Dracula. The very name conjures images of sexuality, corruption, and decadence. From the original novel written by Bram Stoker in 1897 to the moment Bela Lugosi donned the famed opera cloak in 1931, the character of Dracula has been an iconic horror staple.
In fact, Dracula has been the subject of over 200 films, second only to the number of films starring Sherlock Holmes. But films, novels, and television aren’t the only genres that have contained Dracula’s bloodlust. Comic books have been a compelling source for new Dracula material. Marvel Comics in particular have been a happy hunting ground for the Lord of the Vampires.
After the easing of Comic Code restrictions in the early seventies, Stan Lee and Marvel were eager to explore classic monsters in the pages of their books. When the code loosened its grip, Lee and company were able to resurrect the four color boogiemen that lay forgotten for so long. In 1972, writer Gerry Conway and artist Gene Colan introduced Tomb of Dracula and a legend was born. Now there was a version of Dracula that borrowed from Stoker and Lugosi stalking the same fictional universe as Spider-Man and the Avengers.
Soon, writer Marv Wolfman would take over the writing chores on Tomb of Dracula and create one of the greatest continuing horror sagas in comic book history. Within the pages of Tomb of Dracula, Wolfman introduced the vampiric detective Hannibal King, Lilith (Dracula’s Daughter), and most importantly, Blade, the Vampire Hunter, who later helped kick off the current superhero movie boom.
Dracula existed within the Marvel Universe, but other than rare occasions not many Marvel heroes appeared in Dracula’s book, giving the title a sense of isolation from the rest of the Marvel Universe. That is not to say that Dracula has not stalked the titles of the mainstream Marvel heroes. Oh no, dear reader, the Prince of Darkness has cast his shadow on many Marvel heroes, making him one of the greatest, if often overlooked villains in Marvel history. Here is a look at times Dracula, the greatest monster of them all, has stalked the Marvel Universe.
Dracula Meets Spider-Man
Giant Sized Spider-Man #1 (1974)
In this tale, Aunt May is suffering from a rare blood disease because she’s Aunt May. Spidey learns that the only man that has the cure is an eccentric doctor that refuses to travel by plane. Spider-Man learns from Reed Richards that the scientist is traveling by ship, so Spidey gets his webbed ass to the ship to find the doctor.
Also on board the ship are members of the Maggia who want the formula, and of course, Dracula himself who is also after it. Hilarity ensues as Dracula dispatches the crooks one by one, and throws the Maggia leader overboard.
The book is a send up of the classic death at sea sequence of Stoker’s Dracula, as Dracula feeds off the Maggia onboard. While never featuring a direct confrontation between hero and vampire, this issue served as a warning…Dracula is out there.
Allied with the Avengers (1973)
Ironically, one of the first times Dracula was drawn into the events of the Marvel Universe, he did so to defend humanity! In the Avengers/Defenders war, often considered to be the first true crossover in comics history, the Dread Dormammu opened a dimensional gateway to Earth. The Avengers and Defenders were stuck in Dormammu’s dimension so could not defend the Earth from an incursion by the savage Mindless Ones, headless beings that thrive on destruction. A group of super-powered champions on Earth, not knowing where the Mindless Ones were pouring on from, took up arms to protect their home.
One of these beings was none other than Dracula, who along with such heroes as Power Man, the Fantastic Four, and Ka-Zar, fought back against the Mindless Ones. But don’t think Dracula was acting magnanimously true believers; imagine if a horde of beasts was smashing your favorite eatery. That’s what Earth is to Dracula, a theme restaurant with an all you can eat buffet of jugulars.
Yes, Dracula fought the Mindless Ones, but in doing so he made sure his food supply remained strong and proved to Marvel readers just how badass he was by taking on the Mindless Ones…creatures capable of going toe to toe with the Hulk!
The Creation of Baron Blood (1976)
One of Captain America’s most enduring foes was created by none other than Dracula. What’s more evil than a Nazi vampire? Pretty much nothing, which makes Baron Blood one of the most vile creatures in the Marvel Universe. In the dark days of World War II, John Farnsworth was an English aristocrat obsessed with vampire lore. When he travels to Transylvania, he encounters Dracula, who transforms Farnsworth into the living dead.
Dracula sends blood to England to punish the country for the actions of Dracula’s nemesis Jonathan Harker. As Baron Blood, Farnsworth fought the Invaders, Captain America, and even his own brother who adopted the heroic persona of the first Union Jack.
Blood’s days of fighting for the Axis were cut short when the Sub-Mariner staked the bejesus out of him. Blood was resurrected in the modern day by a minion of Dracula and fought a legendary battle with his old foe, Captain America. Now, a Nazi vampire is pretty badass, but a Nazi vampire created by Dracula himself? That’s some legendary bloodsucker right there!
