Marvel Comics - The Tomb of Dracula




# 19 - 24


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 #19

April 1974

"Snowbound in hell!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Colours - Glynis Wein
Cover -


  Because the storyline of Tomb of Dracula #18 had been carried over to and continued in Werewolf by Night #15 following the werewolf's crossover appearance, Tomb of Dracula #19 opened where the string of events in Werewolf by Night #15 had ended, explained to readers who had not bought that comic by means of an extremely condensed flashback recapitulation. Quintessentially, Dracula and Rachel van Helsing are stranded together in a snowstorm in Transsylvania following a helicopter crash.  Trapped in the blizzard, the two find that they cannot survive without each other -  Dracula needs Van Helsing alive in case he cannot find a source of blood soon, and the injured Van Helsing cannot survive the blizzard without Dracula. Their mutual dependency is illustrated by the fact that Dracula sees to van Helsing's wound and van Helsing in return shoots a mountain goat which is about to attack the weakened vampire count. Eventually, Frank Drake appears on the scene in a helicopter. Dracula then throws van Helsing off a mountain cliff, knowing that Drake will stop pursuing him in order to save Rachel, thus allowing him to escape. Also in this issue, there is further vampire testing in Dr Sun's laboratory in Ireland and Quincy Harker finds that Blade has survived Dracula's attack in the catacombs of Paris unharmed.
Wolfman continues his portrayal of Dracula as a figure with pronounced human characteristics, although his underlying motives are purely egoistic. In one or two cases, Wolfman takes this to the limit, e.g. when Dracula cooks a meal for the wounded Rachel van Helsing, but there was an underlying logic to it all - indeed, the last panel of the final issue of the series, Tomb of Dracula #70, would be concerned with precisely this aspect of Wolfman's concept of the vampire count: "Dracula was, after all and originally, a man, a human being."


Tomb of Dracula #20

May 1974

"The coming of Doctor Sun"


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


  Following one of the worst covers of the series, Tomb of Dracula #20 hit the newsagent stands in May 1974 with what must rank as a truly classic Marvel Comics cover.

With Rachel van Helsing safe on board, Frank Drake hunts Dracula in the Transsylvanian Alps with a helicopter and firing wooden bullets. However, the vampire count manages to escape once more, although he is then hurled to the ground by a strong gust of wind and knocked unconscious. Back on the Irish coast, the vampire Brand finally meets Dr Sun, who reveals himself to be a human brain sheathed in a life-supporting containment device.

When Dracula wakes up, he finds that he is a prisoner bound with a combination of chains and garlic - and learns that he has fallen into the hands of Dr Sun. It is revealed that the successful capturing of Dracula was accomplished thanks to the help of Clifford Graves, whom we all believed to be dead since Tomb of Dracula #10. Slightly reminiscent of Dr Frankenstein, Dr Sun had Graves restored to life after finding his body.

Nearby, Drake and van Helsing discover a manmade passage in the side of a mountain, and they land the helicopter and search the area.

Meanwhile, Dracula has slipped free and attacks Clifford Graves. The two vampire hunters appear on the scene, but before long, Dracula, van Helsing, and Drake find themselves trapped in an immobility beam when Dr Sun appears and tells Dracula that he intends to take over control of all vampires.

Tomb of Dracula #20 was a highlight in the series, with a fast-paced story which brings together several layers of plot which Wolfman had diligently set up and weaved together, a rich tapestry of interlocking events and characters - not the least of course the suspense surrounding the figure of Dr Sun, who once more could have come straight from one of those delightfully obscure yet atmospheric horror movies of the 1930s to 1950s period - in spite of Wolfman's pronounced lack of interest in the genre's films.

Tomb of Dracula #20 was also the first issue in which Marv Wolfman put forward in a detailed way the changes he wanted to make to the original plot as set out in Tomb of Dracula #1 -6. To this end, he has Rachel van Helsing tell Drake about how her grandfather, Abraham Van Helsing, believed he had destroyed Dracula (i.e. in the events that Bram Stoker's novel was supposedly based on) only to have the vampire lord return years later and kill him. Later, when Rachel was nine years old, her parents were also killed - before her eyes - by Dracula, with Rachel herself being saved by Quincy Harker. This is Wolfman's clear-cut disposal of the original plot developed in the first issues of Tomb of Dracula.



