Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Silver Surfer vs Dracula #1

Halloween 2019 Post-A-Day 12
The Week of SUCK!
The Silver Surfer vs Dracula #1

Cosmic Power vs Blood-Sucking Vampire!

Story – Marv Wolfman
Art – Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colorist – Tom Palmer
Letterer– John Costanza
Editor – Marv Wolfman
February 1994 (Reprint from Tomb of Dracula #50, 1976)

Day three of Dracula week has us looking at one of Marvel’s reprint books, a four-issue series beginning in December of 1993 that presented Dracula’s dustups with some of Marvel’s most favorite superheroes. The (insert Marvel hero) vs. Dracula series featured X-Men, Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, and Dr. Strange battling the master vampire in stories culled from their own series or from the defunct Tomb of Dracula begun in the early 1970’s.

The book also includes several pre-code era tales (this one’s are really good) and the second solo appearance of Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck. We’ll get to those in a moment. Dracula first, though.

This particular story comes to us by way of Tomb of Dracula #50, a scant 20 issues from that title’s giant-sized ending issue. It appears by this point the series writers (it had some good ones, too: Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin, and Gardner Fox) had been carrying the Dracula torch too long. They are struggling to make him relevant and perhaps even boost sales with a couple of timely crossovers. How else can you explain the oddball pairing of him with this Marvel icon?

Up to this point, Tomb had been rather coy about who our fang faced fiction faced in battle. Mostly they had been other Marvel horror or supernatural stars, like Werewolf by Night (Jack Russell), Brother Voodoo, series regular Blade, and Dr. Strange. This issue was the second foray of our vampire baddy (or batty) against a major Marvel hero. You’ll find out who the first was in just a couple of days. A veritable flood of appearances over the years had Dracula pop up in various titles, but these two really started the whole she-bang.

This one takes the cake when it comes to odd. How odd, you may ask? Well, let me show you, true believer. Our issue begins as most Dracula stories do, with the Count on the hunt for fresh blood.

Gene Colan and Tom Palmer do an excellent job with setting the 70’s horror atmosphere and marvelous Marv Wolfman hits all the right notes even after doing this vampire bit for quite some time. Dracula gets chased off and one can only wonder HOW our down in the streets vampire lord is going to find his way to mixing it up with Galactus’s former herald.

Worry your little heads about it no more, for you see Dracula recently took a wife. A wife who was expecting. That’s right Dracula was about to be a Daddy. In the end, this didn’t turn out so well for him, but that’s a tale for another time. For right now it is just important to know that his wife is with child (and no, it’s not worth the brain power to figure out how a undead man and possibly undead woman procreate. I’m certain we are just meant to go with it at this point.).

And this child is highly sought after by one Anton Lupenski, the leader of a local evil cult. He and his followers want to conscript the child for their own ends. Not only that, but they have determined that Dracula’s presence is no longer needed nor wanted. 

Lupenski even has a method of disposing of the Lord of the Vampires…

But before we find that out, we have to take a few moments to witness the battle between Blade, the half-vampire vampire-hunter from the movies, and Hannibal King, a vampire-detective vampire-hunter. Both are after Deacon Frost, the bad guy from the first Blade flick. I think both of these two should team up and go after Dracula, but what do I know?

Plus it would rob us of these neat vampire-on-vampire fight scenes, this one ending in Hannibal’s escape. Also, turning back to Lupenski’s cult…

…we find that his ultimate weapon against Dracula is the Surfer. Given this book was original Tomb of Dracula, we have to give ole’ chrome-dome a few panels of exposition to catch the audience up on who he is and what’s been going on in his life.

Not to mention add in a few potshots from the people who “fear and hate him” just because they don’t understand him. Before he can give them good reason, Lupenski teleports the sky soaring Surfer to him and knocks him on his butt. 

While conked out, Lupenski implants a hypnotic suggestion that he must confront the evil that is Dracula and destroy it.

Easy enough to get this battle of the supernatural vs. cosmic underway. Now to just get these two together. First, we visit Dracula and his wife Domini as they welcome guests bringing gifts for them. Note that Dracula isn’t really appreciative. He’s kinda a big dick. I did laugh out loud at the line “I accept your wealth, but I make no promises. Begone!”

Meanwhile, the Surfer comes to and he’s partially under Lupenski’s mental control. He begins to seek out Dracula, thinking if he destroys the vampire that everyone will love him for it. 

And thus he finds Domini and her husband after bursting out of a painting in their mansion.

Sadly, Surfer’s aim is a bit off and her nearly ends Domini’s life and the life of her child. 

This pisses Drac off just a tad…

…and he smacks Norrin right off his board.

Surfer pledges to never hurt an innocent so Drac and Radd take this little bit of fisticuffs outside. Where we learn Drac as a bat is more maneuverable than Surfer’s bolts. I find that hard to believe, excepting that Lupenski is pulling a bunch of the strings here, messing up the Surfer's aim.

Since being a bat isn’t giving Dracula the upper hand, the vamp turns to using the weather against the Surfer, a tactic that causes our board-happy cosmic sky-rider to notice he’s a bit too sluggish in his response times. Still too distracted, Norrin can’t seem to come up with the correct answer as to why.

But he lands long enough for Dracula to throw a whole mess of rats after him. Like that’s going to do anything to someone of Surfer’s power level.

What he does do is trick Surfer into holing the dam, something our hero quickly repairs. Not quick enough to miss getting bopped on the noggin again by our tricky vampire host. And that bonk smacks him out of it, breaking Lupenski’s hold on the former herald. So Dracula leaves as the Surfer kneels confused. 

But he’s not confused for long. Quickly he deduces he was setup and that someone was controlling him. He makes for the estate where Dracula is, believing him to be the culprit.

