Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Face Of Vengeance


While Tomb Of Dracula often spent quality time on Dracula's obsessions of revenge or power--whether it was his conflicts with Quincy Harker and his group, or furthering his goal of world rule by vampires, or warring with Doctor Sun, or accumulating power through his Dark Church cult, or even his periodic and invariably disastrous meetings with his daughter, Lilith--writer Marv Wolfman would also pause at times and provide a change of pace with compelling diversions into mystery and the macabre for the lord of vampires, a number of which the PPC has had the pleasure of exploring. Some that come to mind may ring familiar:

Fact vs. Fiction - Angie Turner has drawn close to her a number of fictional characters to whom she has somehow given life, but oversteps herself when she seeks to draw Dracula into that circle.

Hell Hath No Fury... - A web of deceit and murder spun by fashion executive Daphne von Wilkinson, who strikes a bargain with Dracula to take revenge against the men who screwed her over (so to speak) to facilitate their own ambitions.

Journal Of Darkness - A compendium of instances where Dracula has paused to reflect on those times in his life which filled him with pride, or rage, or even regret.

In Death Do We Join! - In the Russian village of Kamenka, an abusive husband returns from the grave as a vampire to menace his wife, in spite of the commands of Dracula to fall in line.

Return From The Grave! - A corpse rises from the grave to reclaim his own--a mystery which draws the attention of Scotland Yard, and defies even Dracula.

More such tales are in the offing here, never (heh heh) fear--but one tale which surely falls into this category comes from mid-1976, when Dracula was establishing his power base in his satanic cult and makes preparations to take part in a ceremony where he will be joined with a wife. Yet the nuptials of the "Dark-Lord" will be overshadowed by a gruesome threat from a dead man--one who seeks revenge against those responsible for bringing his life to an untimely, acidic end!

By this point, Dracula has successfully taken control of the church of Satan worshippers located in Boston which he discovered shortly after his arrival in America, choosing to foster the deception for his followers that he is indeed Satan given form, a claim easily validated thanks to his abilities as a vampire. As a steadily building plotline by Wolfman, his scenes with his bride, Domini, must share story space with the stalking corpse which competes for cover exposure with him--for those scenes are not only part of the front which he maintains for the sake of his position in the church, but they also establish the beginnings of the foundation of the bond between husband and wife which neither Dracula nor the book's readers ever saw coming.

Meanwhile, a cabal of those at a chemical-industrial plant who have a vested interest in covering up their company's pollution of the waters adjoining the property are attempting to rein in Barry Windom, an employee who has threatened to expose their activities to the authorities. Unfortunately, the people that Mr. Windom is attempting to appeal to are neither reasonable nor sympathetic to environmental concerns, particularly when they would affect their profits; consequently, the response he receives is final, in the strictest sense of the word.

Wolfman's near-poetic narrative on Windom's end and rebirth, while acknowledging that Windom was indeed lifeless when, ah, disposed of, sidesteps the question of how his body can now rise, animated and mindful of the vengeance it seeks against those who conspired against him. But then, we are reading a book which features a vampire, a creature whose existence as one of the living dead is just as questionable but nevertheless accepted. At any rate, the "faceless man" proceeds on his grisly path, as he seeks out, one by one, the individuals who coldly decided and exacted his fate.

But the form his vengeance will take will be eerie and shocking enough to convey a sense of horror to his victims, separate but similar fates which their false sense of security will not save them from.

All too quickly, that leaves us with Wallace Slammerkin and the group's distaff collaborator, Jean, for our ghoulish and piecemeal stalker to close in on. Little do the pair realize that Dracula will also visit them with death on his mind, excusing himself from his *ahem* honeymoon and seeing to his hunger by following Jean until he can assail her in private. Both he and the not-as-faceless man will interrupt a rendezvous between Jean and Slammerkin--making this a meeting where all present in one way or another have murder on their minds.

It's clear that these two undead combatants are furious with each other, albeit for very different reasons--as different as the needs that their victims would satisfy for each of them, which in the end makes neither of them either heroic or justified in how they deal with each other. The fate of Slammerkin seems certain, even as Windom moves to expel Dracula from the scene--but Dracula's fury is such that Windom will likely not survive the night, though the vampire will once again find himself cheated of his intentions.

Despite his obvious frustration, it seems unlikely that a man of Dracula's makeup will derive any meaningful insight from Windom's final words, given how often he has taken satisfaction from exercising vengeance during his long existence--whereas Windom's death and brief afterlife were rooted in tragedy and an empty drive toward revenge, as opposed to an existence of evil and mad ambition. Whether Dracula's new life with his wife will have him questioning that sort of existence is something the reader will discover in due time.



Anonymous said...

Great review, C.F.! For my money, ToD was the greatest horror comic ever written (reasonable men may differ), and one of the best things Marvel was putting out at time.
I'm reminded that Gene the Dean modeled Drac's face after the great Jack Palance. You can see it here. I betcha dollars to donut's he was inspired by Palance's performance in Shane, as very close to pure evil.
This was actually the first Drac comic I ever owned, as a kid, and I probably was surprised that it wasn't just about vampires. Anything could and did happen, like Dr. Sun for example. That was a wild concept. ToD was high on the list of comics whose back issues I would be hunting down as a young adult.
This issue, though, was CREEPY. That white face in the darkness with one eyeball on it...
Like on Doc Strange, it's what Colan DIDN"T show that made it spooky. You never knew what was in the dark or outside of the frame. Yikes.


Comicsfan said...

Colan certainly put his own stamp on both the character and the series, M.P., no doubt. As for Palance, who's also a cut above, you might want to check out a very offbeat film from 1987 called Bagdad Cafe, where he takes on a different role than what we might expect--and while you're at it, don't miss the '52 thriller Sudden Fear, where the man plays opposite Joan Crawford. (It's hard to choose which actor is the more imposing!)

Anonymous said...

I'll check those out, C.F.
I'll watch anything with that guy in it!
Palance was also completely diabolical in Barabbas, which starred another great character actor, Anthony Quinn.
Remember that show Believe it or Not? I watched it just 'cause Palance was on there.