the complete Marvel universe.