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.
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.
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.
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)
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.