Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dracula Returns! Again!

The Skeletal Spotlight shines this time on:
The skullerific cover art for "Dracula Returns!"
(Click on images to enlarge)

"Hey, I'm over here, behind this big ol' skull!"

My grandma's house was a few miles from a small bookstore called Bill's on Ingleside Ave in Macon, GA. As a young teen, when visiting her house on the weekend, I would sometimes walk the distance to look for the latest issue of The Monster Times or other cool magazines. After all, they had a better selection than the closer-to-home drugstore where I usually went. One summer, in 1973, I came upon the first in the Dracula Horror Series titled "Dracula Returns," and had read it nearly halfway through on the walk back to her house. It's a wonder I made it without getting run over, but I was pretty good at walking and reading. I still recall exactly where I was in the book at particular points as I walked home, passing under the oaks draped with spanish moss, blowing in the faint breeze.


Most horrifying of all, the flower in his buttonhole seemed fresh! Aaaiiiieeee! I never knew the Count liked wearing a daisy on his suit.

The series was begun as we learn how the telekenetic wheelchair-bound Professor X... uh, I mean, Professor Harmon, is drawn by Dracula's consort/slave (and sometimes black cat) Isis... I mean, Katara, into bringing the Count back to life. The Professor thinks he can control the Prince of Darkness by implanting a sliver of wood next to his heart, and triggering the mechanism with his mind to temporarily kill him should the need arise. He intends to use the vampire as a weapon in the war against crime. Needless to say, you can't keep such a creature on a short leash without getting bitten.

I might point out that close to the same time, Marvel was publishing the first issue of "Tomb Of Dracula," which I bought and still have. The wheelchair-bound protagonist Quincy Harker (depicted to the right) resembled the character of Professor Harmon, at least superficially, but with the publishing dates so close it might have only been a coincidence. However, Harmon wanted to use Dracula, and Harker only wanted to kill him.



"Put your head on my shoulder..." The awkward positioning of Katara makes it look as if her head has been grafted onto Drac's right shoulderblade.

Assisted by Cameron Sanchez, a strong and devoted friend, Harmon unleashes this supernatural force on those seemingly above the laws of man. The shape-shifter Katara helps out, but always with her Master's best interest in mind. Although Harmon considers himself morally above the criminal element he is seeking to expunge, Dracula knows that he in his own way is as blood-thirsty as the vampire he is using, and points that out, to the Professor's unease. Is he any better than the criminals and Dracula, by using such harsh and brutal methods? He is certainly no hero, but the thought doesn't hinder him from continuing to risk using his unwilling ally. And the blood flows copiously as Dracula, unleashed upon various criminal elements, metes out gory justice with slashing fingernails and fangs. They'd have been better off in jail.



The part of Professor Harmon will be played this episode by Boris Karloff.

As a youth I enjoyed the book, detailing Drac's return to "life" in modern times, and the various missions he sends the Count on fulfill his thirst for blood and the Professor's for justice. But Vlad's own agenda and desire for freedom mean that he is always looking for ways to escape the restrictions and feast on the Professor's own blood. Travelling from country to country during their adventures, the unlikely quartet meet with what seems to be a supernatural threat, but only turns out to be someone faking it. Though not always the case, this happens to such an extent that you begin to think that at the end, the bad guys are going to say "and I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for that meddling wheelchair guy and his vampire!" Then Dracula slaughters them.



"One... two... three! Three million beautiful gold coins! Ah-ah-ah-ah-aaaaah!"

The series was successful enough to generate eight followups, which came out in extremely rapid succession, three of which I was able to find. After that I lost track of them. From what I've seen, after about #5 the artwork started to slide and Drac became more of a cartoon figure. But if I were to run across any at a used bookstore, I would pick them up and read them just for old time's sake. If the series were honest, it would end with Dracula finally turning on Harmon, proving the truth of the saying "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword." The revenge on evil, using evil to inflict it, that the Professor engineered would certainly turn on him at last. I doubt that ever happens, though. A continuing series such as this rarely ever concludes and wraps things up, as there might always be another book if the last sold well. The author is not willing to burn his coffins behind him.


Ad from Famous Monsters about the book series...

Kids! Ask your parents for the money to order!

Side note: In the same "vein," we have a novel that was published in 1973 that purports to be "non-fiction," in which a series of letters, journal entries and newspaper clippings tell the story of Dracula's resurrection and subsequent neck-bitings. Although a fun read at the time, the cover art depicts a very anemic-looking, not to mention fey, Count which reinforces the common Lugosi stereotype.


"I vant to suck... your blood! Vhat did you think I vas going to say, you naughty, naughty boy?"

Just to be a completist, below you will find the remaining covers to the rest of the books in the series. These I scavenged from around the web, but the ones above this I scanned in from my own copies.

The complete list:

#1: Dracula Returns (Pinnacle 1973)


#2: The Hand of Dracula (Pinnacle 1973)


#3: Dracula's Brothers (Pinnacle 1973)


#4: Dracula's Gold (Pinnacle 1973)


#5: Drums of Dracula (Pinnacle, 1974)





#6: The Witching of Dracula (Pinnacle, 1974)





#7: Dracula's Lost World (Pinnacle, 1974)





#8: Dracula's Disciple (Pinnacle, 1975)



#9: Challenge to Dracula (Pinnacle, 1975)


Update: Hey, you want to really know more about the Dracula Series, from someone much more erudite than I am? Read the excellent and comprehensive post on it over at the Groovy Age of Horror blogspot! Makes me want to take mine down out of shame.

5 comments:

Kitty LeClaw said...

Mark me down for a heaping order of THE WITCHING OF DRACULA! Looks like tasty vittles!

Patrick said...

I'm always on the lookout for cool paperbacks like these when I hit the used bookstores in town. I have never seen this particular series though. I love reading about your memories of these things, that's what makes being a horror fan so much fun- you see a book or a toy and it takes you back to a specific time and place- great stuff!!

Absinthe said...

Those look like so much fun! I've never run across them in my searches for pulps either. Thanks for sharing!

Karswell said...

I have The Hand of Dracula book but still haven't gotten around to reading it. In fact, when I bought it the guy behind the counter flat out told me the entire story while ringing me out so I guess I don't really need too. I love the cover art on these though.

The Headless Werewolf said...

Thanks for that fantastic overview. I recently found a copy of DRACULA RETURNS, and I'm all school-girl giggly over it.