Marvel Comics - The Tomb of Dracula




# 7 - 12


Marvel's Tomb of Dracula was more than just your average vampire tale. The comics weaved an ongoing saga plotting its title's vampire count against a group of vampire hunters. Gene Colan's pencils, inked by Tom Palmer, added a vivid dimension to Marv Wolfman's dramatic storytelling. The result was a gothic atmosphere which harked back at the classic vampire stories while at the same time adding new momentum to the theme, and sustained innovation to its medium, the comic book. Tomb of Dracula is Marvel's outstanding contribution to the genre and a classic in its own right.

For your convenience, the following text is colour-coded in order to distinguish synopsis (in white) from review and analysis (in yellow). If you want to avoid outright spoilers and preserve your own reading experience, you may skip the text segments in white.

(click on covers and most illustrations for larger images)


Tomb of Dracula #7

March 1973

"Night of the Death Stalkers!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Colours - Tom Palmer
Cover - [Larry Lieber?] & Tom Palmer (inks)


  Eleven months, six issues and three writers after the launch of Tomb of Dracula Marv Wolfman took command of the series' script. Together with artist Gene Colan, he would stay on right up until the series' demise in August 1979 when it had clocked up a staggering 70 issues, becoming the longest running comic book with a villain as its main character.

The basic storyline and strong ties to Bram Stoker's novel are reinforced in Wolfman's first script as the reader is introduced to two new characters, Quincy Harker and his daughter Edith.

Harker, an elderly man bound to a wheelchair, is the son of Jonathan and Mina Harker, both pivotal characters in Stoker's novel. After rescuing his own daugther Edith from being attacked by Dracula, he is presented to Frank Drake by Rachel van Helsing as a man who uses scientific means and sophisticated machinery to hunt down vampires - something he has done, as he himself explains, for the past sixty years after having been trained by Abraham van Helsing himself.

It becomes evident that he is the driving force behind our group of vampire hunters, carrying on a lifelong crusade to fight and destroy vampires, and in spite of being old and paralyzed, Quincy Harker is the mastermind behind the group effort, very much along the lines of what "Q" is to James Bond, although later issues will reveal that he is also quite capable of battling Dracula face to face.
The plot of Wolfman's first issue introduces two themes which would reoccur on several occasions throughout the series: Dracula's ability to control human individuals (in this case, a group of children is turned into a band of Zombie-like attackers under the hypnotic spell of Dracula), and a staged encounter in a deserted place between the vampire count and the vampire hunters (in this case, Dracula lures Harker's group to a deserted house); more often than not, the place has been set up with all sorts of booby-traps in order to bring the opposing side down.

By confronting the vampire hunters with the dilemma of having to fight innocent children in order to avert Dracula's attack without harming them - after all, they are innocent and are only being manipulated - Wolfman introduces a thread of moral philosophy to the storytelling, something which he would expand and elaborate in future issues even to include the vampire count himself.

Wolfman's first assignment with Tomb of Dracula also contains the first small digression from the continuity of the established timeline of the plot as set up in previous issues. Few readers may have noticed at the time that the fact that Dracula ironically calls Harker an "old friend" the first time they meet is inconsistent with what has been relayed so far.


Quincy Harker makes his first appearance on page 4 of Tomb of Dracula #7

If Dracula had been "dead" since Abraham van Helsing and Jonathan Harker put an end to his reign of terror (as readers were told since Tomb of Dracula #1), then Dracula should not have met Harker's son at all, let alone often enough to call him an "old friend".

Frank Drake is introduced to Quincy Harker's methodology - and indeed technology - of vampire hunting on page 7 of Tomb of Dracula #7; note the reference to a "Hammer movie set"

  "Seven years ago we all went through the flames. And the happiness of some of us since then is, we think, well worth the pain we endured. It is an added joy to Mina and to me that our boy's birthday is the same day as that on which Quincey Morris died. His mother holds, I know, the secret belief that some of our brave friend's spirit has passed into him. His bundle of names links all our little band of men together. But we call him Quincey.

