Marvel launched its own UK imprint operation in late September 1972 with a comic book which would become both its flagship title and its publication credo and motto: the Mighty World of Marvel.

Edited in the US but printed in the UK to a larger format than American Marvel comic books, the 40 page Mighty World of Marvel #1 kicked off a row of highly successful years for what would soon be known as "Marvel UK".

By mid-1974, the success of Marvel UK's first three weeklies had the powers in charge look to further expansion, and this move would - at the height of the popularity and importance of the horror and fantasy genres for the US market - almost inevitably point to additional material which would complement the so far superhero-only publications. The move happened on 26 October 1974 when two new weeklies were launched simultaneously: Dracula Lives! and Planet of the Apes.

  Marvel had supplemented its classic superheroes with other genres in the US as the "House of Ideas" progressed from the 1960's "Silver Age" to the 1970's "Bronze Age", and Marvel's newly created range of horror characters played a substantial and important role in this expansion.

Marvel's most successful venture into the realm of horror was the introduction of Dracula, Bram Stoker's classic "Lord of Vampires", to the ranks of Marvel's characters. Given his own title straight away in April 1972, Tomb of Dracula (the extension to the vampire count's name was necessary for Marvel to be able to copyright the title) ultimately ran for a total of 70 issues in the US - the longest run of any Bronze Age Marvel horror genre title.

Tomb of Dracula was therefore a a logical choice for Marvel when it came to expanding its range of weeklies in the UK. However, in a slightly confusing move, the reprints of Tomb of Dracula were launched in Great Britain under the title of Dracula Lives (which was in fact the title of a black and white magazine format comic book featuring the count which Marvel was publishing since June 1973).

Ads in Marvel UK's superheroes titles heralded Dracula Lives! and Planet of the Apes together, and this "twinning" of the two titles in ads would continue right up until the two weeklies would be merged in in June 1976.

The UK comic book market of the early to mid-1970s differed greatly from its counterpart in the US as it was quintessentially keyed at a weekly interval of publication, with predominantly black and white contents and multiple storylines (and therefore often also various different characters) in one issue. Other than reprints of Tomb of Dracula as the lead feature, Dracula Lives started out with back-up material from The Monster of Frankenstein and Werewolf by Night. As the fairly short-lived Frankenstein material came to an end, this slot was filled with the Living Mummy as of Dracula Lives #42 in August 1975 in order to keep up the established formula with "three macabre masterpieces every issue".

The weekly publication schedule resulted in a pronounced volatility of the UK comic book market in comparison to monthly or even bi-monthly installments, and only four months later the title of Marvel UK's horror weekly was expanded as of issue #60 in December 1975 to Dracula Lives featuring The Legion of Monsters - with no change to its featured contents.

So let's take a closer look at the black and white content behind the glossy cover of Dracula Lives #58, which went on sale in the UK on 23 November 1975.


Dracula Lives !

"The Origin of the Chimera!"

Originally published in Tomb of Dracula #26 (July 1976)
Original story title: "Where Lurks the Chimera!"

Script - Marv Wolfman
Pencils - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Lettering - John Costanza

Original page count: 17
Reprinted pages: 6 (plus Marvel UK splash page)


Dracula Lives #58 reprints the last third of Marv Wolfman's first part in a three issues story arc featuring the mysterious "Chimera" - a powerful magical artefact in the form of a statue of the mythical beast of the same name (with a lion's head, a goat's body and a snake's tail), made up of three individual pieces and capable of transforming the thoughts of whoever possesses all three pieces into reality.
Two parts of the statue have been stolen from a pawnshop, and Dracula is among those seeking to track them down. Having learned where they are kept from one of his informants, the Lord of Vampires enters the mansion pointed out to him but soon finds himself trapped behind steel doors. A mysterious voice instructs Dracula over a loudspeaker system where to go. Playing along for the moment, Dracula is thus directed into a room, where the voice tells him that he must die for seeking the power of the Chimera. Only seconds later more sliding steel doors trap Dracula, and as the enraged Count considers his next steps, a panel in the ceiling suddenly slides open to release a stream of water onto the floor, and as Dracula realizes in terror that the liquid is actually holy water, he is seemingly trapped with no way of escaping this deadly threat...

