Back before DC and Marvel were the two big forces in the world of comics, Dell Comics appeared to be the #1 team. It’s no wonder, considering they got to sell comics with such properties as the Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons characters. Preexisting properties seemed to be their forte, as in the 60’s, they released comic one-shots that retold the films of famous movie monsters, such as Dracula, The Wolfman and Frankenstein.
What’s notable is that those came out during the early days of the Comics Code Authority, which proceeded to lay down ground rules on the comic companies to pussify every one of their titles. This meant the lack of horror aspects, including how vampires and their like were not allowed to see print. Dell decided that they wanted no part of the CCA, even though lots of sellers refused to carry comics that weren’t approved.
Dell didn’t want the CCA regulating them and insisted to the public that they could damn well regulate themselves, so don’t worry about it. I think the pressure on the CCA mentality is one of the things that pushed them towards today’s topic. That, along with their need for original content and how the superhero comics were really taking over the market.
The company decided to take their monster properties and turn them into superheroes. It doesn’t sound too crazy. Morbius the Living Vampire has been a Marvel staple for years and enjoyed some time as the hero in his own series. Similarly, Marvel released comics for heroes Werewolf by Night and Monster of Frankenstein. More recently, DC introduced the Hellboy-esque Frankenstein, who shows that even in the present there’s still much you can do with the old Mary Shelly creation.
That’s… not exactly what Dell was going for here.
There was a castle on fire and a man jumping out of a test tube and I killed a man with a trident.
I’ll admit that this entire article is thanks to Brian Cronin, whose article on the CCA and their opinion on vampires led me to first seeing that cover. From there I knew that I had to own this, read this and tell you all about it. Blame him!
I mean, look at that cover! The ridiculous outfit! The off-center belt! The fact that Dracula is jumping out of a test tube held by Dracula! Sorry to say, despite the cover’s claim, there’s no point where they tell us the secret to his power of appearing in two places at the same time.
This is considered issue #2, as #1 was the Dracula movie adaptation released in 1962. There’s not much of a reason for that numbering system, considering there’s virtually nothing that links the two comics. The Dracula superhero series started off four years after, in 1966. While there are no credits within the pages, it’s believed to have been written by Dan Segall with Tony Tallarico on art.
Our story begins in the present, in Transylvania. Well… sort of. I don’t know why, but they go completely out of their way to never call the place Transylvania. They refer to it as Dracula’s homeland once or twice and introduce it as “a little known, middle European country far removed from the fears and worries of a twentieth century world constantly on the brink of nuclear war.” Maybe this is really Latveria before Dr. Doom took it over.
We’re introduced to a tourist, who sees Castle Dracula and wants to take pictures. A local warns him about the legend of Dracula.
Notice that that’s the closest they ever come to making reference to vampires in this entire series.
The tourist figures these people are a bunch of jerks and leaves both the country and the story. We get to meet the current Count Dracula, who has no first name whatsoever. He is nothing more than a kind-hearted, but lonely, scientist. Not only is he not a vampire, but he insists that the legends of his ancestors are completely untrue. There never was any blood-sucking monster living in his castle, but peasants are a cowardly and superstitious lot, so they continue to believe it to this day.
Dracula wants to move forward and break away from the bat-based stigma of his bloodline by… uh… experimenting on bats. He has just made a serum out of the supersensory portions of a bat’s brain, with hopes that it can cure brain damage. Ingesting bat brains heals your own brain? I don’t know about that. Ozzy Osborne is still pretty loopy.
With his job done, Dracula yells at his pet bats to fly away, since he has no more use for them. One accidentally knocks over the container of bat brain juice, which pours into a glass of mineral water beneath it. This is unseen by Dracula, who decides to make a toast to hope and drinks the water.
You know, if it was cherry cola or Mountain Dew, I could understand drinking the whole thing before realizing something’s wrong. But I think I’d notice enough difference when my flavorless water’s spiked with bat brain juice to spit it out.
In a flash, Dracula transforms. He finds himself flying around the outside of the castle, wondering if he’s dreaming. Then he sees in a reflection that he has become a bat. He transforms back into human form, not only fully clothed, but wearing a completely different shirt from before. Science is awesome!
As Dracula thinks about how becoming a freak probably won’t help his standing with his not-quite-Transylvanian haters, a series of military vehicles bumrush the country. One of the countrymen pleads with the leader of this force that they’re a peaceful country.