(...) We were talking of the old time (...) Van Helsing summed it all up as he said, with our boy on his knee. 'We want no proofs. We ask none to believe us! This boy will some day know.'"

[Bram Stoker, Dracula, chapter 27 (Jonathan Harker's Diary), final page]

This small detail is, however, significant for future issues in two respects. Firstly, Wolfman anticipates what he has planned for the series, namely to make Quincy Harker the major opponent of Dracula and hence portray the two as "old rivals" as the story moves on, and secondly, Wolfman is shaping out his own interpretation of the storyline from Tomb of Dracula #1-6.
The visual department had been in the best possible hands since the first issue, but the frequent change of writers posed a problem - as Marv Wolfman concluded immediately when he was handed Tomb of Dracula #7 as author number four.

"I realised pretty quickly that in order to do anything I had to decide on the handling of the characters and what the series was about (...) One of the things I did was write up pages upon pages of notes on who the characters were and where I wanted them to go. I was less concerned about the individual plots at this point than I was about the direction of the characters. So I would write almost up to two years ahead, all the different turns of the characters and where they were gonna be, and issue by issue what would happen with the character. Then I went back and worried about the stories to make it work." (Comic Geek Speak, 2005)

Marv Wolfman's approach worked out just fine, and as with artist Gene Colan his name would soon become inseparable from the series as he was set to stay on the book until its demise in August 1979.


Wolfman's source of inspiration came entirely from Stoker's novel and completely by-passed the movies (even though he actually made a dialogue reference to the Hammer productions in his very first script) - perhaps surprisingly at first sight in view of the strength and presence of the popular culture image of Dracula, but quite logical at second thought for a wordsmith rather than a visual artist.

"I was not a big fan of that sort of stuff, and in terms of movies I'd never seen a Dracula movie at that point, but I'd read the novel, and I loved the novel, and that was my only influence." (Siuntres, 2006)





Quincy Harker's name and background are first mentioned on page 6 of Tomb of Dracula #7, Marv Wolfman's first script for the series. Left: Original art for The Tomb of Dracula #7 (March 1973) pencilled by Gene Colan, inked by Tom Palmer and lettered by John Costanza (scanned from the original in my personal collection). Right: the same page as it appeared in print (colours by Tom Palmer). [click for larger images]

Thus building on the original novel, Marv Wolfman set up a general plot framework which centered on two main elements: characterization and realistic storytelling.

"I wanted to center on characters. And once you did that, that was the subtle difference, because everything was about people, that is about the kind of stuff which I thought Gene [Colan] drew best, which were people - real people." (Comic Zone Radio, 2005)

Very soon, Wolfman and Colan found themselves outside of the commonly defined and charted corners of the Marvel Universe. This, however, was not just terra incognita for Marvel, but for the entire comic publishing business and the medium itself.

"This was the first time anything like this had been done. I was fighting the Comics Code every single month. We were just stretching - for the first time - out of standard comics."(Comic Geek Speak, 2005)

One key element which Wolfman brought to the series and which made Tomb of Dracula stand out amongst mainstream comic book titles was the depth and complexity of the plot. Right from the outset of his first script assignment on the title, Wolfman started to build up multiple underlying themes and sub-plots in the overall storyline by placing certain "props" here and there which would only become fully meaningful at a later stage; this way, even stand-alone single issue stories were embedded in an arc of overall continuity and suspense. In addition, Wolfman also increased the complexity of the themes which the storytelling dealt with by introducing undertones of moral philosophy and portraying all characters involved - Dracula as well as the group of vampire hunters - as self-conflicting and sometimes even outright self-contradicting personalities.



Tomb of Dracula #8

May 1973

"The hell-crawlers!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Ernie Chan (credited as Ernie Chua)
Colours - Glynis Wein
Cover - John Buscema & Tom Palmer


  Having been wounded by a poisoned wooden arrow fired out of Quincy Harker's wheelchair (one of his machineries to combat vampires) in Tomb of Dracula #7, Dracula calls on a doctor in issue #8 who is revealed to be a vampire himself who has sustained himself over the years by sidetracking blood donations from his patients. In order to save Dracula, he has to perform a complete blood transfusion. The rest of the plot deals with an invention the unfortunate Dr Motte made years ago, called "the projector", the (unexplained) powers of which Dracula wants to use to raise an "army of the undead from the graves".

