Monday, October 31, 2022

Spotlight On Werewolf By Night!

I saved watching Marvel's Werewolf by Night until Halloween. It is a delightful entertainment with many a familiar touchstone for longtime fans. I'll admit that I have little understanding of the modern Marvel monster universe, so I cannot say how close or far this film lands, but I can say it's a far cry from the original. Aside from a sympathetic man named "Jack" who becomes a ferocious werewolf, there seemed little left of the original Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog horror yarn. But that doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining. 

But first some good old-fashioned SPOILERS. (Be warned!)


The little movie is mostly in black and white, and I love that. Black and white gets too little credit for the amazing effects it can have. That classic look hearkens back to the vintage Universal days of monster yore.  We meet Jack, one of several distinctive looking men who arrive at the estate of Ulysses Bloodstone to contest for possession of the "Bloodstone". They are joined by Elsa Bloodstone, the estranged daughter of Ulysses. A monster is unleashed into a maze and the hunters set about hunting it and each other. The winner will claim the Bloodstone and lead the society of monster hunters. But Jack has a secret, he's not monster hunter but of course a monster and he's there to save the object of the hunt which is the greatest treat for me of the entire show. Man-Thing is the creature in question and while not quite the Man-Thing I remember, he certainly looks fantastic. Eventually of course Jack is forced to revert to his savage bloodthirsty nature, but that's the rest of the story. 


I cannot recommend this entertainment enough. It was not what I expected but nonetheless I found it gripping and involving right up to the colorful ending. 

Happy Halloween! 

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It's Twelve O'Clock - The Witching Hour!

The Witching Hour is a comic which has always fascinated me. Partly it's because it was an early new title edited by Dick Giordano, soon after he left his gig at Charlton and joined the DC crew. He brought with him not only fresh insights into how to put together a comic, but also fresh talents such as Pat Boyette who draws several of the stories in the early issues. But first and foremost, the reason to take a good hard look at the early issues of The Witching Hour is Alex Toth. Toth was a master comic talent, and his skills are are on display in full form in these early comics. The Witching Hour featured three hosts, three witches. 

They were Mildred and Modred, two classic witches and a third hip modern witch named Cynthia. The friction between the tastes of Mildred and Modred and Cynthia infuse the early issues of The Witching Hour with an incredible humor, all of captured in dynamic pages by Toth. We also meet Igor, the faceless and mute caretaker of the witches' house, stuck deep in a fetid swamp. The three witches tell stories, in competition with one another, sometime around a theme. The tales by the likes of Denny O'Neil, Steve Skeates, and Gerry Conway have a modern lilt to them. The covers are by Nick Cardy and Neal Adams. Adams pinch hit for Toth from time to time on the frame stories as well. Sadly, eventually the title gets a new editor in Murray Boltinoff and the changes are for worse immediately. The artwork becomes pedestrian, though still offering highlights such the work of Jerry Grandenetti. The wonderful frame stories get reduced to a single page drawn efficiently by George Tuska and oddly the three witches move into the the city. It's unfortunate, but for a short time The Witching Hour was one of the best. 

Here are the covers of the issues contained in Showcase Presents The Witching Hour. 

Boltinoff takes over the series at this point, as the title will soon switch up to twenty-five cents with reprints added, as was normal for DC at the time. 

Halloween is here my friends. Enjoy the festivities and eat your candy with care. 

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Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Tomb Of Dracula - Volume Four!

The fourth volume of The Tomb of Dracula Essential is different from the three which had preceded it. All of the Bronze Age Tomb of Dracula comics have been collected, so all that is left is a few issues of the The Tomb of Dracula magazine and then stories about Dracula from the copious pages of Dracula Lives. The editors went one step further and arranged those stories not as they appeared but as they occur chronologically in the fictional history of Marvel's Dracula character. We get to see him become a vampire, then consolidate his vampire legions and then we follow him as he tumbles through world history right up until the then modern day. It's a fascinating way to read these stories, produced by a virtual army of great comic book talent. 

But first a few of the later magazines. Dracula's daughter Lilith is front and center in a story from the fifth issue by Roger McKenzie and artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. The daughter of Dracula thinks her father is weak and chooses a moment to strike when she imagines she can once and for all end his existence. She is unrelenting in her attacks. The enmity between Lilith and Dracula is powerful stuff, the dark shadow of what such a relationship ought to be. 

Some of the stories of an historical nature are saved for their timely occurrence in the unfolding history of Dracula. But a few modern-day choices showcase the effects of vampirism on regular folks. One woman, a ballerina is bitten and struggles mightily against the transformation. which is robbing her of her soul, the very soul which informs her art, the most important thing in her life. Her struggle is a noble one and elicits even admiration from Dracula himself. 

Above is the debut issue of Dracula Lives with a stellar cover by Boris Vallejo. I'm not going to attempt to details the myriad tales which relate Dracula's history. We follow him through many famous events such as the French Revolution, the Salem Witch Trials, and more. His malign influence is often at the root of things we think we know. We see the origin of the generations-long clash between Dracula and the Van Helsing family. Dracula faces many brave men and women who sometimes win and sometimes lose, but mostly are lucky to live through the encounter. Artistic talents like John Buscema, Syd Shores, Neal Adams, Gene Colan, Steve Gan, Tony DeZuniga, Dick Ayers, Frank Springer, Frank Robbins, and many more offer up art inspired by the world's most famous vampire. Writers such as Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, Steve Gerber, Doug Moench, and many more create morsels of vampire delight. 

