(MARCH 1973)




"Night of the Death Stalkers!"
(20 pages)

Story - Marv Wolfman
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Colours - Tom Palmer
Lettering - John Costanza
Editor - Roy Thomas

Cover pencils - Larry Lieber
Cover inks -
Tom Palmer

On sale 19 December 1972
published bi-monthly


Tomb of Dracula was Marvel's most popular and successful horror title of the 1970s, weaving an ongoing saga that plotted the vampire count against a group of vampire hunters. It was vividly brought to life by Marv Wolfman's gripping multi-layer storytelling, Gene Colan's moody cinematographic artwork, and Tom Palmer's intensely atmospheric inking.

The overall result harked back to the classic vampire stories but also added new momentum to the theme. Marvel's Tomb of Dracula was an outstanding contribution to the genre, a classic in its own right, and the jewel in the crown of Marvel's Bronze Age horror. It remains a fan favourite to this day.




First talked about in Marvel's July 1971 Bullpen Bulletin and originally planned as a black & white magazine rather than a colour comic book, Tomb of Dracula #1 was launched as part of the April 1972 cover date production run (meaning it actually went on sale on November 16th 1971).

According to Roy Thomas, Marvel's editor-in-chief at the time, Tomb of Dracula (the extension to the vampire count's name was necessary for Marvel to be able to copyright the title) had a good and solidly selling start (Cooke, 2001), in spite of an initial lack of constant authorship: youngsters Gerry Conway and Archie Goodwin worked on issues #1-2 and #3-4 respectively, with veteran Gardner Fox handling issues #5-6. Whilst they set up the basic groundwork, the storytelling lacked consistency and the narrative at times felt hasty.

If the title was to succeed long term, a stable hand in penning Tomb of Dracula was required - and that's exactly what the arrival of Marv Wolfman for issue #7 was all about. From here on out, the series would consistently gain traction and direction under the auspices of the creative team of writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan (who had been on board since issue #1).

Wolfman was very much aware of the challenges he was facing - and had a very clear idea of how to handle them.

"A book that was six issues old - with three different writers (...) 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." (Marv Wolfman in Comic Geek Speak, 2005)

Marvin "Marv" Wolfman (*1946) had started working for the comic book industry in 1968 with DC, yet he was still only 26 when he took over the scripting of Tomb Of Dracula #7 for the March 1973 cover date publication schedule.

There are diverging memories of who did what in conjunction with Tomb of Dracula #1 (the October 1971 Bullpen Bulletin credits Stan Lee with plotting the first issue, whereas Roy Thomas (Cooke, 2001) remembers plotting that issue himself based on just a few verbal sentences from Lee, whilst Gerry Conway basically supplied captions and dialogue), but Marvel had from the outset established a direct link between Bram Stoker's novel Dracula and the stories told in Tomb of Dracula, using a number of references to the literary source through the use of names, locations, and events.

Marv Wolfman in 1975

  This was also Wolfman's link to the plot and characters he started to evolve as of Tomb of Dracula #7.

"I'd never seen a Dracula movie at that point, but I'd read the novel, and I loved the novel (...) Dracula himself was really a force more than a presence because he's only in 80 or something pages of a 500 pages novel, so the attitude of the original book was more on the people who are hunting him and the effects of evil on them (...) Using that as the template for the entire series it seemed to me that this was an ideal concept to try and do more realistic comics, to try and break out of the comics for 11 year olds (...) I really wanted to try to write something that was starting to appeal to my age." (Marv Wolfman in Siuntres, 2006)

With Wolfman at the reins (he would continue to write the title for the remainder of its lengthy run, ending with Tomb of Dracula #70), Marvel's take on Dracula became a cleverly conceived and superbly balanced piece of fiction.



Unlike Wolfman, Gene Colan (1926-2011), nicknamed both "Gentleman" and "the Dean" by Stan Lee, worked on Tomb of Dracula right from the start, but he too would stay on the book throughout its entire run - after having literally fought for this assignment from Stan Lee.

"The only strip I really begged for was Dracula. [Stan Lee] promised it to me, but then he changed his mind (...) But I didn't take that for an answer. I worked up a page of Dracula (...) and I sent it in. I got an immediate call back. Stan said 'The strip is yours'." (Gene Colan in Thomas, 2000)

Colan created an intensely atmospheric visual rendition of Wolfman's horror saga and established a look and feel that went far beyond the classic horror comic qualities. His style, superbly inked by Tom Palmer, provided readers with a truly captivating visual journey into the dark shadows. For Colan, it all boiled down to a deeply rooted belief that comic books and movies share common traits.

"I was mostly influenced by film. Understand film, frame by frame, is very much like panel to panel. The lighting in black and white films taught me a great deal." (Gene Colan in Mata, 2007)

The cinematic qualities of Colan's artwork also reflect his view on how he wanted the readers to perceive and experience his illustrations.


