Blogging Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula, Part Thirteen

Blogging Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula, Part Thirteen

tod-65tod-66The Tomb of Dracula #65, “Where No Vampire Has Gone Before” starts off with Rachel Van Helsing returning to Quincy Harker, Frank Drake and Janus to tell them that Dracula is no longer a vampire. Frank is skeptical, but Janus and Quincy believe that Satan has stripped him of his supernatural powers and left him in the 20th Century as a mortal man out of time. Quincy and Rachel point out the ethical dilemma they face. They have no right to hunt and kill Dracula if he no longer is a vampire despite the many murders he committed when he was undead. From there the scene switches to a cemetery where the unnamed bounty hunter (who with his Stetson and western dialogue is also a man out of time) digs up a vampire and interrogates him with a fiery cross held to his forehead until the vampire confirms that Dracula is in Boston. We then find Dracula, homeless in an alleyway where he meets a junkie prostitute named Harriet. Dracula innocently (for once) accepts her invitation to go back to her apartment where a couple of her dealer’s hired muscle break in and rough Harriet up for having stolen heroin. Dracula gallantly defends her and though mortal (as he is reminded after he is shot in the shoulder), he is still the fierce warrior of old and easily hurls one of the goons threw a third storey window to the street below. The former vampire is arrested along with Harriet and one of the hired guns, but is later released and declared a hero and has his picture taken by a newspaper photographer. Back on the streets, Dracula finds himself, homeless, penniless and hungry for food for the first time in five hundred years. After running into trouble on the streets again, he resolves to seek out his daughter, Lilith and ask her to turn him into a vampire once more. Meantime, Quincy, Rachel and Frank learn of his recent exploits when the 11:00 news carries the story of an anonymous hero who saved a woman from a mob hit. The next morning, Dracula hijacks a private plane and forces the pilot to take him to New York as he is aware his daughter is living in Greenwich Village currently. A witness to the hijacking recognizes him as the hero seen on television the night before and reports the hijacking to the police. The issue ends with the bounty hunter picking up Dracula’s trail in the police station and realizing his quarry is no longer a vampire. Content that his job has just become easier, the nameless bounty hunter checks out of his hotel and heads for New York.

Issue #66, “Showdown in Greenwich Village” starts off with Dracula in Greenwich Village at winter. He is cold and lost with no way of finding his daughter. He mugs a husband and wife hoping to find enough money for food and shelter, but is run off by an angry mob. He seeks shelter in a church, but refuses a priest’s offer of help having forsaken God as a child centuries before. He wanders into a disco bar and has just enough money to buy his first hamburger (which he dislikes) when he is picked up by an attractive divorcee named Ann Keats. Dracula humorously chooses the identity of Drake and tells her he is in Greenwich Village looking for his daughter. Ann has friends in the village who trace runaways, but Dracula is unable to provide a photograph or any information on Lilith. He and Ann are accosted by a street gang upon leaving and Dracula easily beats them off, but is stabbed in the process. Dracula goes back to Ann’s apartment and tells her his true identity. While Ann thinks he’s delusional, he places a long distance call to Boston to check on Domini, but refuses to tell his wife where he is. Just then, Francis Leroy Brown, the bounty hunter breaks in and a violent battle ensues that ends in Brown’s death, but not before he shoots Dracula several times. The former vampire slips into unconsciousness as Ann calls for an ambulance. The issue ends with Lilith reading a New York Times article about her father surviving a fatal encounter with Brown as she realizes he is now a mortal and is obviously looking for her.

tod-681tod-67Issue #67. “At Long Last Lilith” begins with Dracula scouring a Greenwich Village art gallery when he spies Martin Gold and his expectant wife, Angel. Sensing that Angel is the current host body for his daughter, Dracula follows them back to their apartment. Lilith confronts her father and denies him his request to become a vampire again, promising instead to murder him in his mortal form, but not before toying with him first. Meantime, Harold H. Harold is attending the off-Broadway production of The Passion of Dracula with his date, an aspiring actress he has promised a movie role to (Harold’s book has been optioned). Marv Wolfman was friends with the play’s real-life authors, Bob Hall and David Richmond. Harold seems more like the writer’s alter ego than ever before. He and Gene Colan delightfully portray Harold breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader directly. The scene switches to Boston where Janus returns to his mother. Domini tearfully pleads with him not to end Dracula’s life, but he tells her he must fulfill God’s will. Dracula and Lilith’s fight takes them into the theater, interrupting the performance of The Passion of Dracula. Harold makes a long distance call to Boston from a payphone and learns from Quincy’s answering machine that he is currently staying in New York. He reaches them at the hotel and informs Frank that Dracula has found Lilith. Frank and Rachel arrive by taxi just in time to see Lilith transform into a bat and fly away, but Harold has lost Dracula in the crowd. The issue ends with Dracula determined to find another vampire to help him escape his mortality.

