The Tomb of Dracula (1972) #1 Retro Reviews

Writer: Gerry Conway

Art: Gene Colan and Jon Costa

Cover Art: Neal Adams

Price: .12 cents

Release Date: April 10th, 1972

My retro reviews will take a slight detour in the fall months and take a look at a run I’ve never read before, but always wanted to – The Tomb of Dracula! Let’s head to Transylvania and check out the goings-on at Castle Dracula!

Before we even get to the story I’ve got to take a moment and write about the fabulous cover by Neal Adams. I obviously knew of his work on Green Lantern and Batman among others but didn’t know he worked on Tomb of Dracula until I started reading this. The cover is a great intro to this series. From the Dracula logo that looks very similar to the Batman logo, to the fog that lingers in front of the castle, the atmosphere is set before you even open the book!

When we get to the first page we’re greeted by even more atmospheric images as lightning spells out Dracula and the castle looms over a cemetery. I’m thinking that the atmosphere will be a big part of this series moving forward.

As far as the story goes, Frank Drake is a descendant of Count Dracula and he and his girlfriend, Jeanie are headed to Transylvania along with Jeanie’s ex-boyfriend Clifton, who is also Frank’s friend. Their Jeep brakes down and they walk in the rain to the Baron’s Inn. They get a ride by carriage to the castle. At this point, we get some back story. Frank inherited over a million dollars and quickly blew all of it. His solution, with the help of Clifton, is to turn Castle Dracula into a tourist destination. Clifton has yet to reveal his true plans though to Frank. Some further Dracula family history is also shown as Frank reads a family diary.

Back in the present, the group arrives finally at the castle.

I say finally because the pacing is so good in this issue that I literally couldn’t wait to see what happened next!

Frank finds the castle familiar but he’s acting withdrawn from Jeanie. As Clifton goes off on his own, he falls through the floor and lands in a tomb of sorts. He follows some stairs with a match lighting his way and he makes his way to Dracula’s tomb!!

Believing that being a vampire was the doings of a mad man and not real, Clifton removes the stake from Dracula’s heart and he lives again!

We then are shown the things that are used to repel vampires. Any horror movie fan will know what these are, but Gerry Conway does a nice job of integrating the mirror, silver, and a crucifix into the story with varying results. A silver compact drives Dracula from the castle where he claims his first victim. This sends the townspeople into a frenzy and they head to the castle ready to burn it down. Dracula returns to his castle and faces Frank for the first time who says he is a descendant. As they fight Frank escapes death only as Dracula becomes preoccupied with Jeanie.

The town’s people set fire to the castle and as it burns Frank manages to escape carrying Jeanie’s body who he believes has died in the fire. She hasn’t, but he’s shocked nonetheless.

This was quite an issue. A lot of care was given to the setup and location of the story, as well as doing a great job of introducing the characters. It had a nice slow burn to it. Dracula didn’t even show up until I was over halfway through the issue.

Being a horror comic, this had a much different feel to me than a superhero comic. The dark, dreary atmosphere played a big part in it. Gene Colon did a remarkable job of creating a perfect ambiance in the artwork.

Final Thoughts:

Reading this brought me back to watching old horror movies with my dad and brother. Conway, Colon, and Adams really set the tone in this well-paced debut. I almost couldn’t wait to see what happened next.