Thursday, March 10, 2011
Fangs for the Memories
Vampire Tales, vol.1
Karen: Recently I picked up volumes one and two of Marvel's Vampire Tales. I'll be reviewing volume one here, which covers issues 1 through 3 of that classic 70s monster mag. For whatever reason, Marvel decided to issue these as digest-sized editions. I have to admit, the small print made it a little difficult for my middle-aged eyes at times. I'd prefer a regular-sized TPB. But all in all, I had a blast going through this book.
I also want to say up front here, that the scans for this review are a bit cut-off, because of the tight binding of the book and my reluctance at bending it too much. So I hope you don't mind.
I only had a handful of Marvel magazines as a kid. I'm not sure why, other than the price. I recall having a few issues of Tales of the Zombie, The Rampaging Hulk, Planet of the Apes, and Savage Tales. But no Vampire Tales, so this was all pretty new to me.
Rather than review each issue, I'm going to discuss them as a whole. They follow a format: several stand-alone stories, a couple of continuing features (Morbius and Satana), and a few text articles. I found myself actually enjoying the short stand-alone stories the most. Short and to the point, and usually with some kind of surprise ending (which was occasionally telegraphed), I found myself grinning or giggling at a fair number of these. Some of these short stories were also reprints; perhaps the best of them was Jim Steranko's "At the Stroke of Midnight," which was reprinted here from Tower of Shadows #1 (Sept. 1969), a short-lived color comic. I've never seen the color version, but it works exceedingly well in black and white. It follows a whimpering husband and his domineering wife as they search through his recently-deceased uncle's house for treasure. Turns out the couple was responsible for the man's death, and the ending, as they open a door in a deep cellar of the house...well, let's just say they get what's coming to them.
Another short story I enjoyed was "To Kill a Werewolf," which is only credited to artist Bill Everett. I'm not sure how old this tale was -certainly from the 50s, if not earlier. In it, a dog-hating man hires someone to shoot dogs on his property. Things are complicated though when the man is bitten by a werewolf and turns into a wolf. This story was goofy -I loved seeing the wolf trying to write with a pen!
There's another story called "Don't try to Outsmart the Devil" that is by Stan Lee and Carmine Infantino. Again, it appears to be from the 50s, but I would never have known it was Infantino just by looking at the art. It has none of the hallmarks of his later style on Flash or other super-heroes.
Of the continuing features, Satana is the more interesting of the two to me, based solely upon the artwork of Esteban Maroto. Satana is no vampire but the daughter of the Devil, and essentially a succubus who steals men's souls. Maroto's work has a dream-like quality to it. It also seems to have a lot of photo-references. This image of Satana to the side here seems very familiar to me; is it from a picture of an actress? I can't place it but I'd swear I've seen it before.
The Morbius series started in issue one with Steve Gerber writing and Pablo Marcos on the art, but then switched to Don McGregor and Rich Buckler. Morbius, the 'scientific vampire' from Amazing Spider-Man #101 (Oct. 1971) outright kills people in this black and white mag, unlike in his comics appearances. But he's still portrayed as remorseful. He gets involved with a beautiful innocent girl that he has to save from a demonic cult. The story continues into the next volume. Like typical McGregor work, it is very wordy and for me, the Buckler art is what makes it readable.
The text features were especially interesting. Chris Claremont does an overview of a very old treatise on vampires by Montague Summers called The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. This book was written in 1928 as sort of a manual on vampirism. I found it quite interesting. It's apparently a 5 part article, so it must continue in the next volume.
Issue 2 has an article by Doug Moench on Bela Lugosi's non-Dracula vampire roles - which outnumber the times he actually did play Dracula. Although Lugosi is probably the actor most identified with the Count, he only played Dracula in the original Universal Dracula, and then again in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I should note that the text articles all have nice black and white photos from a variety of films, including the Universal classics, as well as many Hammer flicks, which of course, were quite popular in the 70s. Also of note is that the covers for each issue are reprinted here in color -a nice treat!
All in all, this was a happy find for me and I recommend it heartily to any fans of Marvel monster fiction -or anyone who is curious. I hope Marvel will publish some more reprints of their classic horror, sci fi, and sword and sorcery magazines, although a larger format would be much appreciated!