Friday, September 16, 2016

Fact vs. Fiction

With Dracula himself being a product of fiction, it's interesting to see how issue #49 of Tomb of Dracula plays on that concept to produce a story that confronts the lord of vampires with the prospect that he's tethered in some way to the 1897 novel authored by Bram Stoker--an assertion made all the more provocative as Dracula finds himself facing what appear to be living, breathing characters from various other novels, summoned into their presence by a woman who believes Dracula to be as much a part of her library as they are.

Angie Turner's "friends" are real to her, and real enough to the story--which makes them real enough to Dracula, who will find himself in their company against his will. But is this some dalliance of this reader of fictional works? Has she brought Dracula into her presence to complete this circle of characters that she's gathered--or does Dracula fill some deeper void within her? From D'artagnan's words, it seems that Angie has had Dracula in her thoughts for some time--but unlike the others who attend her, always out of reach. Presumably the reason lies in Dracula having a true existence in the world, a true history, whose presence is not limited to the printed page of Stoker's novel--none of which occurs to Angie (nor to many others in the world, no doubt). It's that novel on her shelf which once again brings him to mind--a preoccupation fanned by her companions gathered around her, whose devotion to and love for her move them to suggest that she pursue her heart's desire.

The sky isn't the only thing that's rumbling with thunder, as Dracula has been spirited away from the affairs of his satanic church as well as his pregnant wife, Domini, without warning or consent. Angie's words of explanation are from the heart--from her heart--yet for Dracula, they have no substance or importance, and he reacts accordingly.

As is evident, Angie's friends also react accordingly to their mistress being brutally rebuffed by one who should be as dedicated to her happiness as they are, springing to her defense in both word and deed. Included in those words is the implication that Dracula has been given life just as they have, a notion which Dracula rejects as preposterous and lashes out at those who surround him, prompting the others to strive to subdue him.

The hostilities escalate--though the only true injury is to Angie, who not only sees her calm and supportive environment of love and friendship rent and shattered but also suffers the hurt of being angrily rejected by the one she came to love most of all. She still has no concept of Dracula as a real being in the world--and so she still approaches him as the character from Stoker's book, even bringing to light the names of other characters which would resonate more with the book's reader than with one who has long since consigned the events and people it documents to dust. It's on both points that Dracula intends to make clear to her in no uncertain terms.

Yet the only bucket of ice water that Angie responds to is not the bluntness of Dracula's words, but the fate of D'artagnan, the one she has loved in Dracula's absence, as he's slain a second time by this man who is a horrible perversion of the character who should have appeared before her. Even now, she still sees Dracula only for who he should be, not as he is--and so a contest of wills, of reality, subsequently takes place between herself and Dracula, as Angie finally forsakes the novel she brought him forth from. Dracula, for his part, has other plans for this deluded woman, paying no attention whatsoever to what he considers an empty gesture on her part. Only one of them, of course, will be astonished at whose will prevails.

This is a story that crossed my mind while I was reading the final issue of the Tomb of Dracula series, which was bringing Dracula to an end, as well. What a clever twist on that story it might have been to have Angie's story take place as part of that issue, summoning Dracula from his castle and perhaps returning him to his introductory scene in Stoker's novel, closing the fictional circle--his comic book adaptation having taken him from those pages after all, despite his protestations to the contrary. It might have understandably rubbed a good deal of TOD readers the wrong way--but an "alternate ending" worth pondering, eh?

As for Angie, we finally learn her full story in the issue's closing pages:

Thankfully, Angie once again has her peace of mind, and the comfort of loved ones. And we might even say the same for Dracula--though it's a fair bet even he might feel a slight chill whenever he finds himself flying over a library from now on.

Tomb of Dracula #49

Script: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Gene Colan
Inks: Tom Palmer
Letterer: John Costanza


Anonymous said...