“Bah! Peace! What is that? A figment of the minds of small, powerless men. I, Boris Eval, have power and I say there shall be no peace! I declare this country to be mine! Let any man disagree and he will live to regret it. Set up the rockets!”
He has a ton of nuclear missiles and intends to use them on various countries. Since Castle Dracula makes for the perfect middle point, he intends to take it over.
Now, this Boris guy may sound kind of cool from my description and his above quote, but unfortunately, any coolness is defeated when you realize he’s essentially Rip Taylor.
Odds say that those nuclear missiles are really filled with confetti.
Dracula is tossed into the dungeon. No idea why, but he happens to have more of the bat brain serum on his person. He drinks it and becomes a bat again. He escapes through the window, spies on Eval and then comes up with a plan to disarm the rockets. He takes his human form and walks over to Eval’s henchmen, claiming that he was set free for agreeing to work with Eval. The henchmen are sympathetic to him, saying that they’re only working for the madman because their families are hostages.
One of them explains Boris Eval’s master plan. There is going to be an international peace conference somewhere. Eval is going to have everyone killed in an explosion, thereby replacing all of the world’s leaders with second-string morons. Then he is going to shoot his rockets INTO SPACE. Because of where they’re stationed, the other countries’ radars will think that it’s an attack from a country that isn’t the country that isn’t Transylvania. Then they’ll start blowing each other to smithereens until Eval is the last one standing. It’s quite okay if you couldn’t follow that.
Dracula storms off to the peace conference, which I figure to be two blocks down the road, considering how fast he and Eval each get there. Eval puts on overalls and takes the form of the guy who checks the special microphones that translate everyone’s speech. Shit, I didn’t know we had that kind of technology in the 60’s. Or maybe it’s something he made up and the guards are too retarded to logically think through it and let him by. Either way, he gets into the empty meeting room and places high explosives in each microphone.
In his bat form, Dracula flies towards the “Peace Palace” and thinks about how the nuclear rockets have an anti-tampering device, meaning only Eval can disarm it. He tries to get into the conference room to save the world leaders, only for security to get in his way. Good thing these important leaders have the worst guards ever protecting them.
Dracula rushes in and swears that they’re all going to die unless they leave. While he is deemed a crackpot, they take his advice and postpone the meeting. As long as they’re divided, Eval can’t get them. Eval sees the leaders leaving and gets furious. His plans are ruined.
Eval travels back to the castle and wonders who tipped off the world leaders. He checks in on Dracula’s cell, only to find him laid back and smirking. “What did you expect, Eval? Did you think I flew out of here?”
Eval has dinner with Dracula and tries to save face by talking Drac into helping him build weapons and turn the country into a superpower. I guess the idea is that by being a scientist of any sort, Dracula knows how to invent weapons. Dracula tells him off and calls him a failure, which angers Eval. He chases Dracula, who transforms himself into a bat to escape. He flies into a batcave, gathers an army of his brethren and they all swarm the missile silo.
The bats are in danger of knocking over the missiles, scaring the everloving hell out of Eval. He’s going to go to his truck to get the device that can disarm the missiles, else he’s fucked. Then he decides that he’s going to launch the missiles anyway, just because he’s evil and crazy. He tries to drive away and hide out in the mountains, but instead goes flying off a cliff and dies in a fiery explosion.
Luckily for Dracula and the rest of civilization, the device that disarms the missiles fell out of Eval’s truck before it went off the cliff. Dracula turns the missiles off and the day is saved.
Sometime later, Dracula thinks about how the world can gain from his skills. Maybe he should use his bat powers to save people, like he just did against Boris Eval. He goes over his strengths and weaknesses, such as how although he can see in the dark and fly as a bat, he’s still extra vulnerable against weapons. Taking a page out of Bruce Wayne’s playbook, he decides that if he’s going to fight crime as some kind of bat man, he’s going to have to get into shape. He orders in plenty of gym equipment, bulks up and increases his acrobatic and flying skills through training. He makes a trip to a neighboring village and has a tailor make special clothes for him.
Once outside the tailor’s place of business, he sees a woman being robbed. He transforms into a bat and flies after the bad guys. Even though they’re armed, Dracula is still able to clobber them and hand them over to the authorities, claiming he just got lucky.
The following day, he buys his finished costume and pays off the tailor not to mention a word of it to anyone.
