Dracula, for the Mature Reader:

How Marvel Built a ‘70s Horror Book Around a Victorian-Era Monster, Part 1

Marvel Editor Stan Lee originally envisioned The Tomb of Dracula not as a full-color comic book but rather as a black-and-white magazine along the lines of Savage Tales, which debuted in the summer of 1971 (Field and Colan 98). The magazine format would have freed Tomb’s writers from the constraints of the Comics Code. Unlike Stan Lee, Martin Goodman, who was publishing Marvel at the time, didn’t care for the black-and-white magazine format. “Goodman… decided to pull the plug on Savage Tales even before sales figures could confirm if it had been selling or not” (Comtois 68). Roy Thomas had penned a Conan the Barbarian story for the Savage Tales premiere. According to him, Goodman was looking for an excuse to kill the title: “he was also wary of the Comics Code Authority, which he feared might interpret Savage Tales as an attempt to circumvent its rules and retaliate by giving him trouble with the company’s regular line of comics” (Comtois 68). So Tomb of Dracula (TOD) debuted in 1972 as a full-color comic book with the CCA’s seal of approval on the cover. Given the subject matter tackled in those initial issues, and throughout the title’s run, Tomb of Dracula should have come with a “mature readers” rating instead.

Prior to 1971, the Comics Code Authority never would have approved The Tomb of Dracula. Drafted in 1954 to protect young minds from the presumed damaging effect of comic books, the original Code banned the words “horror” and “terror” from the titles of comic books and vampires from the pages within: “Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.” In 1971, the CCA softened its stance against certain types of monsters: “Vampires, ghouls and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allen Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world.” If the CCA wanted vampires in the classic tradition of Dracula, what could please them more than a comic book starring Dracula himself?

Tomb of Dracula #1 (titled simply “Dracula” like Stoker’s novel) begins with one of the Count’s remaining descendants, Frank Drake, traveling from America to Transylvania to claim the one piece of his inheritance he hadn’t squandered: the family castle. Frank’s journey parallels that of Jonathan Harker in the first chapter of Stoker’s novel. Jonathan Harker, a lawyer, comes to Transylvania from his native England to assist Count Dracula with a real estate transaction, the purchase of an estate along the English coast. Like Jonathan Harker, Frank is warned by villagers to stay away from the castle, and just like Jonathan Harker, Frank comes to regret not heeding those warnings.

Unlike Jonathan Harker, Frank does not arrive in Transylvania alone. He is joined by his fiancée Jean and his best friend, Clifton Graves — who also happens to be Jean’s ex-boyfriend. The sexual tension in this triangle fuels Tomb’s first storyline. The three of them have arrived in Transylvania completely aware of the legend. When Frank first reveals that Drake is a shortened form of his true family name, Dracula, Clifton responds, “Like in the movies?” (7) In the Marvel Universe, not only does Dracula exist, so do the Bram Stoker novel and the films adapted from it. In TOD #7 (“Night of the Death Stalkers!”) Frank Drake himself likens a vampire hunter’s basement to “an old Hammer movie set.” (9) [From the 1950s until the 1970s, Hammer Films produced a slew of Gothic horror movies, among them a popular series of Dracula films starring Christopher Lee.]

Clifton Graves, who knows Dracula only as a movie monster, cannot understand the villagers’ reluctance to drive him and his group to the castle. “Didn’t that go out with Bram Stoker?” he asks. (4) The innkeeper responds to Clifton’s condescension with a simple fact: “Herr Stoker told the truth — in part.” The innkeeper’s statement granted Gerry Conway, who wrote the first two issues, liberty to incorporate as much or as little of the original novel as he chose. If Stoker only told the truth “in part,” then Tomb of Dracula could be tied to the original book but not bound by it. Changes could be made — and they were in the very first issue.

While exploring the lower levels of the castle, Clifton Graves stumbles upon Dracula’s skeleton with a stake wedged in its chest. For no reason, aside from his disbelief that vampires really exist, Clifton pulls the stake out, bringing Dracula back to life. The mere presence of Dracula’s skeleton in the comic book contradicts the ending of Stoker’s novel, where the vampire’s heart is stabbed with a bowie knife, not a wooden stake, and his throat is slit, the combination of which reduces his body to ash — all of which takes place outside the castle walls. Mina Harker, who is watching from a distance, records the scene in her journal:

But, on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan’s great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through [Dracula’s] throat; whilst at the same moment Mr. Morris’s bowie knife plunged into the heart.

