Tuesday, March 03, 2009

On Curse of Dracula:

I re-read Curse of Dracula last week, and was wondering to myself why it didn't click; with me, or the general comic-buying public. It's got a strong bloodline, as it were: Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, two-thirds of the creative team for the classic Marvel Tomb of Dracula. Wolfman points out on the letters page that he took over Tomb at issue #7, so Curse was his chance to create his own version of Bram Stoker's character; with less of the movie cliches, and without the supporting cast he inherited at Marvel. But, as they say, it's tough to catch lightning in a bottle twice.

More behind the jump!

Most of the focus is on the vampire hunters, but they aren't immediately memorable, likable, or entertaining, especially if you're accustomed to crews like Buffy's or Blade's. There's no wise-cracking tension breaker, no sassy girl, not even the gruff badass. Wait, they're all gruff badasses. These hunters are all broken, damaged adults, working a job that will eventually kill them. If they're lucky. The most memorable was named Hiroshima, a half-turned blind girl who picked up bat sonar from her attack; but with a name like Hiroshima you can tell it's not a person who is concerned about being liked.

The vampires, though, look great, although I think Colan may have swiped a little of their design from a story he did for Marvel Comics Presents. That's fine, I like it.
Maybe I imagined it, but I thought they were a bit similar.
The vamps are less human than they were in Tomb; bucking the trend, these are loathsome things, monsters; not prettyboy goth kids. I prefer ugly, shapechanging fiends to the more modern vampire that might as well be a superhero with a pasty complexion. Even though they can talk and turn into bats, the rank-and-file vampire might as well be a zombie, slavishly devoted to their master.

Dracula, for his part, doesn't seem to mind his ugly, ugly disciples--in Tomb he often tended to be contemptuous of his minions. This Dracula doesn't seem to have the same brooding, self-loathing, tormented nature, either, but why should he? He's consolidating his power, he's got the vampire hunters as pawns in his larger game, and most no one seems to notice that Drac's apparently well over six feet tall, chalk-white, with pointy ears; because he's dead sexy. Curse Dracula finishes this one with a clear win, something Tomb Drac rarely received: usually, if he won it was by escaping, or even in victory he lost something or sacrificed honor.

Wolfman and Colan never returned to this Dracula, either because of sales or other projects. It probably didn't help that Dark Horse themselves had a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic at the same time, and the last third of the old Tomb of Dracula crew, inker Tom Palmer, was on board for a Marvel three-issue mini that I think was around the same time...I fished both out of the quarter boxes, so I could be wrong on that, but we'll see if I can find it sometime. OK, like tomorrow. Sorry, I thought it would take me longer to dig up. The first issue of Curse was dated July 1998, and Marvel's Dracula: Lord of the Vampires was dated December 1998.