Everyone knows Dracula can’t see himself in the mirror! This is actually the only time in the entire issue that he’s shown wearing the costume. How very 21st century for a 60’s comic.
Returning home, he finds the castle in flames. Whether it’s from a complete accident or the work of the villagers is anyone’s guess, but the villagers refuse to help put it out. Seeing his home reduced to smoking rubble, Dracula stands in awe at his fellow man.
“What kind of men live on this Earth? Men that will take what they want… Men that will believe anything they hear about another even though there is no truth to what they hear. Is this what this world has come to? If that is the way it is then something must be done to change it…
“I pledge by the strange powers which have become mine to fight against the injustice, corruption, evil and greed which fills this Earth in the hopes that somehow my example will be an example to all men.”
Wow. Wasn’t expecting such an ending, but there you go. Here, Dracula is shown to be a very Marvel superhero, choosing to fight for and protect people who fear and hate him. It’s a good hook, but more than anything, it’s a plot device to move him away from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Transylvania.
“Dracula comes to America”? It’s like they’re mixing together Eddie Murphy movies. His belt is still not centered.
For a couple pages, we get a recap of Dracula’s origin. With his home destroyed, Dracula decides to go to America. He had studied there for several years and they don’t know much about him there. He gets on a ship and sails off to his new home, where he can continue to wear his fruity purple tights and fight crime as Dracula.
But therein lies the problem. His real name is Dracula and he fights crime as Dracula. Perhaps he needs to switch things up. He keeps the superhero name, but decides to change his civilian identity. No longer is he Count Dracula. For now, he is… Al U. Card!
Speaking of smooth, Dracula works fast, as he’s already having dinner with this woman he just met a panel later. Unfortunately, the mood is ruined by all the rocking back and forth of the ship. They go outside for some fresh air, only to see that they’re in the middle of a horrible storm. He overhears the captain on a phone, screaming to someone that they’ve lost their radar. Since Dracula has his own radar power, he knocks out a helmsman, steals his clothes and steers the ship into a safer direction. They’ll live, but it will take a few more days to reach New York.
The next day, he’s hanging out with his new lady friend and stops to stare straight into the sky. She finds this weird and questions him about it, but he plays it off and leaves to go get his sunglasses. In actuality, his enhanced sight shows him that behind the clouds in the sky are an armada of zeppelins. He knows something is definitely up, so he puts a sign on his door saying “SEASICK DO NOT DISTURB”, changes into the Dracula tights, turns into a bat and flies into the sky.
His suspicions are right, as we meet our villain of the day, Admiral Maltemps.
Dracula sneaks through the zeppelin, but a henchman with a wrench tries to sneak up from behind. Dracula throws him down, boasting that he can hear a falling feather in a thunderstorm, so he can certainly hear a douchenozzle like him. This would be really impressive if it wasn’t for the very next henchman kicking his ass by spraying him with a fire extinguisher.
At first, Maltemps is going to toss him out of the aircraft to his death, but Dracula brings up his street cred in that he’s a descendant of the Dracula family and wants to join him in his act of evil. Maltemps is impressed and accepts him.
I love Dracula’s wording on this. “No! Don’t you understand? I am Dracula… of the legend!
It’s like when Strong Bad insisted his Halloween costume was, “the bee… from nature!”
Thinking Dracula is on his side allows Maltemps to go into exposition mode. He explains how his airships work, how they can change weather and how he’s been testing out their abilities by causing random weather disasters across America. He plans to make one big shot of weather attacks that will downright annihilate America and Canada. I guess he feels Mexico is messed up as is. During these ravings, Dracula tries to sabotage some of the machinery, but is immediately karate chopped in the back of the neck. Way to hear a feather in a thunderstorm, jackass.
They toss Dracula onto a pile of dry ice to be dropped into some clouds and force a rainstorm. Dracula becomes a bat and flies to safety. Like in the previous story, he tries to warn the government. The difference being that if you’re dressed in a labcoat, politicians and army guys may give you the benefit of the doubt. If you’re wearing a doofy purple bat costume with a red mask on, you will be laughed at and told to get the fuck out. To make this even sillier, Dracula goes out of his way not to rescue anyone because the Pentagon NEEDS to hear him out.
Remembering that he’s a superhero, he goes back into bat form and flies onto the zeppelin again. This time, he’s able to get his knuckles sore by making his knuckles soar.