The weekly publication schedules of Marvel's British output created a need for covers and splash pages at very frequent intervals as the original US material was split up over two or three UK issues. This was not required for the end panel in this case, as the original material took care of pointing readers to what lay in store next. However, both a cover and a splash page were needed for Dracula Lives #58, and both are rather disappointing. In all fairness it was a tough task bordering on the impossible to emulate the majestic artwork of Gene Colan, but blowing up panels with original Colan artwork would certainly have rendered more appropriate artwork.


It must be remembered, however, that most of the young readership at the time was probably not as finely tuned in to differences in artwork as today's adult afficionados are. Blowing up artwork through xeroxing wasn't cheap either back in those days, so having a staffer at Marvel's NYC offices pencil and ink the required pieces was a convenient way to go.

Other than that, both the story and artwork from this phase of Tomb of Dracula are truly classic material of the highest quality.

"A lot of us back then were trying to break out of comics just for kids, and it was very possible for us to do those things on the non-superhero books, because no one was paying attention. So Roy Thomas could do that on Conan, Steve [Englehart] could do that on Doc Strange and Master of Kung-Fu, [Steve] Gerber could do it on Man-Thing or Howard the Duck, and I could do it on Dracula [...] to try and push comics into other things, other areas, that they had not explored (...) Gene's artwork certainly is the reason why we could do a lot of that stuff." (Marv Wolfman in: Siuntres, 2006)



"Bullet for a Werewolf"

Originally published in Werewolf By Night #23 (November 1974)
Original story title: "The Murder is a Maniac"

Script - Doug Moench
Pencils - Don Perlin
Inks - Vince Coletta
Lettering - Artie Simek

Original page count: 17
Reprinted pages: 9 (plus Marvel UK splash page)


One of Marvel's most successful horror characters, "Werewolf by Night" made his first appearance in Marvel Spotlight #2 (one of Marvel's tryout magazines) in February 1972. A creature rooted in centuries of traditional folkore in Europe, it was often portrayed as being innocent at heart and suffering from an unhappy personal fate - which was exactly what Marvel's werewolf was all about as the series focussed on Jack Russell, whose family (originally from Eastern Europe) was cursed with lycanthropy, i.e. the "curse of the werewolf". Starting on his 18th birthday, Russell would find himself transforming into a wolf-like creature every time there was a full moon. Similar to Bruce Banner and the Hulk, Jack Russell would always be seeking ways to either avoid or at least control the transformations, and eventually he would gain the ability to change into the werewolf at will and control the beast, except on three specific nights of the full moon when, in the tradition of Marvel's "hero with a flaw", nothing goes.

Originally scripted by Gerry Conway and pencilled and inked by Mike Ploog, the character was well received by readers, and Werewolf by Night ultimately became Marvel's second most successful venture into the horror genre, again making it a logical choice for Marvel UK's Dracula Lives.

Reprinting the second half of Werewolf by Night #23, this instalment started out with a splash page produced by taking the cover from that US issue, although this did not yield any consistency in the artwork either as the cover had been pencilled by Ron Wilson whereas the interior art was by Don Perlin. Nevertheless it made for a slick splash page which also gave readers a recap of "what happened previously..." thanks to additional exposition provided by editorial. This was a frequently applied procedure, set up to avoid an all too abrupt entry for readers into what was in fact a mere segment of an original flow of events.

Again, no special editorial attention was needed on the last page as the "next issue" pointer from the original material could be used without any need for alterations.