Gene Colan in 1975

"Authenticity, for me, was important, because it made the reader feel 'This is real this is not just a comic book' (...) It gave the reader the sense that he belonged in the story and wasn't just reading something (...) I was into it and wanted the reader to be into it." (Gene Colan in Irving, 2010)


The first time Quincy Harker's name is mentioned - Original artwork by Gene Colan (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks) for page page 6 of Tomb of Dracula #7 (scanned from the original) and the same page as it appeared in print (colours by Tom Palmer)

Both Wolfman and Colan steadily progressed on the title, from being two enthusiastic individuals working together to becoming a creative team where mutual understanding and a shared perception created results not otherwise possible. The series just kept getting better and better, and a lot of the classic material had its seeds in Tomb of Dracula #7.

Gene Colan was already in top gear and clearly in his artistic element, providing gripping visuals. It all seemingly just flowed from his pencils with ease as he poured his characters into atmospheric settings which embodied everything - and more - the genre had to offer. His cinematographic style and his enthusiasm for this kind of work left their quality mark on each and every page, and now, with Wolfman setting out to give the title and its characters a clear direction, things were ready to roll.

"The more you work on something, the better you get at it. I felt that the character became my own." (Gene Colan in Dlugos, 2002)

"Gene's artwork certainly is the reason why we could do a lot of that stuff." (Marv Wolfman in Siuntres, 2006)



This issue introduces readers to Quincy Harker, an elderly man in a wheelchair, who (as Rachel van Helsing explains on the train back to London) is the son of Jonathan and Mina Harker - both, of course, pivotal characters in Bram Stoker's novel.

Tomb of Dracula #7, page 5


Harker appears very early on in Tomb of Dracula #7, saving his daughter Edith from being attacked by Dracula, but in typical Wolfman fashion we are, for the present moment, left in the dark as to who this person actually is. All will however be revealed halfway through the issue.

With the introduction of Quincy Harker, Wolfman solidly set Tomb of Dracula in line with and as a continuation of Stoker's Dracula. Previosuly, first steps in this direction had been the introduction of Frank Drake as a descendant of Dracula, thus inheriting the count's castle, in Tomb of Dracula #1, and Rachel van Helsing as granddaughter of the famous Abraham van Helsing, in Tomb of Dracula #3 - but neither of these two characters obviously featured in the original novel.

Quincy Harker, however, was an original Bram Stoker character - albeit spelt "Quincey" and only introduced on the final page of the novel as a newborn baby.

"Seven years ago we all went through the flames (...) 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.'" (Jonathan Harker's note, in Bram Stoker, Dracula, chapter 27, final page)

A very important implication of this approach for Tomb of Dracula is, of course, the logical consequence that all main characters of the novel are just as real as the newly revived Dracula himself, and events relayed by Bram Stoker actual facts, not figments of a writer's imagination. This was indeed the common approach for Marvel and also extended to other works of fiction, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

The moment the band of vampire hunters meet up with Quincy Harker is taken as an opportunity by Marv Wolfman to give the connection between novel and comic book series more depth and weight, whilst also bringing readers of Tomb of Dracula who hadn't read the novel up to speed.

  This is done across two pages (11 and 12) in the form of flashback vignettes, and whitout making these panels too text-heavy, Wolfman gives a very nice and to the point recap of the novel, and the atmospheric composition of Colan's artwork is as cinematic as always, sucking readers into the fabric of the story.

Quincy Harker may now be an elderly man bound to a wheelchair, but he is still in the business of hunting down vampires (something he has done, as he himself explains, for the past sixty years after having been trained by Abraham van Helsing himself), and indeed he has moved on with the times and now uses sophisticated technology. Harker clearly is the driving force behind the group of vampire hunters, carrying on a lifelong crusade to fight and destroy vampires.
For the remainder of his first issue of Tomb of Dracula, Wolfman sets up a plot device that works well and that he will subsequently use again, in variations, over the next few years: the purported death of Dracula.

In this instance, Dracula sets a trap for the vampire hunters by luring them to his hideout, a dark and abandoned house; the group overpowers the count's minion Cliff Graves, finds Dracula in his coffin, and drives a stake into the vampire’s heart - so is the hunt finally over?

Seasoned comic book readers know, of course, that a main character of a Marvel title hardly ever really succumbs to death - and Tomb of Dracula #7 is no exception.

It is indeed not the end of Count Dracula, as the vampire hunters quickly learn as the lord of vampire's evil laughter fills the room - Quincy Harker has only staked a lookalike decoy. And worse still, they now face a group of children ready for the kill under the mind-control of Dracula...
  And so Wolfman's first issue at the writer's helm of Tomb of Dracula ends on a real cliffhanger... to be continued.

One of Wolfman's many strengths was to weave together plot and characterization seamlessly, providing an exhilaratingly interesting storyline that had readers ask and come back for more. Tomb of Dracula #7 provided a hugely promising start to his tenure - and those promises would be kept to a large degree over the entire run of the title.

From this issue on out, the plot displayed a consistent depth and complexity, with Wolfman building up multiple underlying themes and sub-plots in the overall storyline - some of which would only reveal their full meaning several issues down the line.

  A more detailed synopsis of this issue can be found here.