I've read "Dracula" but I must have been reading a different novel to Angie if she thinks Dracula was some kind of romantic hero - "You were so kind to her in the story. So sweet" she says of his treatment of Lucy Westenra...what ??? Dracula is a blood-thirsty monster who desires Lucy and turns her into a vampire - which is a bit different from giving her flowers and chocolates. I know Bram Stoker's novel is a timeless classic etc, etc but good grief, it was soooo loooong - I really feel like it could have been edited down to half the length without losing anything. The long drawn-out death of Lucy Westenra was just interminable and, of course, the blood transfusions look ridiculous given what we now know about blood groups. The best bits of the novel are the opening and closing sections set in Transylvania and the voyage of The Demeter from Eastern Europe to Whitby when the crew are disappearing one-by-one which is genuinely chilling - like an early slasher movie. But it's infuriating that there is NO EXPLANATION WHATSOEVER for how Jonathan Harker manages the seemingly impossible feat of escaping from Castle Dracula. Sorry for this long and rambling rant...I mean comment :D

Comicsfan said...

I suppose Angie isn't the first person to have romanticized a character in a book, Colin; and in her state of mind, perhaps it was easier for her to see only what she wished to see. It was only when the character leaped from the pages and savagely began attacking the others she cared for that she was able to make the distinction between the real Dracula and the character she still believed was above reproach. Dracula, for Angie, still waits for her on her library shelf, despite the flames that have consumed the pretender who appeared to her.

I haven't read Stoker's novel since my school days, but you managed to cover most if not all the bases--and very well, at that! I'm tempted to find a dusty copy somewhere and give it a second look.

Anonymous said...

Or you could try an e-book, CF - that's how I first read Dracula in 2014 along with Frankenstein and Planet Of The Apes. I was glad to have finally read these novels so hooray for e-books.

Anonymous said...

I love this story. Where else are you gonna see Dracula face off against Robin Hood? You just never knew what was gonna happen in ToD!
I recently reread the novel Dracula, and it does drag in the middle. A fantastic idea, yes, but the execution tests the reader, with a whole lotta endless conversation and exposition. A bunch of guys sitting around talking ABOUT Dracula, or events he caused, chapter after chapter, and it gets a bit old after a while. Still, everybody oughtta read it once! And cheat a little, like I did, and jump forward to the interesting parts. Great comic and a great review. Well worth a post!

Comicsfan said...

M.P., I imagine the subject matter at the turn of the 19th century made even the most tedious passages enthralling to the reader, whereas vampires--and Dracula in particular--are regarded nowadays in the "we've heard it all before" category, with the contemporary reader anxious to move on to something less recognized or familiar. Much of the "Dracula" film had similarly dragging scenes, and lacking music as well; but at the time, those scenes were chilling as well as gripping to watch in the silence and darkness of the theater, though today we'd all likely be drumming our fingers on the seat arms. Stoker, I dare say, knew his audience--and I tip my nonexistent hat to his instincts, as well as those who wrote the screenplay of the film.

I really must find the time to read the book again--a wonderful excuse for early retirement if ever there was one. :D

Anonymous said...

CF, I assume you mean the film "Bram Stoker's Dracula" from 1992 ? In December 1977 there was a BBC TV adaptation of the novel with Louis Jourdan as Dracula which was mostly faithful to the book but one of Lucy Westenra's three suitors was dropped. I watched it again on YouTube a couple of years ago - this time featuring Portugese subtitles which were very distracting at first but I soon got used to them.

Comicsfan said...

Not at all, Colin--I was referring to the 1931 classic with Bela Lugosi in the title role. You can watch it online at this link, if you're curious. (Though the version with Jourdan sounds interesting.)

Anonymous said...

Oops, I completely forgot about the 1931 film (shame on me !!) - I haven't seen it for maybe 35 years or more so I'd definitely like to watch it again.

Iain said...

Theres a comment Lex Luthor made in the Superman movie that I think shows what people get out of whatever they read is relative. "Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe."

I think you can read a book like Dracula and interpret it in whatever style you get out of it. ^^

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