Thursday, January 3, 2013

Vampire Tales!

Bob Larkin

When Marvel jumped into the black and white magazine business in a big way in the early 70's, they did it with gusto. Riding the wave of interest in monster characters which had blossomed in the color comics, they sought to do a somewhat more "mature" version of these characters in the less restricted black and white arena. Dracula Lives and Monsters Unleashed featured iconic monsters, Dracula and Frankenstein respectively, characters with at least some name recognition beyond the Marvel Universe.

Not so with Vampire Tales, a title which featured the misadventures of Marvel's own Morbius the Living Vampire. Created in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, Michael Morbius was a neat fusion of science and sorcery and a striking character visually. He is featured in these issues with some very muscular artwork by Pablo Marcos, Rich Buckler and later Tom Sutton. Also on hand in this series was Satana the Devil's Daughter and sibling to Damon Hellstrom, and a spin-off character from the successful Tomb of Dracula series, Blade the Vampire Killer.  The series ran for eleven issues plus an annual full of reprint material. Then the black and white boom was done and the characters moved onto mostly four-color adventures since.

Until now.

Recently Marvel reprinted the whole of the Vampire Tales material in three not-quite digest-sized volumes. The reprints are on quality stock and featured the color covers in vivid hues. The magazines are reprinted in order and in total.  All the material is  here,  including vintage articles on all manner of things vampire and horror in general. It's always a hoot to read contemporaneous articles about movies which have long ago become classics. These little volumes are true time capsules from the early 1970's, one of my favorite places to hang out.

Never shy about its vintage material Marvel also included lots of stuff from the 1950's Atlas days in these comics to fill them out. It's all here. The volumes at twenty bucks stalled me, it seemed this stuff was worthy of single Essentials volume, but this past week I was able to bring two of the volumes home with some in-store credits and picked up the third one off Amazon for small money. So given that, I'm able to enjoy without feeling especially gouged.

Below are the covers of the three new volumes, done in a very low-key two-tone style along with the issues they contain. There's something disturbingly attractive about the truly lurid covers for Vampire Tales.

Pablo Marcos

Estaban Maroto

Jose Antonio Domingo

Luis Dominguez

Pablo Marcos

Boris Vallejo

Estaban Maroto

Boris Vallejo

Jose Antonio Domingo

Tony DeZuniga

Jose Antionio Domingo

Jose Antionio Domingo

Richard Hescox

Richard Hescox

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8 comments:

  1. The cover to issue #6 has bugged me for years. I simply don't buy that the figure of Lilith was painted by Boris Vallejo. It bares no relation to his style or caliber. I have long suspected that whatever figure Boris did infact put in this painting was either deemed too risque or simply wasn't Lilith at all (maybe he submitted a painting 'on spec' featuring a generic sexy female, which marvel liked, but needed her to be recognizably their character), & Marvel had someone else paint in the figure that was substituted. Great to see all these covers again regardless.

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    1. I think I agree. It does seem a bit stiff to be a Vallejo wench. The most likely candidate would be of course John Romita, but perhaps Vallejo is working from a Romita sketch. I can't help but see a little Bob Brown in this figure.

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  2. I just love the way these covers are put together, in terms of artwork, masthead, and story wording. Marvel did a good job in reflecting the look of other monster mags. The June issue of Vol. 2 made me chuckle with its caption, "The Vampire Wants Blood"--heh, you think? :)

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    1. Yep. These Vampire Tales covers in particular seem to have that more generic monster mag feel.

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  3. Was the interior arwork rescanned from printed copies (resulting in a "softer" image), or did they use the original b/w printing film resulting in sharp, clean art and type (in the articles)?

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    1. The reprints appear to be of very high quality and surprisingly the text pages while quite small are surprisingly readable. The whole thing is small but crisp.

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  4. Heavy Romita influence on #6...they all went by ideas and sketches around a conference table. Could be why it looks less BORIS-ie.

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    1. I think Romita is likely. It's often his hand in these things.

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