Below is a cover gallery for Dracula Lives! Enjoy!

Jordi Penalva

Neal Adams

Earl Norem

Luis Dominguez

Luis Dominguez

Luis Dominguez

Luis Dominguez

Luis Dominguez

Luis Dominguez

Stephen Fabian 

Ken Bald 

Earl Norem

Gray Morrow

Dracula is arguably the most infamous fictional villain in the world. With countless books and unending films, the saga of his heinous vampire seems never to end. For a time in the 1970's Marvel did an outstanding job of taking what was known and making of it an epic tale worthy of the character. But it's not over, it's never over, because as we know Dracula, King of the Vampires, Lord of the Undead, will always return. 

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Saturday, October 29, 2022

Vampirella - Crimson Chronicles Volume Four!

This fourth and final volume of Crimson Chronicles finds the Vampirella series fully formed. Vampi and Pendragon are a twosome throughout the volume with only a brief visit by the Van Helsings. Getting shed of Adam Van Helsing does open up Vampi to romantic entanglements and she has a few dalliances in this tome. All of the stories in the volume are by "Flaxman Loew" (according to some sources the British writer Mike Butterworth -- see comments), and all of the early stories are drawn by Jose Gonzalez. Gonzalez is using more dark areas in his art and that is helping the storytelling immensely. The volume is decorated with a very alluring painting by Luis Dominguez. 

The story "The Undead of the Deep" is a follow up to the last story from the third collection and showcases Vampi falling into the clutches of an undersea demon which can cast illusions of such a nature as to make one stay beneath the waves. The cover is by Enrich Torres. 

This is the first of two stories, "The God of Blood" is set in Mexico City in which Vampirella is targeted by an Aztec cult as a proper sacrifice to the great Sun God. Thing is Vampi and the Sun God fall in love and the worshippers suffer the consequences. This cover is also by Enrich Torres. 

Now in France, Vampi is still suffering from the attentions of the Sun God in "The Bretrothed of the  Sun God", who takes it upon himself to immolate anyone who looks with passion on the young vampire. She is able to turn the Sun God's attention on a gang who kill folks for their wealth. We have one of Frank Frazetta's more iconic covers on this issue. 

In "The Running Red" an immortal gambler comes into conflict with a corrupt and cruel man and his mistress. The end is the end of the gambler, but Vampi suffers as she has feelings. Another bizarre Enrich Torres cover. All of the covers are by Enrich unless otherwise noted. 

The mistress of the man becomes a sultana and seeks vengeance upon Vampirella when the opportunity presents itself in the aptly named "The Sultana's Revenge". But the tables are turned. 

In "The Carnival of Death" the pair are in Venice, and Vampirella and Pendragon run afoul of a mob of listless and horrible people who are more dead than alive, but who meet folks who are even deader. 

This issue features new artist Jose Ortiz who offers up a very distinctive look at Vampirella. It's certainly attractice but less languid than what has come before. The villains rob people of blood to use in a strange variation of Frankenstein's experiments in "The Blood Gulper". 

We are told that Vampirella and Pendragon are fated to be together and have always been in some form or other. Vampi it turns out was Cleopatra and Pendragon was her loyal servant. The pharaoh turns out to have a dark secret as well in a story titled "The Vampire of the Nile". Sanjulian supplied this delectable cover. 

"She Who Waits" is an odd story written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Gonzalez in his original style. It seems to be a file story used here after many years. The presence of the Van Helsings also points to an earlier time. This is their only appearance in this collection. 

Gonzalez returns in "The Mummy's Revenge" in a follow up to the Cleopatra story in which a man is able to animate an ancient mummy for his own evil purposes. Sanjulian also did this cover as well as the previous issue.

Vampi and Pendragon are in England where they meet "The Head-Hunter of London" who seems charming enough until he decides to hunt you down for a trophy for his wall. This is the first of three stories illustrated by Leopold Sanchez. Ken Kelly was tapped for this cover. 

In "The Nameless Ravisher" a sequel to the previous issue, the sisters of the "Head-Hunter" want vengeance and engage in some sorcery to get it. They all pay the price by issue's end of course. Enrich Torres is back for the final two covers. 

This collection wraps up with "The Malignant Morticians", a lurid story about an evil mortician and his gang who has a sideline in the cat food industry. You can imagine what all he gets up to. But Vampirella and Pendragon prove more than they can handle. 

These early tales of Vampirella showcase the changes which not the character undergoes but the publisher itself. When Vampirella debuted Archie Goodwin was in charge and the influence of Forry Ackerman was very evident. She was a character played for laughs like Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie. But at some point they decided to do something more substantial and Goodwin and artist Tom Sutton began a legit series of continued tales. When Jose Gonzalez was tapped, the series matured and grew steadily in elegance if not necessarily taste. By the time of these latest issues Vampirella is an icon on the comics scene, an icon who has never really left us. But that's what vampires do isn't it, if they're lucky they go on forever. 

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