Wednesday, October 6, 2010
BAB Two-in-One: A Fangtastic Tale and One Bad Hooter
Karen: I'm continuing my Halloween theme of monsters with this next review. The book is Tomb of Dracula #18 (March 1974), and the selling point is Dracula vs. Werewolf by Night! Produced by the spooktacular team of Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, and Tom Palmer, this tale features two of Marvel's monsters going for each other's throats -literally!
Karen: As our story begins, Jack Russell, who might be better known as the Werewolf, is traveling by train with his mysterious lady companion Topaz to his birthplace in Transylvania -ah ha, can you see where this is going?!
Karen: In the meantime, Dracula is plotting his revenge and making proclamations from the walls of his ancestral castle. Dracula is most definitely a villain, preying on the innocent, but he's very much in the vein of a Doctor Doom , in the sense that he truly believes he is superior to pretty much everyone else in the world, and this gives him the right to do whatever he pleases.
Karen: When Jack and Topaz arrive at Transylvania they take a room at the local inn, and get into some serious trouble with a local ruffian who paws Topaz. . Topaz has some mystical ability to influence the Werewolf, but he still kills the drunken fool. As the two of them turn to leave, Dracula appears from the fog. He tries to attack Topaz, but apparently her mystical abilities prevent the blood-thirsty Count from succeeding. The werewolf then steps in, but Dracula throws him off and flies away in bat-form.
Karen: The next day, Jack and Topaz have found Jack's family's home. He comments that it's like something out of a Universal horror film -although I would say that Wolfman and Colan may have been more influenced by the British Hammer films of the 60s and 70s. While they look through old books for some clue to the whole story of Jack's curse, they discover (of course) a hidden passageway. Now this seemed a little weird, but apparently the passageway leads outside, where Jack's father had set up a telescope with a clear view to - Castle Dracula! Maybe I'm not clear on what's going on here, but couldn't the guy just have walked out behind the house? The passageway isn't really shown but appears quite short. Well, no matter. Jack and Topaz determine that the answers they seek must be at the castle and head off for it.
Karen: The keen-eyed Count spots them coming and takes the offensive. As a gigantic bat, Dracula swoops down and carries off Topaz. Jack makes it to the castle, and is transformed into the Werewolf. Colan makes an interesting choice: he depicts the fight between the two supernatural foes in a series of six page-long panels (3 per page). At the bottom of each panel are the vampire and the werewolf; at the top, their shadows. It's not ineffective, but it did strike me as unusual.
Karen: Dracula gains the upper hand and our tale ends with the Count about to get a taste of werewolf! Unfortunately, I don't have the conclusion of this story, which appears in Werewolf By Night #15, but I've added it to my want list. I enjoyed the story enough that I'd like to see how it ends. I will say though that while Colan draws a very good Dracula, his werewolf left something to be desired. I'd much rather see Mike Ploog drawing the hairy hero.
Doug: Hey, friends -- it's a double-dose of Gene the Dean today! I'm gonna give you a gander at Daredevil #116, cover dated December 1974. This yarn was spun by scribe Steve Gerber and artists Gene Colan and Vince Colletta.
As we pick up the story, Daredevil is in New York, fresh off his defeat (and seeming killing by accident) of the Death-Stalker. One of the casualties of the battle, however, was DD's billy club, so ol' Hornhead is slinging it around town on a rope and grappling hook he (conveniently) found in the warehouse where he'd recently battled. On his mind is a little law-breaking that he did: namely, destroying federal evidence against Foggy Nelson's sister Candace. I don't have the previous story, but from what I gather Candace Nelson was in the know about a project that would have allowed the creation of a race of men who would be immune to any sort of germ or pollution. As Gerber often wrote about social and environmental issues, my guess is (from dialogue here) that Death-Stalker was somehow tied to this project, which might have created men impervious to even germ warfare. As DD gets back, he realizes that without his club he's also without Matt Murdock's cane... So a quick change to his civvies and a little self-rumpling and it's Matt Murdock, recently mugged attorney!
Foggy and Candace go for the ruse, and in the midst of the conversation the phone rings. On the other end is Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow. Matt is rather rude to her, cutting her off and asking if they couldn't speak in an hour. Tasha tells him not to bother and hangs up. Matt's mad at himself, and vows to make things right. By this time, the romance between Matt and Natasha was well-established, having been a running storyline since DD #81. So the next day Matt hops a transcontinental flight to San Francisco.
As he arrives at Natasha's mansion, he's surprised to see that some other folks are now living there. Turns out that the Widow could no longer afford the rent, so she and Ivan were evicted. Later in the story we find out that they've been living in the Rolls for several days. Hard times for heroes!! But as Matt leaves the mansion to find Tasha, he comes across a couple of goons making trouble in the streets. Smelling the gunpowder, DD takes them down, only to unleash a hostage situation as one of the gunman grabs a child. Now, as fate would have it in a town the size of San Fran, who should happen on the scene but -- you guessed it -- the Black Widow. She and DD save the day, and then get "reacquainted". As the crowd cheers the PDA, one of the toughs awakens and starts to scat. DD whups him, but the other guy is able to run, too -- he gets away.
And where did he get away to? Why, to the Owl's lair, that's where! Punished for his failure to bring in some delinquent "security" payments, the Owl then rails on about how it doesn't matter where he goes -- NYC, Chicago, or San Francisco -- some do-gooder always gets in his way. So, feeling a little proactive, the Owl and his henchmen (yep, had 'em back in #81, too) take off looking for trouble. They find it and mix it up with DD and the Widow. In the course of the action, the Owl gets DD with a ring barbed with poison. DD succumbs, the Widow is grazed by a bullet... and it's wait-till-next-month time!
This was a decent issue -- not a whole lot of meat to it, but it seemed to mainly serve as a set-up for the next ish. Gerber's words were good -- I've read DD written by several authors and this seemed to be pretty seamless. Colan is just a rock on the title, and Colletta's inks were good (no one draws a woman's eyes like Vinnie...). Colletta may have fit in so nicely due in large part to his reputation for adding blacks over detail -- I've not seen the original pencils here, but there sure were a lot of black spaces!! But there was some zip-a-tone, too -- and even though Vinnie's scratchy, it fit Colan's pencils OK. Next time, we'll take a look at Daredevil #117.