Dracula vs. Doctor Strange (1976)
Tomb of Dracula #44
The Lord of Darkness fed off Doctor Strange (he probably tasted like sage, cinnamon, and quickly forgotten dreams), in the pages of Tomb of Dracula #44. In Strange’s own book, Dracula locks the Sorcerer Supreme in a dungeon so he can watch the embraced Doctor arise as a vampire. That’s quite a sense of irony Marvel’s Dracula possesses, huh?
Little did Dracula know that Strange astral projected out of his body before Dracula could finish the fateful bite. Strange uses his astral form to mess with Dracula who furiously arrives at the dungeon after days of being mocked and prodded by the wizard.
An awesome fight ensues between a vampiric Doctor Strange and Dracula which Strange wins by conjuring a blazing crucifix. The edge in the battle went to Strange who seemed to be one step ahead of Dracula, but let us not forget that during their first encounter Dracula easily dispatched Strange with one bite. Dracula’s mistake was letting Strange have time to plot, but the first struggle would foreshadow a climatic future encounter between the magician and vampire.
Dracula vs. Howard the Duck? (1980)
Howard the Duck Magazine #5
Not all Dracula appearances in the Marvel Universe are legendary but that doesn’t make them any less cool. The following is a treatise on why comics are awesome.
While visiting Cleveland, Dracula spots Howard the Duck. Thinking Howard to be a midget in a duck suit, the Lord of the Undead bites Howard (did I just type that?) but is disgusted by the non-human blood flowing in Howard’s veins. However, Howard is transformed into Drakula (not Duckula or Quakula?) and preys on other ducks.
Howard is restored to his normal self and is actually able to stake Dracula before the vampire can feed off Howard’s girlfriend, Beverly Switzer.
Dracula Joins The Defenders (1981)
Ah, the Defenders. Long before they were edgy TV stars, they were the parking place for awesomely odd Bronze Age characters.
In one of the non-team’s most memorable storylines, the Defenders were being beleaguered by the Six Fingered Hand. With newer members Hellcat, Gargoyle, and Son of Satan in tow, the Defenders arrive back to Doctor Strange’s mansion only to be attacked by a possessed Dracula. It seems the Six Fingered Hand had gained control over all vampires.
Proving his awesomeness, the Son of Satan breaks the Hand’s control of Dracula, and agrees to help the Vampire Lord take back Transylvania from the Hand. The team with powerhouses like Strange and the Asgardian Valkyrie are just window dressing as the Son of Satan kicks the Hands’ collective butts, destroys a metric ton of vampires by summoning sunlight, and saves Dracula’s undead bacon.
This was the first time Marvel used Dracula as an anti-hero in a super-hero title, an honorable villain who was as comfortable in the role of defender of his people as he was bloodsucking fiend. It was a brief union, but among his many roles in the Marvel Universe, Dracula will always be recognized as a Defender.
Dracula vs. The X-Men (1982)
Uncanny X-Men #159
Monster mash-ups are a staple of the genre. While not traditional monsters at all, mutants meeting Dracula have the same cache as Dracula versus Frankenstein or the Wolfman, it’s just a match made, erm…not in heaven.
Structured like a classic horror film, Uncanny X-Men #159 sees Storm the victim in a very odd mugging. When someone overpowered the weather goddess and cut her throat, Storm suddenly finds herself wanting to die, inviting a stranger through her window at night, drawing back from Kitty Pryde’s Star of David, and shunning sunlight. You don’t have to be Bram Stoker to see where this is going and an epic confrontation between vampire and mutant takes place. The X-Men take out Dracula’s monstrous rat and canine minions, but fall before Dracula, all except Nightcrawler who has the faith to drive the vampire off with a makeshift cross.
When Storm arrives, Dracula finds that he cannot control the primal Storm, who stands tall and proud. In an awesome moment, Dracula tells Storm it was her inner strength that compelled him and after a standoff, Dracula retreats. This was Claremont at his finest, giving each X-Man a moment to shine and writing a classic and pretty damn scary Dracula in the process. The issue created an indelible bond between the X-Men and Dracula, one that stands till this day.
In the 1982 Uncanny X-Men Annual #6, the battle between the X-Men and Dracula continues as Kitty Pryde is possessed by Dracula’s daughter and one of his most enduring foes, Lilith. It was another compelling confrontation that deepens the threat Dracula had on mutantkind.
Dracula vs. Thor (1983)
Not satisfied with feeding off ducks, mutants, and wizards, Dracula sets his sights on embracing Lady Sif. In Thor #332, Dracula succeeds in feeding and turning Sif. In issue 333, Thor must face a Dracula empowered by god blood (comics = awesome), and an embraced Sif.