It was like a miracle; but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight. (Stoker 497)

According to vampire lore, once a vampire’s body is reduced to ash, it should lie beyond any hope of reanimation. Future TOD writer Marv Wolfman will introduce a ritual for reviving vampire ashes forty issues down the road, but for the purpose of bringing Dracula back as quickly as possible, Gerry Conway relies on the time-tested convention of simply pulling the stake out of the skeleton’s chest. For the comic book’s younger readers, who were far more familiar with the way Dracula was killed off in the movies rather than the novel, the image of Dracula’s skeleton lying with a stake in its chest offered a more accessible starting point.

The Dracula that Clifton awakens is not just a vampire. He is a sexual predator. If hunger alone were driving Dracula’s quest for blood, he would feast upon Clifton, who is standing right in front of him. Instead, his eyes light up when he hears “voices from the floors above… and one of the voices… is a woman’s.” (16) Dracula tosses Clifton Graves into a hole and flies off in search of this woman, who happens to be Frank Drake’s fiancée Jean. Before Dracula can sink his teeth into her, Frank drives him off by flashing a silver compact in his face. Momentarily sidelined, Dracula flies off in search of another victim, another woman.

He swoops down upon on an attractive barmaid who was introduced at the beginning of the issue. Dracula attacks her while she is leaving the inn where she works. After Dracula has killed her, we see the skirt of her dress hiked up all the way to her upper thigh. The image leaves us wondering what Dracula has done beyond drinking this poor young woman’s blood. Our suspicions are not allayed by his assessment of the barmaid’s character: “The girl… seemed corrupt. She was bitter with petty evil…” (20) These thoughts run through Dracula’s head as he stands outside Jean’s room, watching the woman sleep, like a rapist ready to attack. Although Frank is lying in wait for the Count, he cannot protect his fiancée a second time. Dracula not only bites Jean, he turns her into a vampire.

In the second issue (“The Fear Within!”), Dracula, now in London, targets yet another attractive young woman. The comic book describes this victim in the most romantic of terms: “the graceful girl who’s caught his eye.” (11) Dracula trails this young woman, Ellie, to a local bar where he buys her a drink. After some light flirtation and a barfight — Dracula knocks out her jealous boyfriend — Ellie leaves on his arm. Instead of taking this young woman home, Dracula leads her into a side street where he kills her. As with the barmaid from the previous issue, the artwork (penciled and inked by Gene Colan) suggests sexual assault. In the panel where Dracula attacks Ellie, the two are only drawn from the waist down, his legs facing hers, which are exposed to the upper thigh. While we know that Dracula kills Ellie for her blood, we can’t ignore the possibility that he has sexually assaulted her as well — especially since the barmaid, Jean, and Ellie form a pattern: Dracula preys upon attractive women with sexually suspect morals. He described the barmaid as “corrupt”; Jean dumped one man for his best friend; and Ellie is the sort of young woman who could be had for the price of a drink. In Stoker’s original novel, Dracula initially victimizes Lucy Westenra, a young woman with far less than traditional views on the parameters of marriage.

While Dracula is stalking Ellie, the recently turned Jean is sneaking into Frank Drake’s hotel room. Frank discovers his late fiancée in the shower, not naked but wearing a low-cut red dress. His immediate reaction is sexual: “Without thinking, he pulls her to him, feeling her hands touch his shoulder.” (9) Before the moment can progress, Frank remembers what Jean has become and pulls out his crucifix. The next time we see Jean, she is tied to a chair. Sitting across from Jean in her low-cut red dress is her jealous ex, Clifton Graves, his shirt unbuttoned all the way to his navel. The panel comes across as nothing shy of a bondage tableau.

Aware that Clifton still harbors feelings for her, Jean plays with his emotions. “‘… I realize now… That it’s you I’ve loved all along,’” she tells him. (15) Under Jean’s spell, a combination of feminine wiles and vampiric hypnosis, Clifton tries to kill Frank, his rival for Jean’s affection. Ultimately, Frank is forced to stake Jean.