Tomb of Dracula #21

June 1974



Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Colours - Tom Palmer
Cover - Gil Kane


  Confronting his captives, Dr Sun reveals his origin: a prominent Chinese scientist, his brain was removed by a team of surgeons and transferred into an anti-matter receptacle connected to a vast computer bank as a form of government punishment - not realizing that rather than making the computers more powerful this actually gave Dr Sun control over the computers. However, he requires vast quantities of blood to survive. Using a kind of mind-transfer machine, Dr Sun will copy Dracula's knowledge and memories into Brand, whom he intends to make the new lord of vampires under his control. He sets up a fight between Dracula and his vampire slave Brand, who hurls Dracula into a panel of electronics, causing an explosion and Dracula'a apparent demise.  With Dracula defeated, Brand attempts to turn onto Dr Sun, who has prepared for such an occassion and destroys him. He then sets his Transylvanian base to self destruct and teleports to safety.  Frank Drake and Rachel Van Helsing make their escape, thinking Dracula has finally been destroyed - unaware of the bat flying away from Dr Sun's exploding base...
Featuring highly atmospheric artwork by Gene Colan, Tomb of Dracula #21 marks the erstwhile end of the confrontation between Dracula and Dr Sun. At the same time, back in London, Quincy Harker cannot convince Blade to join his group of vampire hunters as Blade leaves on his own in order to continue his search for the vampire who killed his mother, ending another subplot of Wolfman's storyline.

By this time, Tomb of Dracula was a big success for Marvel. It had established a loyal readership, with the number of sold copies still rising month after month. Apart from trying to use this popularity to push other characters and titles which were not as successful, such as the Frankenstein Monster, Marvel was eager to cash in even more on Dracula. This led to the first "Giant-Size" Dracula in June 1974, although the first issue was titled Giant-Size Chillers "featuring the Curse of Dracula".

  Written by Marv Wolfman and pencilled by Gene Colan, readers were given an "extra" that month in the proven quality formula (although a substantial part of the 96 pages featured two completely detached reprint vampire stories from the 1950s). The story introduced Lilith, the daughter of Dracula, and as such was a matter of taste. The plot was, however, carried over to Tomb of Dracula #22, published the same month, through a brief mention of the fight between Lilith and Quincy Harker.

Giant-Size Chillers would become Giant-Size Dracula as of issue #2 (September 1974). One might assume that Wolfman and Colan just didn't have the time to produce additional quality material on top of their regular work for Tomb of Dracula, but whatever the reason, plotting and pencilling passed on to others after Giant-Size Chillers.

The results were nowhere near to what Wolfman and Colan had to offer, and things got worse issue after issue until the whole thing was mercifully called off after issue #5 in June 1975.


Tomb of Dracula #22

July 1974

"In death do we join!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Colours - Linda Lessman
Cover -


  With so many threads of the plot of the past few issues neatly tied up, Tomb of Dracula #22 presents a more or less self-contained story which finds Dracula in a village in Moldavia (at the time part of the Soviet Union) following his flight from the Transylvanian Alps. A violent man by the name of Gorna has returned to haunt his wife after his mysterious death which, it turns out, was caused by the attack of a vampire.

What follows is another vampire against vampire clash (the third in the series so far, this time fittingly set in the village graveyard), during which Dracula is forced to realize that he cannot overwhelm Gorna at first, even though he is the lord of all vampires. Eventually, a second showdown between the two does end with Dracula's victory and the destruction of Gorna, but this slack in Dracula's powers will present a major plot element in upcoming issues - typically for Wolfman, even a self-contained single issue storyline contains tags which serve a bigger picture. In many ways, Tomb of Dracula #22 is like a brief breather on a rollercoaster ride before taking the next hair-raising plunge.

Back in London, Quincy Harker learns from Rachel van Helsing that their comrade Taj has disappeared, leaving England to return to his native India.
Whilst this story - entertainingly told as it was - would certainly not rank as one of the classic issues of Tomb Of Dracula, Gene Colan's artwork was now in a league of its own, with an atmospheric density which just drew readers in. Always a master of panel arrangements, Colan also knew how to throw an extraordinary splash page at you, and in Tomb Of Dracula #22 pages 17 and 18 even featured a doublespread which illustrates nicely the force and dynamics the artwork had taken on by this time. With Wolfman and Colan teaming up so elegantly, this was a comic book which almost felt as though there was sound and motion to it.

[click for larger image]



Tomb of Dracula #23

August 1974

"Shadows in the night!"
continued from Giant-Size Chillers #1


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Colours - Petra Goldberg
Cover - Gil Kane / Tom Palmer


  Taking up another element from the storyline of Giant-Size Chillers #1 Wolfman elaborates on Dracula's plot to see his plans through by securing influence over members of Parliament, turning them into willful servants of his cause.

