With Further Ado #171: The Original Dracula is Back

The world changes quickly. It’s that time of year when Americans unite on the one thing they can all agree upon – to decry the early blitz of holiday marketing.  But it’s inevitable; Halloween gets swept away quickly and it’s Christmas time again – with just a passing nod to Thanksgiving.

But one holiday campaign, a celebration of that spooky stop motion classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas, reminds us that Halloween and Christmas “kind of” go together. Just like the way that Tokyo Pop and Cracker Barrell “kind of” go together with this wonky promotion. It turns out that Cracker Barrel will be distributing copies of a manga retelling of this story.

So, with all that in mind, I rationalize that its entirely appropriate to shine the spotlight, in a November column, on a new spooky book: Dracula: The Original Graphic Novel.

This one is the latest from Vanguard publishing, and it’s a beauty.  Dracula: The Original Graphic Novel is an impressive re-presentation of the 1966 Dracula Graphic novel by Otto Binder (with Russ Jones & Craig Tennis) and Alden McWilliams.

Publisher J. David Spurlock and Vanguard have done it again.  Dracula: The Original Graphic Novel presents this material in lovingly timeless fashion. Each illustration is big and bold, with plenty of room to marvel at the art. Too often, I find, when reading comic strips, I can buzz through them too quickly.  Keeping up with the story can take precedence over drinking in the artwork.

Thankfully, this book almost seems to whisper, “read it slowly” and “enjoy it thoroughly”.

The art by Alden McWilliams is so very strong. Like many fans, I tend to get him confused with his friend, Al Williamson. They do have similar styles and worked on many of the same characters, like Flash Gordon, over the years.

I remember first being exposed to McWilliams in DC’s Justice Incorporated #1.  I’m a big pulp fan, so there was no question I’d be buying it. Nonetheless, the brilliant Joe Kubert cover sealed the deal. I couldn’t wait to buy it and devour it. I remember enjoying the story, but not quite knowing what to make of McWilliams’ interior art. Sure, it was gorgeous and thoughtful, but not bombastic or overly dynamic, as were so many 1970s comics. It seemed to be more Hal Foster than Jack Kirby.

I did notice then, and still notice today, how McWilliams has a tendency to give his male heroes shiny fingernails. That never quite worked for me.

In this Dracula story, authored by longtime pulp and comics writer Otto Binder, McWilliams provides a tour-de-force. He certainly knows his way around the India ink bottle.  Gorgeous settings, strong figure work and surprisingly dynamic layouts are in store for everyone who reads this book.

When J. David Spurlock throws a party, he pitches a big tent.  Somehow the Vanguard publisher manages to weave together a visual history of Dracula in comics (and pulps) that includes everyone from Frazetta to Steranko to Neal Adams. Along the way, Spurlock also discusses creators like Margaret Brundage and Wally Wood.

His comprehensive commentary helps readers get their arms around the various comic incarnations of Dracula. It’s a great read and makes you want to carve out a Dracula section on your bookshelf.

Spurlock is gracious too, offering up kind words about ‘competing’ projects, like the Kerry Gammill & El-Garring Dracula GN recently released that features the likeness of Bela Lugosi as the lead character. That’s a fun book (winning a Rondo award), and I enjoyed it so much that I even passed my copy along to my dad.

I will admit that Lugosi isn’t “my Dracula”. I grew up on a steady of Hammer Dracula films, most of which starred Christopher Lee.  You can imagine that for me, it was another real treat to read Sir Christopher Lee’s forward in this volume.

Vanguard’s Dracula is available in comic shops, all the best independent bookstores and online.

Dracula: The Original Graphic Novel
Vanguard Publishing
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 168 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 193433183X