Jeez. That second henchman may have soiled himself.
Dracula messes with the controls to make the head ship cover the others with ice and cause them to crash. Then he confronts the shotgun-armed Admiral Maltemps and punches him out. Maltemps accidentally fires and causes a huge hole to open up on the side of the zeppelin. It lightly crashes onto the ground, where Dracula can escape and watch the bad guys get rounded up by the police.
Since he needs to enter America legally, he flies back onto the cruise ship. He reenters his room from the window, transforms back into the human form of Al U. Card (again, wearing a completely different set of clothes) and gets made fun of by that blond from earlier over spending the last couple days seasick.
She seems very interested in Mr. Card and keeps insisting that they meet again. He shows a little interest, but goes on about how important his work is… without telling her just what he does. Then the ending narration goes on about how Dracula will never be lonely because there are a lot of bad guys who would want a piece of him. Stop reaching or you’ll pull something, uncredited writer guy.
Man, you know you’re up for some craziness when the cover doesn’t even bring up Dracula fighting a ghost! At least his belt is on straight this time.
After bringing Admiral Maltemps to justice, Dracula’s been all over the news. Newspapers keep asking about who and where he is. Dracula himself decides that he needs a place to hide to help keep his identity a secret.
The woman is a little peeved that Al U. Card never called and has been stalking him in retaliation. Al covers by saying that he’s been so busy. Ah, the old fashioned Fantastic Four romantic relationship. “Gee, honey, I’d love to give you a tongue bath, but… test tubes! What can you do? Here, keep yourself busy with this ball on a paddle.”
Finally, we’re given this nosey lady’s name: B.B. Beebe. I figure that was the sound the writer was making at the time, smacking his index finger up and down his mouth and making motorboat noises like the nutball he was.
Al is getting antsy because he’s really close to creating a serum that will give him his powers permanently, but Beebe’s involvement threatens his secrecy. He tries to weasel his way out by saying that he’s going to leave the city, but Beebe insists that he come to her party at her father’s mountain estate on the next day.
The estate is in the middle of nowhere with the only thing neighboring it being an abandoned radar facility that used to belong to the government. Dracula is drawn to it, thinking it would be the best fort ever. Beebe finally leaves him be, as she’s going to sky dive as a treat to all her guests. Two of her guests discuss how Beebe is exceptionally skilled at nearly everything: surfing, flying, shooting and even judo.
Dracula’s off to look at that hidden facility some more, but Beebe’s screams interrupt that. She’s falling and there’s been a mishap with her parachute. He turns himself into a bat and has to time it just right so that he can catch up with her on the way down, turn into his human form and pull the emergency cord. It works, but for a brief second, Beebe is able to see Al falling beside her before transforming into a bat and flying away.
She is safe, but knows both Al’s secret and that he’s going to try and make a beeline to his car (see what I did there?). She stops him from leaving and promises that his secret is safe. To better convince him, she shows him the entrance to the secret facility. The two agree that he can use it as his new headquarters: The Secret Cave!
Listen, I can understand that it’s hard to move away from the whole bat thing when you’re a superhero named Dracula. It’s one of your powers. Of course. I can even accept being an emotionally distant scientist and ladies man. That’s fine too. But when you’re a bat-themed superhero and you station yourself in a cave nearby a millionaire estate? Now you’re just asking for the cease and desist letters.
A later adventure begins with Dracula working in his lab, trying to perfect his permanent serum. That’s when the phone goes off. I just want to point out that this is the full phone conversation. The jerk doesn’t even take a second to say hello.
Duuuuude, no! This is definitely going to lead to an argument of, “Why are you angry at me?” and, “The fact that you don’t know why I’m angry is why I’m angry!”
And so, Beebe drives a bus of random children she happens to know to the beach. Watching in the shadows is a rat-nosed dork in orange ren faire costume.
“I am ready! Ready to build my army of children. It will be perfect. Nobody will dare to attack children. Even if they are caught plundering the city at my command! What luck! The Evil Piper considers this an omen… A small bus approaches… filled with children! They shall be the nucleus of my miniature army! Let the world laugh at my theory that the Pied Piper really existed. When they see the Evil Piper at work… I shall have the last laugh! EEEK EEEK EEEK.”
