I’ve been reading a lot of Bronze Age Marvel horror of late, alternating between Steve Gerber’s unbelievably excellent Man-Thing and the Tomb of Dracula series that reads like a horror movie marathon seen through NyQuil goggles. The phone-book-sized set of Essentials has been sitting on my shelf since I rediscovered the title and it is making for perfect late night reading material.
While I am a purist and swear by the Silver Age material, the Bronze Age of Marvel Comics is close to my heart with its inclusion of the mad fads of the 70′s from kung fu to black magic to biker gangs. While the Tomb of Dracula series started as a very traditional (if modernized) take on the Bram Stoker material, the later issues take the concept to an entirely different place. After introducing the jive-talking Blade the vampire killer, Marv Wolfman kept the ball rolling with the follow-up adventure entitled ‘The Voodoo Man.’
Gene ‘The Dean’ Colan is inked by Jack Abel this ish and the lines are decidedly heavy, but still fluid, retaining that certain quality that I adore in Mr. Colan’s art. The story opens with Dracula soaring through the countryside looking for one of his many coffins placed strategically throughout the world. As he descends to his daylight snooze, he calls out for his manservant whom he left to die on an exploding pleasure yacht in the previous issue… then decides ‘who needs him?’ and retires. The Lord of the Undead talks to himself in his closed casket of his plans for the following day when he will seek out a motorcycle gang who attacked him when he was week a few issues back. This struck me as odd given that Dracula has plans for world domination, why would he take such a random attack as worthy of revenge? Is he that high strung and upset about it?
I guess so.
Meanwhile a businessman in an iron lung is giving instructions to his lackey, the leader of the very same biker gang whom Drac is cursing in his slumber… it’s such a coincidence that even Wolfman himself hilariously points it out! As he gives his instructions to the leather-clad hoodlum named Brand, Faust uses a pair of mechanical arms attached to the iron lung to sculpt a voodoo doll. This is where the issue takes a turn for the weird.
It turns out that Faust (if that is his real name) was given some bad business advise and went to Haiti looking for new opportunities. He and his business partner were attacked by natives and while his partner skedaddled, Faust was held captive and assaulted with voodoo torture for days until his very limbs failed. Now he is using Brand’s gang to hunt down everyone of his revenge list and turning the same techniques that were used on him in Haiti on his foes.
Meanwhile Dracula has a mad revenge kick against the same gang and is hunting them throughout London just as Brand does Faust’s bidding, leaving a trail of paralyzed victims without a mark on them in their wake. Dracula takes on the role of detective to some degree and eventually finds that the final victim of Faust’s rage is his nemesis, Quincy Harker (descendant of Jonathan and Mina). What a coincidence!
In their final battle, Dracula hypnotizes the biker gang to ride off the cliffs of Dover and turns Brand, the gang leader, into a vampiric slave. He lets Quincy live because ‘my passion is sated,’ a bizarre turn of events that even the wheelchair-bound vampire hunter is astounded by. Now a vampire servant if Dracula, Brand attacks Faust who is still in his iron lung feverishly working at a voodoo doll sculpted in Brand’s image. As Brand dies from the attack, it is revealed that he has infected Faust, now a vampire but still trapped in an iron lung as the sun rises before him.
This has to be one of the weirdest comics I have ever read. It’s no wonder my sleep has been lousy.