Friday, October 13, 2017

...And The Children Shall Slay Them!

In the seventh issue of Tomb Of Dracula from March of 1973, writer Marv Wolfman joins artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer to form a near-perfect team of creativity that would take the book through the next 6½ years (though Palmer would be absent for four issues after Wolfman's debut). Issue 7 begins a two-part story that would also see the introduction of Quincy Harker, the son of the man responsible for facilitating Dracula's arrival in London; and, through Quincy, the story is also the first to feature the formation of the dedicated if arguably ineffectual vampire-hunting group of Quincy, Rachel Van Helsing, her mute servant, Taj, and Frank Drake, whose long pursuit of Dracula culminated in Quincy's final confrontation with and subsequent slaying of the vampire lord.

As for Dracula, he already doesn't seem too impressed by this new band of vampire hunters, if the average age of the humans he's enthralled from a nearby playground to battle the group is any indication.

Thanks to the cover rendered by Larry Lieber, it almost seems like actor Christopher Lee will be playing our Count in this story--but inside, Wolfman and Colan (with Palmer) are already pooling their talents nicely for the issue's splash page that tempts the reader further--and with Dracula's aborted attack on Quincy's daughter, Edith, it becomes clear that this enemy of both Quincy and his father once again stalks London.

Good lord--call for a cab, man! You really want your daughter dragged all the way home?

We're not sure exactly what Quincy brings to the table in his fight against Dracula, other than his ancestry. Being in contact with Rachel and who knows who else, his primary task could be in coordinating the hunt for Dracula and networking with operatives all over the world, a task made necessary once again by Dracula's reappearance--and of course he has a lifetime of knowledge that would prove valuable. But during his meeting with Rachel and Frank, we also see that he has no intention of spending his time idly while others risk their lives against the one they hunt.

Quincy's struggle has obviously been a long one, in hunting not only Dracula but other vampires--his life replete with successes, losses, and more than its share of tragedy. But even as he makes clear to Frank his commitment to end Dracula's existence, elsewhere Dracula is making a similar pledge to deal with his pursuers once and for all. To that end, he conscripts a group of attackers who can be sent against his foes with complete impunity.

Wolfman, in exposition that he would demonstrate often throughout the run of the book, spends considerable time characterizing one of Dracula's victims--in this case, the man whom Dracula would use to set his plan against Quincy and the others in motion, a bridegroom spending time with his friends at a local bar the night before his wedding. As a victim, the man is duly terrorized by Dracula before his time comes--but as he flees, Wolfman's narrative all but counts down his last moments:

"...Buckley Grainger runs... he runs though he knows there is no place to run... he runs because if he doesn't, Buckley Grainger will die...

"...and Buckley Grainger does not want to die this night... not the night before his wedding to the lovely Anne Milligan... lord, Buckley doesn't want to die tonight...

"...which makes it some sort of crime... because he must!!"

And indeed Buckley Grainger does--though it's easy to get the impression that his main threat is from Wolfman rather than Dracula!

But the location of Grainger's death has been carefully chosen--and the following scenes, giving us our first look at Quincy's group in action, make it clear that (a) Quincy and the rest are a little slow on the uptake as far as realizing that this is a ploy of Dracula's, (b) their tactics and effectiveness leave something to be desired, and (c) the character of Frank Drake, Dracula's descendant, will continue to demonstrate that he can be of the most use to this group by pushing Quincy's wheelchair.

With Edith standing by at the radio at Quincy's home, the rest keep Dracula in sight, though no doubt Dracula is doing the same with them. Fortunately, Quincy has the presence of mind to consider the possibility that they're all being duped--a scene of saving grace from Wolfman, since it prevents this group from coming across as a joke (at least in this story) as far as being an effective force against Dracula. Regrettably, the night is young.

Despite being completely fooled by the work that Drake's former friend, Clifton Graves, has done with this corpse, you can almost feel sympathy for Quincy, who was so certain that his long fight with Dracula was over--despite never questioning why Dracula would retire to his coffin well before dawn.

Regardless, Dracula's trap is finally sprung--but even as the group discovers why their weaponry has been rendered meaningless, Quincy moves to make sure that Dracula doesn't escape unscathed.

It's odd that Wolfman didn't insert a bit of strategy in Quincy's strike by having him note that Dracula's death would result in the children being freed from the vampire's control, thus ending two threats at once. At any rate, while Dracula might have remained to monitor the situation, he's now forced to retreat--but unless Quincy is stocking some tranquilizer darts in that wheelchair, it would seem that Dracula's plan to slay his enemies will be carried out by children--and on a school night, to boot.


Tomb of Dracula #7

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


George Chambers said...

I'm fascinated that this comic was able to bear the Comics Code Authority seal, given that the eponymous character is the bad guy. Indeed, Dracula is presented here as irredeemably evil, and yet he consistently prevails over his many foes. I know that the Code was modified in 1971 to allow the depiction of vampires in comics, but still, one of the basic tenets of the Code was that the forces of evil were to have no lasting victory over good. I guess by the time Tomb of Dracula was published, the Code was well on its way toward irrelevance.

Comicsfan said...

George, you raise a good point; but with Dracula moving from one scheme to the next, it's probably fair to say that in this series he wasn't allowed to have a "lasting" victory so much as a series of short-lived ones. There were, of course, the number of murders he committed, which shouldn't be swept under the rug--though perhaps the Code conceded that trade-off went with the territory as far as vampires were concerned.

Anonymous said...

In one of those panels Dracula says:

"And before I am done, only the undead shall walk the Earth"...

...which begs the obvious question: who would the undead feed on ? Animals ? And if all the animals became undead too, what then ?

Comicsfan said...

Colin, I'm guessing it probably would have occurred to Dracula before he slaughtered too many humans that he'd want to make other arrangements for their disposition, for just the reason you mention. My guess is that he would keep them sequestered in various parts of the world as feeding stock--so in that sense, they wouldn't be walking the Earth any longer as its dominant species.

Anonymous said...

I've wondered that myself.
On another note, I agree with your assessment that the the creative team on ToD was "near perfect."
I've got fifteen or so back issues and one anthology, but this story is new to me. It's always a treat to see a new one from that fabled run. One that's new to me, anyway.
Many thanks, C.F.!


Comicsfan said...

It's always a pleasure to review these TOD stories, M.P. Stay tuned--the PPoC hasn't (heh) nailed the coffin lid shut on this series yet. :)