Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve devoured these four volumes in succession, and I’m nothing short of blown away at how much I enjoyed them. In fact, I more than liked them; they were a revelation to me, and I cannot recommend highly enough that you check them out.
ESSENTIAL TOMB OF DRACULA VOLS.1-4
Written Mostly by Marv Wolfman
Drawn Mostly by Gene Colan
Published by Marvel Comics
I had never read a single issue of the comic as a kid, so I knew very little about what to expect in these pages. Dracula had shown up in UNCANNY X-MEN a couple of times, and later was killed for good by DOCTOR STRANGE, but the rich supporting cast and history were beyond my grasp at that point. I know now just how much I was missing.
These were, for the most part, simply brilliant comics. It took a few issues for Wolfman to come on board as the writer, but once he did, he never left the driver’s seat, toiling away on the title for over seven years and creating a distinct and indelible horror title in which he had to create enough of a threat to his main character to keep the audience in check, yet never forget that this was a comic about a villain (and if my memory tells me true, easily the longest running title of that nature). That meant tapping new levels of creative height in discovering ways to challenge the vampire and his pursuers, and Wolfman was always up to the challenge.
However, the real star of the show was the legendary Gene Colan. Colan drew all seventy issues of the main title, along with extra stories for annuals and the Dracula magazines, becoming the defining artist for the character and setting the bar at such a high level that others who drew stories featuring the vampire looked pale in comparison. What impresses you as you read these collections is the amount of detail that graces his pages, and the graceful storytelling that flows through his pages. Another legend, inker Tom Palmer, would do the blacks for the majority of the book’s run, making this one of comics’ all-time consistently great titles. Also, as you page through these, you feel fortunate to have these in this format. It seems damned near criminal that this work was originally printed in color; Colan’s art is so beautiful that the idea of ruining it with the old-time color process on newsprint is horrific. I’m sure it still looked wonderful, but not as good as it did when Gene turned in the work.
Wolfman gained most of his notoriety in comics for his collaborations with George Perez on TEEN TITANS and CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, but TOMB OF DRACULA, taken as a whole, is the equal or better of those two titles. Of the four volumes, the third stands out most, as there is less extraneous material collected from magazines and such. Every story but one in volume three is written by Wolfman; every story but one is drawn by Colan. And by the way, the story not drawn by Colan? Drawn by Steve Ditko. It’s just that good, folks.
Of all the ESSENTIALS I’ve read over the last month or so, nothing else even comes close to just how excellent these four books are. I implore you: check out the finest work of Colan’s career and give yourself a different view of what Wolfman is capable of as a writer. You’ll be very, very glad you did.