This is all highly reminiscent of certain B horror movies from the 1950s, but it's told and drawn in style and, in any case, all over by the time the reader reaches the last page of Tomb of Dracula #8. Again, however, we find Wolfman's script dealing with individual drama: Dr Motte, despite being a vampire, is a tragic figure, torn between "human values" and his state of being a vampire. In the end, the high morals he had as a human being prevail, and he destroys the "projector".

Wolfman also starts to build up a more complex overall storyline by placing a number of "props" which will take on a deeper meaning in future issues to come. In this case, we learn that Quincy Harker quite obviosuly has contacts in higher places (such as the House of Lords) as well as access to substantial funds.


Tomb of Dracula #9

June 1973

"Death from the sea!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Vincent Colletta
Colours - Glynis Wein
Cover - Gil Kane & Tom Palmer


  Having built up a steady increase in readers, Tomb of Dracula changed from bi-monthly to monthly publication with issue #9 in June 1975.

The story continues on from the previous issue with a vampire count still weak and vulnerable after his blood transfusion. He ends up in the small town of Littlepool where he is looked after and cared for by the friendly villagers as long as they have no idea who - and what - Dracula actually is. Once they find out, they attempt to destroy him, but a young local lad actually helps Dracula escape.

The most interesting aspect of this issue, which concentrates almost entirely on Dracula, is Wolfman's portrayal of the vampire count. He obviously wanted to add complexity to the leading character of the series, and hindsight has proven the worth of this approach. Dracula is seen to show respect in his interaction with the young local, and he even offers him friendship and protection after what he has done to save him from the villagers - Wolfman adds almost a human touch to Dracula.

The reader only gets a mere glimpse of the gang of vampire hunters in this isse, but again Wolfman sets up a prop (which will only reveal its importance in the next issue) when Harker receives a phonecall whichs makes him head for somewhere immediately...

With his third issue since taking over the script of the series, Wolfman continued to add depth to the story and suspense to how it is unfolding. It would take another couple of issues until it would all add up to the density which would turn Tomb of Dracula into a classic comic book series, but the he was clearly setting the scene. In this respect, Tomb of Dracula #10 would prove to be a landmark in more than one respect.





Gene Colan evokes a dose of Universal Horror atmosphere as the villagers set out to hunt down Dracula whilst the young local helps him to escape. Left: Original art for The Tomb of Dracula #9 (June 1973) pencilled by Gene Colan, inked by Vince Colletta and lettered by Art Simek (scanned from the original in my personal collection). Right: the same page as it appeared in print (colours by Glynis Wein). [click for larger images]



Tomb of Dracula #10

July 1973

"His name is... Blade!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Jack Abel
Colours - Petra Goldberg
Cover - Gil Kane & Tom Talmer


  The story opens with a young couple preparing to stow away on a cruise ship when they are attacked by three vampires. When all looks lost, they are saved by a black man who overcomes all three of the vampires and introduces himself as "Blade".  Quite fittingly - nomen est omen - he is armed with wooden knives. Enter Quincy Harker, and the reader learns that the phonecall informed Harker of Blade being in the vicinity. Clearly they have met before, and clearly they are not the closest of friends. In fact, Harker accuses Blade of having messed up his plans, as he had set up the three vampires to lead him to Dracula. Blade in turn questions the efficiency of Harker's approach and feels that you should do away with vampires whenever the possibility arises. The remainder of the storyline for this issue takes place aboard the cruise ship seen in the opening sequence. Dracula mingles with the passengers at first but then attacks the ship's captain and takes control of the ship and, in effect, the passengers. However, Blade is hot on his trail and aboard the ship.  The fierce fight which follows turns into a stallmate, and as Dracula prepares to blow up the ship, Blade and most of the passengers escape. Clifton Graves, however (introduced in the first issue), is left behind as the ship blows up.
Despite their argument, it becomes quite clear that Harker holds a certain degree of admiration for Blade, and future issues will show that this is also true vice versa. As for the popular appeal of this new character , the rest is, as they say, history.

