Can the creation of a comic book be picked up midstream after a thirty-year hiatus and still be a success? If the material the creators are starting with is as timeless as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, then the answer is an unequivocal yes. Add in the fact that the creators in question are legendary writer Roy Thomas and legendary artist Dick Giordano, and you realize the question was moot to begin with.
In his entertaining and informative introduction to this hardcover collection, Thomas recalls how he and Giordano debuted their serialization of Stoker’s classic in Dracula Lives!, a comic magazine published by Marvel in the mid-’70s. Unfortunately, as often happened in those long-ago and far-away days of the comics business, titles were often cancelled with little warning – which is exactly what happened to Dracula Lives! Thomas and Giordano were told they could continue their adaptation in a brand-new magazine, The Legion of Monsters, but it also got the ax after only one issue was released.
At that point, Dracula was abandoned as its creators moved on to other projects and great success. But they never intended to let the Count sleep forever, and, after a series of false starts, Marvel finally gave the duo a chance to finish the story in 2005. Now Marvel has collected the series in hardcover, and, delays notwithstanding, it’s worthy of a place on the shelf right next to Stoker’s original masterpiece.
The key to any successful adaptation lies as much in what is cut out as in what is left in, and Thomas displays a deft touch. There’s no dumbing down of the story; instead, Thomas tightens Stoker’s text without losing one bit of the flavor. Instead of ditching Stoker’s technique of telling the story through the letters and journal entries of various characters, Thomas embraces it and uses it here to great effect – the entries are a natural fit for the caption boxes that are an integral part of comics storytelling.
The real star of the show, however, is Giordano. His Dracula is no feeble, fading aristocrat a’la Bela Lugosi, nor is he a flamboyant, hissing caricature like Gary Oldman. Instead, Giordano’s Dracula is all ancient, calculating evil under a veneer of sophistication. His three castle-bound brides are the kind of beautiful, curvy vixens that were prevalent in most ‘7os-era comics, but when the bloodlust hits they are rendered as stunningly feral. The transition from 1975 Giordano to 2005 Giordano is virtually seamless, although the late artist admits in his afterword that adhering to the style he’d originally established was sometimes painful given the growth he’d experienced over thirty years of steady comics work.
Kudos to Marvel for allowing two of their greatest contributors to come together once more and address unfinished business, and for presenting the result in such a nice format. In addition to the complete adaptation, Marvel has included several pages of extras, everything from covers to side-by-side comparisons of Giordano’s pencilled pages with the inked and colored results. Whether it’s your first exposure to Stoker’s story or your fiftieth, this version of Dracula is worth picking up.