Tomb of Dracula #7 really kicks off the title and sows the seeds for becoming the classic comic book fare it is now known to be. Not that the first six issues were bad (and they all had Gene Colan's masterfully cinematic artwork, mind you), but Marv Wolfman gave the concept more than just a sense of direction, he actually made it go places - and he was also very much intent on doing something very different here.
His conceptual ideas for Tomb of Dracula meant that the title was, in essence, breaking out of established comic book routines. It would end up working so well that the series very soon found itself outside of the commonly defined and charted corners not just of the Marvel Universe, but the entire comic publishing business.

"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." (Marv Wolfman in Comic Geek Speak, 2005)

Fighting the newly risen lord of vampires in Tomb of Dracula had been conceived as a team effort right from the start, just as it had been in Stoker's novel. But Wolfman realized the full potential of having a group of "vampire hunters" (which would soon be completed to include Quincy Harker, Rachel van Helsing, Dracula's descendant Frank Drake, Indian mute Taj Nital, and "daywalker vampire" Blade) as antipodes to Dracula's actions and schemes of world domination. He made it an important element of the ongoing saga, and it contributed in a very essential way to the success of Tomb of Dracula.

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.

In Tomb of Dracula #7 he sets up a fundamental ethical dilemma by having the vampire hunters face a group of children - they are, of course, innocent, manipulated, so how do you defend yourself? How do you fight a monster without becoming one yourself? It all gave Tomb Of Dracula a maturity other comic book titles never even got close to.


The entire group of vampire hunters features on the Gil Kane cover for Tomb of Dracula #28 (January 1975)

Yet at the same time, Tomb Of Dracula became one of those (rather rare) examples of a Bronze Age comic book that provides readers of any age (albeit probably best upwards of 12) with a very high level of storyline satisfaction, as each issue builds up the plot and suspense on various levels as the action itself is taken forward very swiftly, until it regularly reaches yet another cliffhanger that really makes you wonder how things will go on from here.

"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." (Marv Wolfman in Siuntres, 2006)

In a nutshell, this is comic book writing at its best from Marv Wolfman, complemented on each and every page by an equally high level of excellence by Gene Colan's moody artwork and the shadowy inking supplied by Tom Palmer. Tomb of Dracula would end up becoming the longest running Bronze Age horror comic book title, and as such is not only one of Marvel's milestone contributions to the Bronze Age period of the 1970s, but to comic book history as a whole.



Tomb Of Dracula had featured a letters page entitled "Tomes to the Tomb" since issue #3, and the main reveal on the letters page for issue #7 was the announcement that publication would go from bi-monthly to monthly publication as of the next issue (i.e. Tomb of Dracula #8, cover dated May 1973).
  One thing that always characterized the letters printed in Tomb Of Dracula (or TOD, as acronym loving Marvel often called it) was their quality - witness the example in this issue dwelling on the inconsistencies of vampire lore, complete with secondary literature references.
Horror was the flavour of the day in 1973, and Marvel was eager to please its readership (and cash in on the interest) - hence the anouncement that Tomb of Dracula would soon be joined by the black & white, large-size, and aptly titled magazine Dracula Lives!

Tomb Of Dracula also opened up entirely new market segments of potential readers that had little or no interest in Marvel's superhero titles.

"I had never read any Marvel Comics until I came across this one at a shop some months ago. Since then, my family and I have been reading every issue."

And a second letter on vampire lore opened the door for editor Roy Thomas to state (somewhat boldly, perhaps) that

"our viewpoint is that Dracula-author Bram Stoker knew much about the vampire, but that he didn't know all! We'll be filling in the gaps (...) as we lope along."

Thomas wasn't wrong, of course, as many items of common "popular cultural knowledge" on vampires stem not from Stoker's novel but from subsequent movies; for example, Dracula is only weakend by sunlight in the novel, whereas it is deadly in Murnau's 1922 film adaptation Nosferatu.


  There's an issue-by-issue look at the Tomb Of Dracula series here.
  There's more on the roots of Marvel's Tomb Of Dracula series here.
  You can read more about Marvel's 1970s Bronze Age horror genre titles and their "superheroes from the crypt" here.
  There's more on "Gentleman" Gene "the Dean" Colan, acclaimed penciller of the Tomb Of Dracula series, here.


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)

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

DLUGOS Jenn (2002) "Gene Colan Interview",, published online 15 December 2022

IRVING Christopher (2010) "Gene Colan: On Vampires, Shadows, and the Industry",

MATA Shiai (2007) "Gene Colan Interview", SlayerLit (stored on Internet Archive)

SIUNTRES John (2006) "Marv Wolfman by Night", Word Balloon: The Comic Creator's Interview Show (quoted from personal transcript)

THOMAS Roy (2000) "So you want a Job eh? The Gene Colan Interview", Alter Ego (vol. 3 issue 6)



Marvel Comics - The Tomb of Dracula


The illustrations presented here are copyright material and are reproduced for strictly non-commercial and appreciative review purposes only.
Text is (c) 2023 Adrian Wymann

Page uploaded to the web 16 December 2023