A glimpse into the production process for Marvel UK^s weekly can be glanced from the central spread page which features a hand-written mark-up reading DRAC58 - it is in fact a mirror image, indicating that the material had been marked on the reverse "shooting film" for the printing process.
  On board since the very first issue, Werewolf by Night would end his run in Dracula Lives #78 and be replaced in April 1976 by Ghost Rider.

This was a rare example of a feature being dropped (without the weekly it ran in being cancelled) before Marvel UK ran out of original material to reprint. In the US, Werewolf by Night continued its publication run up until issue #43 before bowing out in March 1977.


"All these Great Pawns"

Originally published in Supernatural Thrillers #14 (August 1975)
Original story title: "All these Great Pawns"

Script - John Warner & Val Mayerik (co-plot)
Pencils - Val Mayerik
Inks - Al McWilliams
Lettering - John Costanza

Original page count: 18
Reprinted pages: 10


In mid-1973 Stan Lee wanted to complete Marvel's rendition of the classic Universal Horror Cabinet from the 1930s and thus called for Marvel's own Mummy character (Cooke, 2001).

Again, as with Dracula, a tag-on was needed in order to be able to copyright the character, so the House of Ideas came up with The Living Mummy and a background plot which follows the underlying motives of most Mummy stories: an innocent and well meaning individual is punished unjustly by being mummified alive, comes back to life, and seeks out revenge.

Appearing for the first time in August 1973 in Supernatural Thrillers #5, Steve Gerber's storyline featured a noble African tribal prince called N'Kantu who - together with the members of his tribe - is defeated and enslaved by the Ancient Egyptians. Forced to work on monuments for the pharaoh, N'Kantu plans and leads a rebellion which ultimately fails and for which he is punished by the high-priest Nephrus by being mummified and buried alive, his blood drained and replaced with an unknown alchemical preservative.

3,000 years later N'Kantu regaines control from his paralyzing fluid and digs himself free to wreak havoc on those that had wronged him, going on a murderous rampage in Cairo until he locates Dr Alexi Skarab who is a descendant of Nephrus...


When N'Kantu returned in Supernatural Thrillers #7 Val Mayerik (who was occasionally also credited as co-plotter) took over the pencilling from Rich Buckler, and Gerber brought the character to New York City before handing over the writing to Tony Isabella, who took care of the series until Supernatural Thrillers was cancelled after issue #18 in October 1975. Once shipped to a New York museum, N'Kantu awakens again, and the rest of the The Living Mummy story arc centers on N'Kantu regaining his memory and his ensuing conflict with the Elementals - four extradimensional humanoids who use the mummy as a pawn against a foe called the Living Pharaoh to obtain the Ruby Scarab (which grants special powers to its bearer) - which is also pretty much what is going on in the story segment featured in this issue of Dracula Lives.
  Once again, reprinting the first half of an original US issue meant that the original splashpage was at hand, requiring only the removal of the credit for the colouring.

The final panel of this instalment was just as easy, as a plain CONTINUED NEXT ISH! blurb sufficed. As writers and artist would often try to pace their pages in a way which provided something of a minor cliffhanger before readers turned to the next page, this segmentation in the UK weeklies often worked quite seamlessly and hardly ever left readers with the impression of the story having been "cut off" at random.

The only real problem Marvel UK faced was the fact that they very quickly began to run out of Living Mummy material (first introduced to UK readers in Dracula Lives #42) as it had enjoyed a rather short publication span in the US. This created a need for further Marvel horror genre characters, and the Living Mummy had its curtain call in end his run in Dracula Lives #62 it was replaced the following issue by Man-Thing in January 1976).

A surprising number of pages was given over to editorial, and no less than two featured so-called "pin-ups" - which you either saw as a great mini-poster or a cheat page filler.

  Either way, UK readers had never before seen Manphibian, although his "creature from the black lagoon" heritage was more than obvious.

He first appeared in September 1975 in Marvel's US black & white magazine format Legion of Monsters #1 (there never was a second issue).

The Frankenstein Monster, however, was well known to Marvel UK readers of Dracula Lives.