This story was significant in showing what a powerhouse Dracula was and established the idea that if Dracula fed off a non-human being, he would be fueled by their powerful blood. Thor managed to free Sif, but not before fans realized that Dracula was a threat to everyone, god, mutant, or human.
The Death of a Legend (1983)
Doctor Strange #59-62
In Doctor Strange #59-62, Strange and a group of companions including Dracula hunters Blade and the vampiric detective Hannibal King close all the plot threads left over from Tomb of Dracula and close the door on Marvel’s vampires for a quite a while. Aided by Avengers Captain Marvel (then Monica Rambeau) and the Scarlet Witch, Strange and company race to secure the Darkhold, a book which contains the Montessi Formula, a spell that will rid the Earth of Dracula and the curse of vampirism. Keep in mind that the Darkhold is an ancient magical book that created vampires in the first place.
These issues are the type of storytelling that made Stern a legend, taking elements from Dracula’s appearance in X-Men (the first mention of the Formula) and Thor (whom Dracula is reluctant in facing when he sees the other Avengers by Strange’s side). By the end of the story, Strange does recite the formula and Dracula is finally destroyed.
Like all good vampires, Dracula would eventually return, but the storyline has an epic sense of finality to it. After years of being plagued by Dracula, the Marvel heroes fight back destroying all vampires. For now…
Dracula vs. The Fantastic Four (2000-2001)
Before the Fantastic Four: The Storms
Dracula’s shadow is cast far and wide across the history of the Marvel Universe. Before they were legends, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm find a mysterious amulet. The young siblings are attacked by zombies seeking the amulet for its power, zombies controlled by none other than Dracula, who lays inert, staked and comatose, using his mind to control the zombies so they may deliver the amulet to the vampire.
The Storms, before they were Fantastic, must stop the zombies from taking the amulet to Transylvania to resurrect their puppet master. Even immobile, Dracula proves to be one of the most evil and capable beings in the Marvel Universe.
X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula (2006)
The cool thing about this series is that it gave added weight to the idea that Dracula has had an impact on the history of the Marvel universe and that his ties to the world of mutants did not begin the day he tried to embrace Storm. Dracula begins embracing members of Apocalypse’s cult which wakes the legendary mutant to defend his followers. The book ties the history of the Van Helsing family into the war between mutant despot and vampire lord.
Dracula on the Moon (2009)
Captain Britain and MI:13 #10
The so-called end of vampires arc in Doctor Strange was a large scale storyline bringing in many mainstream Marvel mainstays, but it had nothing on the grand tapestry of cool that was the Dracula arc in the late, lamented Captain Britain and MI:13 title. So, Dracula gathers a sect of vampires on the moon to set up a front for his attack on Earth. Just typing that sentence was awesome. Dracula forms a non-aggression pact with Dr. Doom and only the magic of MI:13 led by Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom has a hope of stopping Dracula.
During the course of the arc, fans find out how brilliant Pete Wisdom is, that Dracula still holds a grudge against Muslims stemming back from his Vlad the Impaler days, that seeing Black Knight duel Dracula is pretty much better than anything else in the world, and that the legendary sword Excalibur wielded by a Muslim woman is more effective against Dracula than any crucifix.
Seriously, stop reading this and track down this storyline, we’ll wait.
Hulk vs. Dracula
Part of the Fear Itself mega-event, this battle between two legendary monsters took a form fans did not expect. During the course of Fear Itself, the Hulk was transformed into Nul, the Breaker of Worlds. When Thor knocked Nul into the Carpathian Mountains, the Hulk became a threat to Dracula’s sovereignty. Once again taking up the mantle of reluctant defender, Dracula most take on Nul with a group of vampires, the Forgotten at his side. The event book was another step into the modern evolution of Dracula and was the first time he appeared alongside the Hulk.
An X feud renewed (2011)
X-Men: Curse of the Mutants
Dracula’s return to the X Universe also served as the introduction of the modern interpretation of the Lord of the Undead. Gone is his rocking ‘stache and suave opera cape, arriving is the white hair and Coppola-esque armor. The story is pretty cool, if needlessly complex at times, and introduces Dracula’s son, Xarus. Xarus goes to war with dear old dad with the X-Men and a group of Atlanteans caught in the middle. The whole thing ends with a fierce reminder, family or not, do not mess with Dracula.
The new look for Dracula would stay consistent across all Marvel media as it was this look that appeared in an episode of Avengers Assemble on Disney XD. The story arc also brings vampirism closer to the X-Men as never before as Jubilee, once the most innocent of the X-Men, is transformed into a vampire. What Claremont and company began in the early ’80s continues today as Dracula’s influence on the X-Men looms like a constant shadow over the heroes!