Despondent over killing his fiancée, Frank begins issue #3 (“Who Stalks the Vampire?”) with a suicide attempt — a course of action comic book fans have not come to expect from their heroes, but Frank Drake is far from the typical comic book hero. He throws himself off a bridge, only to be grabbed at the last second by Taj Nital, a mute vampire hunter who works alongside Rachel Van Helsing, granddaughter of the same Professor Van Helsing who chased Dracula across Europe in Stoker’s novel. Rachel persuades Frank to join their team, and the two eventually fall in love.

Frank’s relationship with Rachel Van Helsing offers a mature love story fraught with real-life issues amidst all the supernatural battles. Marv Wolfman, who took over writing TOD with issue #7, intended this. In the foreword to The Curse of Dracula, he writes: “The stories would be about real people with real emotions finding themselves under pressure and trying to learn to deal with it.” Frank, a playboy who wasted his family fortune, doesn’t feel worthy of Rachel, a strong woman who has devoted her whole life to saving humanity from vampires. At the end of issue #24 (“A Night for the Living…”), Frank kisses Rachel good-bye as he sets out on a journey to find himself. “I swear I’ll be back,” he promises her. “And I’ll be a better man when I do.” (32) Two issues later (TOD #26: “Where Lurks the Chimera!”), Frank, who has not yet become a better man, is already kissing another woman. The humorously misnamed Chastity Jones walks up to Frank on the top of Page 16, plants a kiss on him before introducing herself, then offers him a job in Brazil. Not realizing that she is luring him into a trap, Frank accepts. Minutes later, the two have headed to Chastity’s hotel room under the guise of Frank grabbing a quick shower before their flight leaves. While Frank showers, Chastity stands outside the bathroom, the door of which is wide open. Within four panels, Frank, wearing only a towel around his waist, pulls Chastity into a kiss. Two panels later, the towel is lying on the floor beside Frank’s feet. Not only is Frank Drake cheating on his lover, he is cheating with a woman he just met.

This is not the sort of behavior comic book readers are used to seeing their heroes engage in; it’s not even the sort of behavior in which they see villains engage — in part because it flies in the face of the CCA rule that “seduction may not be shown.” Frank’s romp with Chastity violated the comics code, but it didn’t shock fans who had been reading Tomb of Dracula from the beginning. They knew Frank as a playboy who didn’t expect any consequences after stealing his best friend’s girl. The comic book, however, would soon be shocking readers with scenes far more provocative than a towel dropped onto a hotel room floor.

Issue #31 (“Ten Lords a Dying!”) finds a lonely Rachel curled up in bed reading a book. “There is a sudden draft in Rachel’s apartment, and she rises to make sure her window is closed. She never reaches it.” (14) Readers waited until the end of the next issue (TOD #32: “And Some Call Him… Madness!”) to learn why. An epic battle between Dracula and Quincy Harker ends with an arrow in Dracula’s heart. As he crumples down, Dracula taunts Quincy to call Rachel. The comic book cuts to Rachel’s apartment, where we see her being held down by two female vampires. Adding a sexual undertone to the scene, Rachel’s clothes are disheveled, her left shoulder and breast nearly exposed. TOD #33 (“Blood on My Hands!”) begins with Quincy Harker giving in to the vampires’ demand to remove the arrow from Dracula’s chest. As the vampires leave Rachel’s apartment, we see that her nightgown has been torn in several spots. Yes, a vampire hunter like Rachel would have put up a fight, possibly ripping her clothes in the process, but readers are left wondering what else happened. When Quincy asks Rachel how she is, her response fuels our suspicions: “They were sick. God — sadistically sick and twisted. They did things.” (14) Dracula quickly dismisses her claims — “She exaggerates her pain” — but readers don’t believe that. Rachel soldiered on even after bats clawed up her face in issue #12 (“Night of the Screaming House!”). As a reminder, Gene Colan still draws the scars on her face. Although Rachel never elaborates on the “things” these vampires did, the term “sadistically” can be interpreted as a sexual component to the infliction of pain.

Making the two vampires who held Rachel hostage female allowed the comic book to skirt the CCA rule prohibiting even the suggestion of rape. Had the vampires, even one of them, been male, Rachel’s cryptic comments could have been interpreted as an acknowledgment that she had been raped. Because the vampires were female, readers may have been less inclined to categorize or even realize the extent of her assault.