But after a brief encounter with his wife again, the Surfer agrees to leave Dracula be. Seems that painting of pseudo-Jesus might be the cause, but who can tell. 

Kind of a lame ending to the battle and sad that Surfer gets bested by rats and a clip off the dome. However, the 70’s art is fun and it proves to be a wonderful intro tale to our backup features! There are three of them here, starting with this precious precode tale from the mind and hand of the amazing Bill Everett. Prepare to journey back to April 1952’s issue of Venus comic magazine for a little tale we title…

"The Box of Doom”

Story and Art – Bill Everett
Editor – Stan Lee
Reprint from Venus, April 1952

I know nothing about the Venus title, but apparently all the stories revolve around this beautiful blonde bombshell who works as a writer. In this case, she receives mysterious package one night. A package that appears to contain something alive.

The box shocks both Venus and the courier and then begins tempting them into opening it. You have to love the exaggerated stylings of these pre-code stories done up in 1994’s best color transfers. Those bottom four panels are incredible. 

By now we know the box contains a hot mess of problems and certainly not anything good. Like most monkey’s paws, items granting wishes tend to backfire on their recipients. Venus is smart enough to see this. The courier…

…not so much. After opening the box he is attacked by a horrific green slime monster that quickly melds itself to his body…

…giving him a host of strange amazing powers while also…

…turning the poor chap into … an Eyebrow Vampire! No, we still aren’t sure yet what he is. But man! Thin those things out, please. 
Venus has the right idea. After a quick flee, she notices the chap doesn’t have a reflection anymore. That info along with the precise set of powers he’s gained lead her to deduce what courier guy has turned into…

…and also the best method of disposal. One quick stake and he’s toast. So much to love in this one I can’t wait for the next!

"Brother Vamiper”

Story – unknown
Art – Al Eadeh
Editor – Stan Lee
Reprinted from Astonishing, October 1954

We begin with the moral question of would you kill your brother if he was a vampire. The answer is, of course, YES! You would totally kill him.

Since that is all too easy, the story has to take this into a weirder territory: What would you do if your Siamese Twin Brother was a vampire? Not only does our narrator not know, he doesn’t even know how his brother became a vampire or why he was spared. What he does know is that he has amnesia, his brother is a vampire, and if he kills him, he is essentially killing himself. 

Okay, as bizarre premises go, this one is a doozy. Our narrator is forced to watch as his brother murders innocents to sate is blood thirst and he can do nothing. He even has to provide a cover for him so he isn’t caught. However, one night it all becomes too much…

…and he plunges a stake through his brother’s undead heart. To his surprise, he doesn’t die as well. Instead he realizes what must have occurred…

…the Siamese twin wasn’t a twin at all. It was just a fake out by the vampire to have a cover so he wasn’t caught. But now he’s dead and the narrator is free.

Strange. Not as good as the first tale, but still fun to read. The best is yet to come though…


Story – Steve Gerber
Penciler – Frank Brunner
Inker – Tom Palmer
Colorist – John Kalisz
Letterer– Annette Kawecki
Editor – Len Wein
Reprint from Giant Sized Man-Thing #5, August 1975

Yes! You are seeing that right. Steve Gerber’s second solo Howard the Duck tale “Hellcow!” I was lucky enough to have Giant Sized Man-Thing #4 and Frog Death was one of my favorite tales. In it Howard lands back on Earth and not on his planet of talking ducks. He ends up in New York this time, not Man-Thing’s swamp, which makes for some awkwardness. Soon he friends some neighborhood kids and then has to fend off an attack by a crazed neighbor transformed into a giant frog. Unfortunately, the formula goes a bit wrong, leading to the giant from shrinking to regular size right as Howard goes on the attack.

He blunders right into smacking two of New York’s finests with a board. This gets him carted off to jail as the man-frog ends up squished under the patrol car’s wheel.

I read that tale enough times to memorize details of art and words that will live on with me forever. And here is the follow up:

Howard is stuck in jail overnight.

And things only go from bad to worse as the cops and Commissioner Gordonski (Batman anyone?) try to figure out where the zipper on his costume is. See…because it AIN’T a costume!

And when they finally realize that…

Yeah, freakouts will ensue. Howard gets his freedom, however. ( I know Steve Gerber has passed, but I have to say…”Thank you, Steve! Thank you.! Howard is the BEST new Marvel character for so many reasons.”)

As our stogie-smoking fowl decides how to move on from here, we turn to our title character: a vampire bovine known as Hellcow!

Yes, it’s a vampire cow and it gets to WEAR A CAPE! I can’t love a book like a person, but if I COULD…I want this story to marry me.

All these mysterious farm deaths have the police baffled, but not Howard. He gets right to the heart of the mystery by going down a thought path no human would ever traverse. The killer is a FARM ANIMAL!

While we wait for Howard to devise a clever enough (or cleaver enough?) trap to catch the farm killer, we are treated to the ORIGIN of HELLCOW! And could it be any better than Dracula draining her dry? 

Which means she is pursing Dracula to kick him in the head for killing her. However, she first must sate the thirst that is eating at her. And her prey is a rather tall stranger, who turns out to be stranger still. (note the use of horns to butt Howard into the autobody shop?)

Howard has to use all his wits to remain alive. He’s a little like a duck-shaped Carl Kolchak. He gets points for inventive use of the lug wrench…

And even has a moment of regret for having to turn the cow into a giant meat popsicle…

Too bad no one will ever believe he is the hero he proports to be. Still, it wouldn’t be Howard if his adventures weren’t preposterous in the extreme.

Great stuff in one collected book. So buy this one if you see it in a bin dive. It’s worth your two bits, easy!

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