Bargain Comic Reviews

New Reviews of Old Comics

Tomb of Dracula #20 (May 1974)

Tomb_of_Dracula_20Purchase price: $1

Marvel must have over-printed this issue in 1974 because every time I visit the comic store recently Tomb of Dracula #20 is always in the dollar box.  Not just one copy, mind you, but I usually come across it a half dozen or so times, and it’s always issue #20.  I never see other Tomb of Dracula issues, just #20.  I wonder if another part of the country has a surplus of other TOD issues that we could trade our #20 surplus with to help balance things out.

The ironically named Marv Wolfman wrote “The Coming of Doctor Sun” for Gene Colan to pencil and Tom Palmer to ink. The first half of the story revolves around Dracula being chased through the Transylvanian mountains by a helicopter holding Rachel Van Helsing and a friend.  To make matters worse, it is winter and there is a nasty snow storm going on, making things difficult for Dracula.  He can’t fly, he’s hungry for blood and there is a serious shortage of living things to suck blood from.  Why the helicopter can navigate the way it does in the storm and Dracula can’t fly is a mystery of artistic license.  For being in such a weakened state, Dracula has plenty of energy for lots of dialogue, mostly talking to no one and referring to himself in the third person.  This is a guy who likes to listen to himself talk; especially about himself.  He does find a couple of dead bodies with some nasty blood, but beggars can’t be choosers.  He also finds a cave full of gold and jewels, but he doesn’t care about that stuff.  During this desperate chase Rachel finds time to tell her friend about the time as a little girl that Dracula almost killed her to wipe out the Van Helsing family, but was saved at the last minute by a family friend armed with wooden darts.  Van Helsing isn’t the only one out looking for the lord of Vampires on this night and Dracula soon finds himself bound to a post by chains of garlic, prisoner to friends of Doctor Sun.  Who is Doctor Sun?  I’m not entirely sure, but one panel shows “him” as a gray blob in a tank; maybe a brain.  Maybe it’s Abi-Normal.  Oh, different story.   Dracula’s longtime slave Clifton Graves, once thought dead, appears to take great joy in heckling and tormenting his old boss.  It’s funny how bold people can be when their more powerful opponent is tied up.  Well, you can’t keep a good vampire down for long so Dracula frees himself as Van Helsing and friend appears to bring even more chaos to the scene. Clifton Graves is killed (again) Doctor Sun’s toady is killed, random guards are taken out before Doctor Sun finally appears to declare the fight over, because he wants to duel Dracula.  This strikes me as odd, because he’s not really a person that I can see, but a brain on a screen.  How does that duel happen?  I’ll never know, because that’s where the story ends.

This is the first Tomb of Dracula comic I can remember reading and it turned out to be pretty good.  Wolfman’s story was a touch contrived and wordy, but still an enjoyable read.  Normally I would say “contrived” is a drawback, but let’s face it, a vampire story is contrived by nature. Colan and Palmer’s art fit nicely into the horror motif of the title.  The cover was pretty cool, but I wonder what the explosion on the other mountain top to Dracula’s right is supposed to be.  It wasn’t a gunshot from the helicopter or any other visible source.  Maybe it was an inside joke.  I wonder how long I’ll have to wait before I find a Tomb of Dracula issue besides #20 in the dollar box.


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