That’s some laugh he’s got there. Silly as he is, I think the Evil Piper would have had some legs as Dracula’s arch-nemesis if this series went father. First off, look at his inspiration to be a villain. Dracula is out to disprove the legends of his ancestors through acts of heroism. Evil Piper is out to prove that the Pied Piper wasn’t just a legend by acts of evil. Then you could always do the story where Evil Piper’s able to control bats, including Dracula’s bat form. The whole thing writes itself.
Beebe is attacked by the children. She powers past them and starts to go black belt on Evil Piper, but he throws smoke in her eyes and has the children overpower her. He tosses her into a bus and has it drive off a cliff and into the water below.
Wait, hold up, does that make sense?
Dracula decides to join Beebe and the kids at the beach after all. He flies there in bat form and finds the bus slowly sinking in the water. He uncovers Beebe, who is slightly insulted, considering she’s skilled enough to not need saving. He chases down Evil Piper to a cliff, but the villain threatens to make the kids jump off if Dracula steps closer.
Beebe sets up a net below the cliff and yells at the kids to jump. For some harebrained reason they decide to listen to her this time and escape Evil Piper’s clutches. Dracula punches Evil Piper out and leaves in time for the police to show up.
Later, Dracula more or less admits that Beebe almost single-handedly saved the day while he didn’t do shit. Beebe uses this as an excuse to lock Dracula out of their cave, rush into his lab and steal some of his serum.
“There’s no turning back now. That serum is permanent! With it you have the same powers as I. You can turn into a fliedermaus, a bat, just as I can.”
“Fliedermaus… Flieder… Fleeta! I shall call myself Fleeta! Together we will fight all of the Evil Pipers and their kind in this world. Dracula and Fleeta!”
I love how unnatural the use of “fliedermause” is in this conversation.
Having found herself a superhero, B.B. Beebe now fights crime wearing the most useless attempt at hiding her secret identity!
“Ugh… wedgie… stuck in there… ngh… there we go.”
The issue has one more story, as the Dellnamic Duo figure out what to do with their powers. They train together for a while and soon Beebe has to leave. Then she finds out that New York City has been taken over by some evil menace. She goes back, tells Dracula and the two fly off to save the day. It turns out that they aren’t needed after all.
Don’t worry about Frankenstein. I’ll be getting to his series soon enough.
The two decide that one big vigilante makes them obsolete. Yeah, the crime rate in New York City is surely dipping towards the bottom now that there’s a really strong guy walking around.
So what now? Dracula decides to go a bit more personal. Lies and misinformation about the occult have ruined his life in his homeland, so he’ll fight against that. The newspaper has an article about a widow cheated out of her money thanks to a spiritualist messing with her. Which makes me wonder: if Dracula is going after these people in the 60’s, how come we’ve yet to have a superhero take on Nigerian prince scams?
The two get a hold of an abandoned farmhouse, put out an ad in the paper and get ready for a sting. Spiritualist scammer Hobart Goblin (or “Hob. Goblin” as it says on his car) takes the bait and goes to the home, intending to milk all the money he can get. An old woman answers and tells him that her dead uncle is haunting the house. Once they get the financial discussion out of the way, the two begin their séance.
Mr. Goblin vanishes and is replaced with the dead uncle’s ghost. He threatens the old woman by saying that he’ll only leave her alone if she gives him all her money.
Friends, I want to show you an example of a really good disguise vs. a really bad disguise.
Then again, maybe Uncle Marvin really hated black people.
Goblin pulls a gun and fires, but can’t hit anyone with the lights out. Dracula and Fleeta, on the other hand, can see in the dark and smack him around. Dracula chases Goblin with the same white sheet, making Goblin believe the house really is haunted. He runs outside and into the arms of the police. They recognize him as the guy who stole all that widow money and cuff him.
Was he really that hard for the police to find when he has his name and profession on the side of his car?
Come on. If you want us to read your crappy comics, give us a reason. At least DC would toss in a sketch of Superman flying with his fist out to remind us what they have to offer.
The superhero series ended at #4. About five years later, they tried rereleasing the same three issues as Dracula #6-8. If you’re wondering, they skipped #5 completely. Soon after, Dell Comics went out of business.
Sometimes, when a comic or movie is made based on a license and it’s very different from the source material, someone may say, “It would have been good if it wasn’t called _____.” This might be one of those situations. I wouldn’t call it all that good, but it has potential as a modern day revision.
Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolf need their own Project Superpowers reprisal series. Science, make it happen!