The big impact Tomb of Dracula #10 had on the series and beyond is, of course, tied to the figure of Blade, the vampire-slayer. The character adds diversity to the gang of vampire-hunters as Blade - who is best described as a "participating non-member" - is made of a completely different mould than Quincy Harker and his philosophy. Basically a lone wolf, he joins the team's efforts now and then while always maintaining a stance of self-determination and independence. His approach is summed up rather subtly by Wolfman who introduces him as a vampire-slayer rather than a vampire-hunter.

Blade (whose origin was to follow in Tomb of Dracula #13, supplemented by an account of his first encounter with Dracula in Tomb of Dracula #30) was one of the earliest African-American comic book heroes. Quintessentially Blade is characterized by having certain vampire characteristics (such as a greatly prolongued lifespan, above average strength, and the ability to sense supernatural creatures) whilst at the same time being virtually immune to their attacks. The reasons for this physical disposition are to be found in the circumstances of his birth, as his mother was attacked and killed by a vampire whilst in labour. As a result, Blade's blood had been contaminated by vampiric enzymes - not enough to turn him into a vampire, but in sufficient quantity to change him.

Blade was, in terms of the Marvel Universe, a highly unusual character, and his impact on an already unusual Marvel comic book series was instantaneous - just as his creation, which - according to Marv Wolfman - happened in a flash.

"It came within like walking one step and I knew the character, I knew what he looked like, I knew the background, I knew everything about him. (...) I knew exactly what he was wearing. What was revolutionary - though I didn't know that at the time - was that at Marvel all the superhero-type characters of course had costumes, superhero costumes, and Blade was essentially - despite a unique wardrobe - he was dressed like a person who could walk on the street, and nobody was doing that back then." (Comic Zone Radio, 2005)

Blade proved extremely popular as a supporting character and became a regular of the series. In 1998, long after the comic's demise, Blade's popularity took on a yet another dimension as he even became the central character of a movie, followed by two sequels.

Marvel's entry into the movie business market would soon become a highly profitable affair, with films such as X-Men or Spider-Man not only fetching huge profits at the box office but also making Marvel and superheroes highly fashionable - and all of this was started by a character introduced as a supporting cast member in a non-mainstream Marvel title: The Tomb of Dracula.

(There's more on Blade, his creation, and the legal battle the character provoked in Into the Tomb of Dracula).



Tomb of Dracula #11

August 1973

"The Voodoo-Man!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Jack Abel
Colours - Petra Goldberg
Cover - [Frank Brunner?] & Tom Palmer (inks)


  Tomb of Dracula #11 illustrates how Wolfman began to weave a more complex storyline of plots and sub-plots.

Following the fight with Blade, Dracula plans to take revenge on the motorcycle gang which beat him up after his blood-transfusion (issue #8) and dropped him into the sea (issue #9) to die. At the same time, this same motorcycle gang is used by one Jason Faust, confined to an iron lung, to have his revenge upon those who, in his view, put him in that desperate situation. Faust uses voodoo for this purpose, and the side-plots all come together when the reader learns that Quincy Harker is on Faust's hit-list as well.

In a surprising twist, Dracula attacks and finishes off the gang leader, named Brand, and his men before they can harm Harker. Wolfman explains this unexpected move by having Dracula tell Harker that his bloodlust has been satisfied for that night before he leaves - a rather weak portrayal of the lord of vampires in terms of strategic planning, but another hint at Wolfman's concept of Dracula not being free of "human weaknesses".

Wolfman's approach of weaving a multi-layer plot virtually all the time really gathers speed, and so again, props which are placed here and there will take on a meaning in upcoming issues. In this case, it is the fact that Voodoo can, under certain circumstances, kill a vampire.