Rachel’s hostage drama reflected a lesbian theme that had been cropping up in vampire films during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Daughters of Darkness, a 1971 Belgian film, includes a sex scene between a sophisticated vampire and her female assistant. In Twins of Evil, also from 1971, a female vampire bites a young woman not on the neck but on her breast. The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971), and Twins of Evil comprise a trilogy based on Sheridan LeFanu’s 19th Century novella CarmillaCarmilla, often analyzed for the lesbian overtones in the relationship between the title vampire and her female victim, is considered an influence on Stoker’s Dracula.

Months after Rachel was presumably assaulted by her vampire captors, she reveals that Dracula himself once made sexual advances on her. A flashback in issue #40 (“Nightmares of a Living Dead Man!”) brings readers to Rachel’s sixteenth birthday. Dracula waits until the last guest has left before dropping in “to wish [her] a Happy Birthday — and an equally Happy Death-Day.” (6) Just killing Rachel, whose parents he had killed years before, will not satisfy Dracula. Turning on his hypnotic charm, he promises to be “more than any friend could ever hope to be.” (7) He then instructs her to drop the crucifix with which she is holding him at bay. As soon as she does, he places his hands on her shoulders and tells her, “You are lovely, dear. Do you wish me to kiss you…?”  His ego demands more than a simple “yes.” He orders her to say the words: “Please… please… kiss me… Please, Dracula, please…” (7) Some longtime readers were horrified to see Rachel, even a hypnotized Rachel, begging Dracula for a kiss, and even more unnerved to see Dracula coercing a teenage girl into submissive affection. Even if Dracula were the age he appears, late 30s versus 500+, the age difference would still unsettle readers. Once again, though, Wolfman skirts the issue of rape. The age of consent in England was raised from to 16 (from 13) in 1885 and has remained there ever since. Technicalities aside, Rachel is just barely legal during this encounter. Dracula is crashing her Sweet Sixteen party. Making his advances even more disturbing, he calls her “child.” He knows that she is too young to engage in this sort of behavior with him. After Rachel begs him for a kiss, he responds, “Since that is what you wish, child — I feel duty bound to do as you desire.” (7) His hand then moves up to her face. Although his fangs have been bared, his mouth and Rachel’s look poised to kiss.

Dracula’s sexual cat-and-mouse game ultimately costs him his chance to kill Rachel. Had he simply bitten her after she discarded the crucifix, he would have removed her as a future threat to his existence. The time he has wasted manipulating her emotions allows Quincy Harker the chance to bust through the door.

As Dracula flies off, Rachel covers her face and utters, “Oh no!” (10) Whether she was regretting what she’d almost done or disappointed to see Dracula leave before their kiss was consummated remains unclear. In the next panel, an adult Rachel reflects back upon that night. “He made me love him,” she recalls, “and perhaps I’ve always wondered if he was able to hypnotize me then because in truth, I did want him.” (10) Intentional or not, the confession adds a sexual-grooming subtext to the battle between Rachel and Dracula, whom she admits, as an unhypnotized adult, “has a certain charm.” (6)

Rachel makes this confession to Aurora Rabinowitz, a young woman who has developed a potentially deadly crush on Dracula. Aurora works for a magazine that specializes in “true” vampire stories. She will eventually write a story for the magazine titled “I Loved a Vampire.” The redheaded Aurora is often drawn in fairly seductive poses, taking baths and sleeping in the nude, her modesty and the book’s ability to maintain its seal of approval protected by well positioned soap suds and blankets. Despite the sexy way Aurora is presented, against expectations she turns out to be a virgin, a fact which will prove a necessary plot point.

At the end of issue #39 (aptly titled “The Death of Dracula!”), Dracula is incinerated by the evil Dr. Sun, a disembodied brain hooked up to a network of supercomputers. Two years prior, Blade had killed Dracula with one of his wooden knives in TOD #13 (“To Kill a Vampire!”) only to see the Count come back the very next issue (“Dracula Is Dead!”). To sell the cliffhanger in TOD #39, Wolfman needed an end that seemed final. According to legend, reducing a vampire to ash moves the monster beyond the possibility of reanimation. But Wolfman couldn’t leave Dracula dead for more than issue, not in a comic book titled The Tomb of Dracula. So, he created his own loophole: “Either the blood or tears of a virgin-pure can reanimate the ashes of a vampire damned” (TOD #41: “Re-Birth!”). Aurora Rabinowitz’s virgin tears, cried straight into Dracula’s urn, bring the Count back to life. Respecting the Code’s rules against nudity, Aurora’s virgin tears not only reanimate Dracula, they bring him back fully clothed.

