|TOMB OF DRACULA No. 2, May 1972|
Plotted by Gerry Conway at a time when the Brooklyn-born writer was by his own admission performing “at a level that was actually beyond me”, Issue Two of “Tomb Of Dracula” is arguably heavily influenced by the “Hammer Picture” fright flicks which enjoyed such popularity with movie-goers in the Fifties and Sixties. Indeed “The Fear Within!” could quite easily have been a comic book adaption of one of the British film company’s movies so similar is the magazine’s narrative to the once “lucrative Hammer formula”.
But whereas the London-based producer enjoyed “huge box office success” with its early vampire films, it is doubtful that this twenty-one page storyline would have garnered too much praise had it appeared on celluloid. Being far more akin in quality to the critically panned “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” than the 1958 box-office breaking release of Terence Fisher’s “Dracula”.
Admittedly there isn’t actually that much wrong with this response by “Marvel Comics Group” to the Comics Code Authority’s relaxation of its rules regarding horror periodicals, except perhaps the cover’s rather comedic subheading “Who Stole My Coffin?”. But Conway’s plot of an Englishman stealing the Count’s casket and fleeing the Carpathians with it to “balmy London” is a little fatuous and silly. Especially when it results in the Lord of Vampires paying Clifton Graves’ “fog-wrapped city” a visit, dressed in all the foppish trappings of a gentleman such as walking cane and fedora.
The storyline also struggles to purvey any genuine sense of horror despite starting dramatically enough with the latest owner of “the old count’s castle” discovering the vampire’s tomb amidst the fortification’s crumbling ruins. This is predominantly caused by the New Yorker’s incarnation of Dracula appearing to be a much more action-orientated villain than the secretive terrifyingly intense ‘big screen’ version established by actor Christopher Lee. Something which results in the Transylvanian nobleman preferring to duke it out with a bar-room lout in a packed public house than simply stalk the shadows as an unseen killer.
Fortunately artist Gene Colan’s illustrations are engaging enough, if a little rough and undisciplined in places, such as Graves’ staking of his beloved Jeanie. But something has clearly gone awry with the colouring of Dracula’s flesh a third of the way through the issue as the vampire remains as white-skinned as ever despite Van Harbou relieving the Count of his “unearthly pallor” early on in the adventure.
|Story: Gerry Conway, Art: Gene Colan, and Inking: Vince Colletta|