Tomb of Dracula #12

September 1973

"Night of the Screaming House!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Colours - Petra Goldberg
Cover - Frank Brunner & Tom Palmer


  Tomb of Dracula #12 returns to the theme of one party luring the other to a deserted place full of dangerous traps in an attempt to win the battle in a staged showdown. This time, Dracula abducts Edith Harker and uses her as a bait to lead the vampire hunters to one of his hideaway mansions, known by the promising name of "Whispering Hell".

The gang are joined by Blade, who is also lured to the mansion by the vampire count, and they soon discover that the place is a death-trap with swarms of vampires dropping in. A fierce battle breaks out and things are not looking too good for Rachel van Helsing, Taj and Frank Drake, but Blade saves the day with a savage attack on Dracula which forces the count to flee

Edith Harker is found, but she has already fallen victim to Dracula, leaving Quincy Harker with no choice other than to spare his daughter the curse of the vampire by driving a wooden stake through her heart - fighting vampires often has terrible consequences for the vampire hunters, time and time again.

After almost 18 months on the market and 12 issues, the series was on a steady course with Wolfman and Colan in firm command and a growing group of regular readers. Unlike Marvel's other comic book series featuring a classic figure of the horror genre, the Monster of Frankenstein, Tomb of Dracula was really heading somewhere and had established its own characteristic mark.


The original issues of Tomb of Dracula #7-12 can be found fairly easily, but the overall classic status of the series is reflected by higher prices in comparison to other Bronze Age comic books. In a collectable (VFN/very fine) condition these issues will usually command around $40.00 each (as per the 2012 Overstreet Price Guide), with the exception of issue #10 (featuring the origin of Blade) which can be expected to carry a price tag of around $140 (and even $460.00 in NM-), and issue #12, which is valued by Overstreet at $60.00 in VFN condition. Copies intended for reading more than collecting (in VG/very good to G/good condition) sell for between $12.00 and $6.00 - again excepting issue #10 which is valued by the Overstreet Price Guide 2012 at $40.00 in VG condition.

Reading Tomb of Dracula #7-12 in collected form is thus a viable alternative, and Marvel has reprinted this early material in several forms. The most Dracula you can get for your money is, no doubt, through the Essentials series: Essential Tomb of Dracula volume 1 (ISBN 0-7851-0920-X) which collects issues #1-#25 (as well as Werewolf By Night #15 and Giant-Size Chillers #1); it was first published in December 2003 for a cover price $16.99. The only compromise here is cheap quality paper (actually making the Essentials close cousins of the originals in that respect) and loss of colour as the reprints are all black and white; whilst some feel that this actually accentuates the wonderful Gene Colan artwork, it does take away an original element of the series.

A far more luxurious collected edition is Marvel's Tomb of Dracula Omnibus volume 1; this hardcover and oversize edition assembles issues #1-31 plus Werewolf By Night #15, Giant-Size Chillers #1 and Giant-Size Dracula #2-4. Published in November 2008 it has, however, been out of print for quite a while, and although it can still be found in places, it is quite common to see top prices asked even for second-hand copies.

In July 2010, Marvel started to publish a series of trade paperback colour collections of Tomb of Dracula; volume 1 features issues #1-12 and is currently by far the most economical way (at a cover price of $24.99) to read the first issues of the series in colour.

Digital issues of Tomb of Dracula #7-12 are also available for online reading.

Digital copies of these issues for downloading onto mobile devices were available in 2011 but have since been dropped and are no longer available through the Marvel and ComiXology app.



COMIC GEEK SPEAK (2005) Podcast: Book of the month club - episode 5 - Tomb of Dracula, Interview with Marv Wolfman (31 October 2005) (quoted from personal transcript)

COMIC ZONE RADIO (2005) Marv Wolfman Interview, transcribed from the original 27 September 2005 broadcast podcast available online at

SIUNTRES John (2006) Marv Wolfman by Night, transcribed from the podcast Word Balloon: The Comic Creator's Interview Show , available online at


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Text is (c) 2005-2014 A. T. Wymann

page originally posted on the web 21 February 2006
revised, extended and updated 21 August 2012
reposted 20 March 2014