Apart from this background plot, Tomb of Dracula #23 simply presents a basic ghost story. Dracula has obtained possession of Dunwick castle, inhabited by a terrified young woman named Shiela Whittier. Dracula, whom Wolfman has shown to be intrigued by supernatural events before, begins to investigate and soon discovers that the castle is haunted by Shiela's father.  He drives away the ghost and saves the girl's life out of a growing sense of emotional attachment.

Elsewhere in India, Taj returns home to his family, and back in London, strangely enough, one of Dracula's mind controlled servants from the House of Lords somehow breaks free from his hypnotic spell (another pointer by Wolfman for the attentive reader that Dracula is somehow losing his vampiric powers).

In an attempt to avoid an all too repetitive plot of Dracula being continuosly on the run, Wolfman also seized the chance to introduce a new main female character not forming part of the gang of vampire-hunters in the person of Shiela Whittier.


In the 1970s, it was a regular working procedure that the original pencils of an artist would be worked on directly by the inker. "Surviving" original pencil work by Gene Colan for Tomb of Dracula is thus rather rare and usually only occured when an individual page went missing on the way to the inker or major corrections needed to be worked in. This example, depicting pages 2 and 3 of Tomb of Dracula #23 is a special case as Colan drew two pages on one actual sheet of art paper - supposedly as a measure advocated by Marvel to alleviate the effects of the sharply rising paper prices at the time. The result was original pencil art in the (highly unusual) size of the actual end product which proved too awkward to ink and had Tom Palmer lightbox enlarged versions and working on those (at the handwritten suggestion of Marv Wolfman), thus preserving the pencil work for posterity and providing an interesting insight into the working procedures involved in the creation of Tomb of Dracula.



Tomb of Dracula #24

September 1974

"A night for the living... a morning for the dead!"


Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Colours - Tom Palmer
Cover - Gil Kane


  Three years have passed since Frank Drake was prevented from jumping from a bridge by Rachel Van Helsing and Taj, and Frank and Rachel now stand on that very same bridge and reflect upon times past and present and ponder their future, now that they believe Dracula to be dead (in real time, only two and a half years had passed since Tomb of Dracula #3 had gone on sale).

At the same time, in Castle Dunwick, Shiela Whittier is wondering about Dracula's whereabouts and reaches the personal conclusion that she cannot believe that he is a vampire - whilst the reader witnesses Dracula attacking yet another victim. Drama also unfolds in London that night as Blade rescues his girlfriend Saffron from a vampire.  Back in her apartment, Blade learns from one of her colleagues at work, Trudy, about a mysterious stranger with fangs from which the girl ran to the safety of Saffron's home after repelling him with a cross. Hearing this story, Blade seriously begins to doubt the news from Quincy Harker that Dracula is dead. 

In Jajpur, Taj returns to the home of his wife and learns from her that their son is dying, whilst back in London Blade tracks down the vampire that attacked Trudy, but the following fight ends with the escape of the vampire. Blade is unaware of the vampire's true identity as Dracula remained in bat form throughout the struggle. Elsewhere, Frank Drake kisses Rachel Van Helsing goodbye, promising to return but tells her that he must first find out just who he is.

After two issues without the gang of vampire-hunters playing a major role, the individuals forming the group are once again in the spotlight. Wolfman has them going off in various personal directions: Blade is in full swing, while Frank Drake and Taj both seem to set sails for new horizons.




The original issues of Tomb of Dracula #19-24 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 command around $32.00, with issues #22 and #23 going for $20.00 (as per the 2013/14 Overstreet Price Guide), and are still widely available in this grade. Copies intended for reading more than collecting (in VG/very good to G/good condition) sell for between $10.00 and $5.00.

Alternatively, reading Tomb of Dracula #19-24 in collected form is a viable alternative as Marvel has reprinted this early material in several forms. The most Dracula you can get for your money comes, no doubt, in the form of 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 outright silly 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 2 features issues #13-23 and volume 3 collects issues #24-31 and Giant-Size Dracula #2-4. They are currently by far the most economical way (at a cover price of $24.99, they can be found for $19.99) to read these issues of the series in colour.



continue with



or venture


or back to
main Tomb of Dracula index page

The illustrations presented here are copyright material and are reproduced for strictly non-commercial and appreciative review purposes only.
Text is (c) 2006-2014 A. T. Wymann

page originally posted on the web 15 May 2006
revised and updated 19 November 2012
reposted 21 March 2014