Mary Shelley's most classic of all monsters had featured in the pages of "Britain's no.1 fear mag" since issue #1 - until Marvel UK ran out of original material to reprint.


  The letters page in Dracula Lives was named Cryptic Correspondence, which was a somewhat typical play on the word "crypt" for the Marvel tongue-in-cheek editorial house style.

The two letters printed in this issue are excellent examples to illustrate how different a world the 1970s were for comic book readers when it came down to knowing your "Marvel facts".

Rather than having access to a global information network via the internet, very often the only source to become informed were the comic books themselves. Bullpen bulletins (of which there was none in Dracula Lives #58) often provided some background information on Marvel as a publisher, the creators involved, and what else was going at Marvel UK - which sometimes came as a surprise because not all news agents would carry all Marvel UK titles.

And then there was, at times, something to be gleaned from seasoned fans who wrote in to the letters page. In this case, reader Paul Vizard from Nottingham provided a personal but at the same time accurate and matter of fact history of Marvel UK - where else could you have learned that the comics you maybe had just been reading for a few months went back to October 7th 1972 and Mighty World of Marvel #1?

Clearly, this kind of information always came along in a haphazard way and by pure happenstance, and it was as easy as anything to miss it (e.g. if you read MWOM but not Dracula Lives). Which also explains why some readers - such as Timothy Walker from Poole in this issue - were asking questions which would be dismissed as totally uninformed today but back in the 1970s very often were, indeed, good questions - in this case noting that the stories involving Dracula, Frankenstein and the Werewolf deviated from their original literary sources and wondering why and how this came to be.
In-house adverts very often were an excellent source of information too, and would occasionally introduce readers to Marvel characters they simply hadn't seen before - or the fact that there were annuals. All of this was on offer to readers of Dracula Lives #58, plus a glimpse of the new feature soon to replace the Mummy stories (which no doubt would also trigger some reader's question why these were not being continued, blissfully unaware of the fact that these were all reprint comics and that there simply weren't any more Mummy stories available).
Just as Marvel was exporting a number of their US comics to the British market (known as "pence price variants" because they carried a UK currency price printed on their covers) they would also make available their oversize 10" x 14" "Treasury Edition" Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag.

Although itself a comic book featuring only reprinted material, these had nothing to do with Marvel UK; they were entirely produced in the US, printed in colour and shipped to the UK - exactly the same product which US readers would be able to buy (other than the 50p price on the cover).


  The 1975 edition was the second such Holiday Grab-Bag and featured a themed cover by John Romita and stories featuring the characters shown on the cover (although only the Nick Fury and the Luke Cage segments really had any relation to Christmas).

And then, the only third party advertisement in this issue of Dracula Lives, is a foray into the picture card series published by Brooke Bond Tea.

From 1954 up until 1999, Brooke Bond tea packets included one of usually 50 illustrated cards which made up a series which could be glued into landscape size booklets with additional text and graphics.


Most of the series were wildlife-based (such as the one advertised here), although personally I much prefered the Prehistoric Animals (think Dinosaurs) and History of Aviation, both from 1972.

As for Dracula Lives, the end came not by way of a stake but the bleak UK economy of 1976 and a subsequently struggling comics book market. In June 1976 Dracula Lives was cancelled as a weekly title and merged with Planet of the Apes as of issue #88. It was not the end of the Count, who would continue to appear first in POTA (which then officially became Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives) and then later on, after the demise of that weekly, from time to time in the flagship title Mighty World of Marvel. Just as it had done in the US, the horror genre went into a steady and fast decline at Marvel, and all that remains of the one and only Marvel UK 1970s horror-only title is but a ghostly spectre in the form of now 40+ years old copies of Dracula Lives.


More on Marvel UK in 1975:




COOKE Jon B. (2001) "Son of Stan: Roy's Years of Horror", Comic Book Artist # 13, Two Morrows Publishing

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


Uploaded to the web 1 February 2016
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