By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This article is part of Vampire Thursdays, a series on vampires running this September to celebrate the return of The Vampire Diaries to our regular review slot and…well…to just plain celebrate vampires.
I was at the bookstore the other day and I bumped into some issues of Dracula Lives!, a comic book series that ran in the 1970s for 13 issues. In 2004, Marvel released a four-issue miniseries called “Stoker’s Dracula“, drawn and written by the duo of Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano, who had worked together on Dracula Lives! so many decades before. By the way, Stoker’s Dracula has been repackaged this summer and is being sold with interiors in colour.
Dracula Lives! generally included self-contained stories. It was spawned as a companion of sorts to Tomb of Dracula, which was a long-running series at that time. I loved the cover artwork of Dracula Lives!. It is completely period-specific and very dated by now, with the popular look of the Gothic-revival paperbacks, those cheapie books showing a woman, often in a white nightgown, running from or perhaps towards a castle or looming mansion. I collected those paperbacks and have spoken about my love for those illustrations, so it’s no wonder I found the Dracula Lives! covers fascinating. A bunch of them are essentially Gothic romances with Dracula included (you can see a cover gallery here).
My favourite cover comes from the second issue. There is a girl sitting on top a coffin – scantily dressed, I might add – and Dracula is jumping out of the shadows, cape and all. Since Dracula is wearing black and the background is black, the figure and foreground blend into each other, which create a spooky effect. Dracula is literally stalking you from the shadows. The woman looks a bit dazed, but I supposed this can be forgiven because Dracula can hypnotize you.
Dracula Lives! Issue 8 offers us cops interrupting Dracula in the middle of a midnight snack. The Usual Blond Victim is sprawled on the floor in her nightgown. There is, of course, something deliciously perverse about this image. Dracula has been eating, but he could also have been making out with this lady. Dracula Lives! was very careful not to give us any hanky-panky in its interior pages, but the covers offered lots of stuff for the imagination. Anyway, it’s the composition which really makes this image, with the woman in the foreground and then the scared cops at the door.
Issue 13 has to get a thumbs up for capturing a freeze-frame of what is sure to become a big action moment. Here, we’ve got Dracula transforming from bat into man and leaping towards a pair of lovers who are unaware of his presence, blissfully kissing. Note the crimson sky, which, I’m going to assume, indicates the sunset. We wouldn’t want Dracula leaping into the morning sun, would we?
As far as interiors go, one of my favourite takes on Dracula has to be The Complete Dracula miniseries, published by Dynamite Entertainment and adapted by writers Leah Moore & John Reppion and illustrator Colton Worley. The images inside are, frankly, amazing. The adaptation is faithful to the original, both in design choices (Dracula looks like he is described in the novel as opposed to the Hollywood image) and story adaptation (you try massaging letters, memos, telegrams, and diaries into a comic book). Overall, it’s a nice-looking product. It’s available as a hardcover and just got the paperback treatment last month.
The other comic book adaptation of Dracula I’d like to mention is a graphic novel by Fernando Fernandez, which originally appeared in Spanish in 1982 and was reissued as a hardcover in 1984 in English. A softcover was printed in 2005. I’ve heard people say that this is the adaptation of Dracula you should read, but I’ve also heard the English translation was pretty lousy. I can’t judge that since I read the Spanish version. Translation issues aside, the artwork is really beautiful, with that classic comic-book look that approximates an oil painting. It’s dreamy and perfect for the material. It’s worth your while if you are a vampire or Dracula fan.
Finally, Victor Gischler and artist Giuseppe Cammuncoli released Death of Dracula this July. You can pick it up for $4. It contains nice artwork from Cammuncoli and a mythology that seems to spread farther than its pages, which is exactly what you want in a mythology.