Issue #68, “The Return to Transylvania” starts off with Dracula atop the Empire State Building in the midst of a storm, cursing Satan for having made him mortal again when he is visited by Janus. His son magically transports Dracula to his ancestral castle in Transylvania. Dracula quickly discovers that Janus has also transported Quincy, Rachel, Frank and Harold there as well. As his son disappears, the vampire hunters set upon the former vampire to destroy him once and for all. Dracula flees within his castle and finds one of his vampire brides, Marissa in the crypt. She refuses his request to make him a vampire once more, informing him that since he abandoned them another vampire, Torgo has become the new Lord of Vampires. Frank and Rachel find Dracula and attack him viciously. Both Frank and Dracula are seriously wounded. Dracula staggers out of the castle and calls upon his former vampire legion. They answer his call, but none will help him. Beaten and humiliated, Dracula faces Quincy and Harold. Believing he is about to die at the hands of a crippled old man, Dracula renounces Satan and calls upon God to help him. Satan appears before him and mocks him for calling upon the God who has damned him. Satan restores his vampiric abilities, but curses him as an outcast claimed by neither Heaven nor Hell, a lost soul who has no place. The issue ends with Dracula staggering away while Quincy calls off the hunt, believing the vampire’s spirit has been broken.

tod-69tod-70Issue #69, “Bat Wings over Transylvania” sees the vampire legion pursuing the outcast Dracula across the farmlands of Transylvania while the villagers cower in fear. A young widow with a daughter dying of fever loads her up in the wagon to go to town to seek medical help, leaving her three small children locked in their farmhouse, armed only with Rosaries for protection. While the widow uses her crucifix to ward off the vampires as she drives the wagon into town in a race against time to save her daughter’s life, Dracula seeks refuge in the farmhouse with her children. Disregarding their mother’s orders not to open the door to strangers, the children unwisely offer Dracula shelter from the approaching vampires. The former Lord of Vampires finds he is immediately tempted by bloodlust to kill the three innocent children who have offered him safety in their home. Meantime, the children’s mother finds their wagon stuck in mud. She breaks down in tears knowing her daughter is dying and that they are trapped in pouring rain at night with vampires close by. She prays for deliverance, but fears God has abandoned her when Quincy, Frank and Rachel pull up in a car and rescue her and her daughter. Meantime, the vampires attack the farmhouse, smashing out the windows and shattering the door and setting rats upon the children. Forced to take sides, Dracula wields a crucifix, though it burns his hands, and drives the vampires off to protect the children. At dawn, Rachel drives up to the farmhouse to check on the children and finds it has been nearly destroyed. The children tell her how God sent a good man to save them from the vampires and how the good man told them to never stop believing in the power of God as the issue reaches its truly unexpected conclusion.

Issue #70, “Lords of the Undead” is the final issue of the original series. Dracula, still bearing a flaming crucifix, returns to his castle and confronts his vampire legion. They have all abandoned him to serve Torgo as the new Lord of Vampires and are repulsed to see that he now carries the cross. No sooner have they spoken, Dracula finds he can bear the pain no longer and casts the crucifix aside, cursing God once more. Nearby, we see Janus watching the developments closely. Torgo finally appears and uses his power to humble Dracula before him. The former Lord of Vampires challenges his successor to a duel to the death in an attempt to reclaim his title. Meantime, Quincy, Rachel, Frank and Harold are plotting their next move. Gene Colan’s artwork for the last two issues is quite remarkable and Marv Wolfman was determined to give the title the finale it deserved. The flashback to Torgo’s past surprisingly shows him to be older than Dracula as he was a Wallachian general who was felled in battle against Attila the Hun and ravaged by an old vampire hag while he lay dying in his premature grave. Torgo’s ambition is to enslave the human race and segregate slave labor from those confined to breeding farms as cattle to feed their vampire overlords. The duel with Torgo is Colan at his finest depicting a viciousness and savagery uncommon in mainstream comics of the day. Ultimately, Dracula perseveres and drives Torgo’s dagger through the vampire lord’s heart, reducing him to ashes. The vampire legion immediately declares their loyalty to Dracula, but he spurns them and seeks refuge in his castle where he is confronted by Quincy Harker. The old man has attached explosives to his wheelchair that are set to detonate in 30 seconds. Struggling to stand on his crippled legs, Quincy collapses into Dracula’s arms and drives a spike into the vampire’s chest. The old man brandishes a knife and is about to sever the vampire’s head to prevent his resurrection when the charges detonate a massive explosion that destroys the castle spire where they both stood. The issue ends on a melancholy note as Frank, Rachel and Harold hear the explosion from the village and investigate only to learn that Quincy sacrificed his life to end the terror of Dracula. There is a moving scene at Harker Manor in London as Rachel is torn by the fact that she shed no tears for Quincy when she learned of his death or at his funeral. Rachel remains troubled that she doesn’t truly love Frank and that she feels no real emotion because of the trauma of her childhood. The postman delivers a letter and Rachel is startled to discover it is addressed to her and was written by Quincy hours before he died. Quincy’s letter is one of Wolfman’s masterstrokes recalling Stoker’s epistolary ending to his classic novel. Quincy explains that his heart would not have held out much longer and he had to do what he could to finish his task. He begs for Rachel not to let bitterness consume her soul. We move away from the characters as she and Frank tearfully embrace. The next farewell is in Boston where Janus returns to Domini and relinquishes control of her infant son’s body, restoring him to his mother as the angel departs. The series’ final scene shows Dracula moving as a mist among the ruins of his castle, reflecting upon his life from warlord to vampire lord. It is a triumphant ending in a strange way and it is only appropriate that the final page is an announcement that Wolfman and Colan were preparing to continue chronicling his exploits in the pages of a black & white magazine free from interfering censors. The magazine was to have been called simply Dracula, but that is a story for another day.

 


William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press). A sequel, The Destiny of Fu Manchu is due for publication in December 2011. Also forthcoming is a collection of short stories featuring an original Edwardian detective, The Occult Case Book of Shankar Hardwicke and an original hardboiled detective novel, Lawhead. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at SetiSays.blogspot.com

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