Resurrecting an incinerated Dracula was not just a plot twist. Marv Wolfman was making a statement. His Tomb of Dracula defied the rules, even rules considered iron-clad, such as the way to permanently destroy a vampire or the guidelines laid out by the Comics Code Authority.

Dracula’s gratitude for the role Aurora played in his resurrection is not without limitation. When the woman asks if he would ever kill her, he replies, “yes, but I’m not about to as long as you amuse me.” (16) This comment Aurora interprets to mean “Dracula really [cares] about me.” (16) While Rachel Van Helsing remains a strong woman throughout the series, many of the secondary tier of female characters, characters like Aurora, suffer from dangerously low self-esteem.

Even Domini, the woman Dracula chooses to be his wife, accepts his misogynistic ambivalence. In issue 45 (“Cross-Fire!”), he discovers Domini in a Satanic cult and informs the leader that he will take her as his wife. At the time Dracula is arranging this transaction, he doesn’t even know the woman’s name, though he does find it appealing when it is told to him. [Derived from Dominique, the name means “belonging to the Lord,” which appeals to Dracula’s disdain for God and religion.]  Not one to waste time, Dracula marries Domini one issue later (TOD #46: “Let Us Be Wed in Unholy Matrimony”) and begins his family the issue after that. In that same issue (TOD #47: “Birthrite: Death!”), on the very night they plan to conceive their child, Dracula places his hand on Domini’s throat just to remind her “how easy it would be to crush you like an overripe melon.” (6) One panel later, he is admitting his love for her, a love he never realized he could feel for a mortal. Despite the threat he just made, Domini confesses her devotion. “What need have I for the world,” she tells him, “when I have you at my side.” (7) Although Dracula never hurts Domini physically, his threats abuse her mentally.

Dracula’s marriage to Domini and his dealings with the Satanic cult stand out as one of the best story arcs in the series and one of its most controversial. The storyline begins with Dracula crashing a black mass and being mistaken for the Devil. Dracula plays along because he sees the cult as his path to world domination. As he explains in issue #55 (“Requiem for a Vampire”), “It is through religion that one may control the mind of a people.” (5) Toward that goal, Dracula forms an alliance with the leader Anton Lupeski (the character’s name a nod to Anton Lavey, who founded the Church of Satan). The wedding is performed in a deconsecrated church Dracula has chosen for his base of operations. “With my new wife,” he promises the wedding guests, “we shall bring into this world a son… a son to do battle with that other God’s son. And our child, too, will be born to this world on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month.” (11) The Christmas birth has been chosen as a slap in the face to the Christian God the Satanists view as their enemy. Fulfilling her husband’s promise, Domini will not only deliver a son on Christmas Eve in TOD #54 (“Twas the Night Before Christmas”), she will parallel the Nativity by giving birth in a barn.

Like the wedding, the conception takes place in the desecrated church in front of the Satanic congregation. The conception merits a full page panel. Domini stands naked on the right hand side of the page, her breasts covered by her long hair. Dracula stands on the left side of the page, naked save for his signature cape. The lower halves of their bodies are obscured by flames. In case the commingling of exhibitionism and voyeurism doesn’t shock readers sufficiently, blasphemy is drawn into the mix. In between Dracula and Domini, Gene Colan has included a portrait of Jesus.

This is not the first time that Dracula has mocked a major religion. In issue #27 (“Night-Fire!”), a pawnbroker discovers that his Star of David — or as Dracula calls it, “the Jewish Star of David” — can hold vampires at bay as effectively as a crucifix. “Symbols of all gods repulse,” Dracula explains, adding, “your ridiculous version — and all the others.” (27) The Count further insults the Jewish faith by calling the pawnbroker’s God “a lunatic who claims he created the world.” (27)

Marv Wolfman saved one of society’s biggest taboos — incest — for the comic book’s final story arc. Satan turns Dracula back into a human being, which he deems the Count’s personal hell. And right he is. Dracula misses the power he once wielded and resents dealing with mundane human concerns like food. In issue #66 (“Showdown in Greenwich Village”), Dracula mugs a couple, then heads into a restaurant for one of the series’ few comical scenes. First Dracula asks his waiter, “I have one dollar. What will that buy?” He then orders a hamburger, which he describes as “those round patties of meat.” (7)

To reclaim his powers, Dracula needs to be bitten by a vampire. For that honor, he tracks down his estranged daughter Lilth in issue #67 (“At Long Last… Lilth!”). “I sought out you for you were the only one I would allow to return my vampire powers,” he tells her. “I thought of all the undead, only you had that rightful heritage.” (7) Given the comic book’s seductive presentation of the vampire’s bite, often referred to as “a kiss,” Dracula’s decision to be bitten by his own daughter borders on the incestuous.

