DRACULA – A Few Thoughts on the Current State of Bram Stoker’s Vampire-King

DRACULA – A Few Thoughts on the Current State of Bram Stoker’s Vampire-King
This is S. Clarke Hawbaker's black and white art for the painted cover that appeared on the first issue of the Malibu Graphics adaptation and Caliber Comics' graphic novel of "Dracula."

S. Clarke Hawbaker’s painting for the cover of the first issue of the Malibu Graphics adaptation and Caliber Comics’ graphic novel of “Dracula” has become quite popular. This is the original 1989 black and white artwork.


Big surprise: I am huge Dracula fan.

Earlier this year, Caliber Comics collected the adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel and excised chapter, “Dracula’s Guest,” that I originally wrote for Malibu Graphics into a graphic novel for the first time. To help launch this graphic novel, I wrote a few words that were published in the first issue of Caliber Rounds. This was written prior to the release of the film Dracula Untold (2014), and, even though the film was a box office success, so far my predictions regarding the film and the Count have not come true. However, with that in mind, I’d still like to share this and my hopes for the novel and its fascinating villain with you today:

I am a Sherlock Holmes fan who is old enough to remember a time when all Holmes fans wondered if we would ever see a faithful adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story in film or on television. That may seem odd today, what with the Eighties Granada Television Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett, just as it might seem odd that, prior to this series, Holmes was considered by many critics to be a dusty Victorian character on the verge of irrelevancy. After all, they insisted, Holmes’ deductions and magnifying glass are anachronisms compared to the wonders of modern criminal science. Yet, thanks to the Sherlock Holmes motion pictures directed by Guy Ritchie, the BBC television series Sherlock, and the American television series Elementary, Holmes is not only experiencing a renaissance, his relevancy, not to mention his popularity, may be at an all-time peak.

To put it crudely but bluntly, Sherlock Holmes lives!

Well, I am also a Count Dracula fan, another Victorian character many modern critics believe is becoming outdated. After all, they insist, the horrors of a gothic bloodsucker pale when compared to realistic terrors like nuclear weapons and terrorism. Unfortunately, Count Dracula has not benefited from anything like the Granada Television Holmes series, and while the upcoming movie Dracula Untold might do for the Count what Ritchie’s films did for Holmes (fingers crossed), there are no faithful Dracula films or television programs currently on the horizon.

Sorry, Count.

That said, things have been a little brighter for Dracula in comicdom.

The "Dracula" graphic novel is black-and-white, but a few years ago penciller Robert Schneiders colored the adaptation's first page.

The “Dracula” graphic novel is black-and-white, but a few years ago penciller Robert Schneiders colored the adaptation’s first page.

In 2004, Marvel Comics published a faithful four-issue adaptation of Dracula by Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano, but this adaptation actually completed what Thomas and Giordano had started in 1974, only to be interrupted by cancellations.  In 1989, however, the first full and faithful adaptation of Dracula and the novel’s excised chapter, “Dracula’s Guest,” in any medium was published by Malibu Graphic, written by myself, pencils by Robert Schnieders, and inks by Craig Taillefer. And now, after being out of print for over two decades, Caliber Comics is publishing our Dracula again in a new graphic novel, to be followed with a companion graphic novel featuring my original sequel, Dracula: The Suicide Club, with art by John Ross.

It is tempting (for me, at least) to wonder if these graphic novels, coupled with Dracula Untold, might spark a renaissance in relevancy and popularity for the Count the way Brett, Ritchie, Sherlock, and Elementary have for Holmes. Only time will tell, but history may be on our side, since the horror genre experiences a cycle of renewed popularity ever twenty year or so.  In the Thirties there were the Universal classic monsters, in the Fifties we were invaded by BEMs, in the Seventies we were assaulted by The Exorcist, and in the Nineties classic monsters were in vogue again thanks to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Now … well … here we are again, approximately twenty years later.

Of course, many modern critics still cast doubt on just how frightening traditional monsters like Dracula are when compared to real-life horrors. Perhaps. But has that always been the case? If you were to ask me if I believe in vampires or ghosts or werewolves, my honest answer is, “No. Unless it’s three in the morning and I’m in the attic of a creepy house.” It is all a matter of perspective. Dirty bombs are bad, but if you think you may be on the verge of becoming some monster’s chew toy, I imagine they would not seem half as frightening as your current predicament.

To put it bluntly and crudely, scary is as scary does.

And, in my humble opinion, Count Dracula still does and always will.

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