Having been raised by gypsies, Lilth possesses skills beyond those normally associated with vampires. “Lilth has the uncanny power to live in a host body.” (1) The hosts Lilth selects all share her antipathy toward their own fathers. Issue #67 begins with Lilth inhabiting the body of an unwed mother who is living with her boyfriend. [While Wolfman does not spell out the couple’s marital status, Colan did not draw wedding bands on either of their hands.] Dracula, who can sense Lilth’s presence, follows this couple to their apartment and walks right into the bathroom while the woman is showering. There he demands that Lilth come out and face him. The next panel teases readers with two hands poised to separate the shower curtains. The reader is led to believe that Lilth is going to emerge from the shower naked in front of her own father. But no: when she assumes her true form, her clothes, including her bat-shaped tiara, materialize as well. Despite Lilth being clothed, the image still unsettles the reader – Dracula standing there in the bathroom, waiting for his daughter step out of the shower.

When Lilth refuses to bite her father, their ensuing fight moves them to a nearby playhouse which is staging The Passion of Dracula. The Passion of Dracula was playing in Greenwich Village at the same time Dracula was being revived on Broadway. Setting the battle between Lilth and her father on the stage of a play titled The Passion of Dracula better accents the sexual subtext lurking beneath their animosity.

Tomb of Dracula violated more CCA regulations than just those governing sex and marriage. The constant blasphemy during the Satanic cult storyline ignored the rule forbidding “ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group” with the same disregard with which Dracula himself dismissed all religions — and certain racial groups. The vampire hunter Blade was introduced in issue #10 (“His Name Is Blade!”), but the character had met Dracula some years before that. As detailed via flashback in issue #30 (“Memories on a Mourning’s Night!”), Blade shows up at Dracula’s doorstep under the pretense of offering his allegiance. The moment he is led in, the Count sees the color of his visitor’s skin. “Had I realized it was a savage who wished to speak with me—” (23) Dracula doesn’t complete his sentence, but he really doesn’t need to. The color of Blade’s skin often figures into Dracula’s insults. When Blade crashes a fundraiser for Dracula in TOD #51 (“The Wildest Party”), Dracula asks, “Why is that black scum here?”

While Dracula flouts one CCA rule after another, he does adhere to one guideline. Part C of the General Standards – the section governing dialogue – advocates, “…whenever possible good grammar shall be employed.” In Stoker’s novel, the Count studied English for many years before leaving Transylvania. Jonathan Harker compliments him on his command of the language: “…You know and speak English thoroughly!” (49) Some might consider the comic book incarnation of the Count a real stickler for proper grammar. In issue #35 (“Hell Hath No Fury…”), a victim considers Dracula no match for his own fighting skill: “Let’s see who mops the floor with who.” (26) Before killing the man, Dracula corrects his grammar: “The word should be ‘whom.’”

In the introduction to Curse of Dracula, Wolfman remembers the constant battles behind the scenes: “Every month we fought tooth and nail with the Comics Code, the organization that controlled what could and could not be done in the comics of the time, to show that comics could and should be aimed at grownups and not just kids.” As evidenced by the number of provocative scenes that made their way into print, Wolfman and Colan won a good many of those battles.

The Comics Code Authority may have backed down as often as it did because the organization realized that it had granted Marvel license to create a mature comic book. The code’s 1971 revision encouraged “…vampires… to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as… Dracula…” Although extreme for mainstream comic books at the time, the sexual situations in Tomb of Dracula were literally following “the classic tradition” laid out by Bram Stoker’s original novel.

Concluded in Part 2…

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Gerard J Waggett has taught classes on comic books, graphic novels, horror fiction, and vampires at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. After freelancing at varied soap opera magazines in the early 90s, he then published 11 books of soap opera trivia. More recently, he has begun focusing on his fiction with three stories published in Mystery Magazine during the past two years. He is also a two-time Jeopardy! champion.

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