atom's Comic Book Blogs

  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

July 2024




Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews whether you ask me to or not!

It's that time of year again!  That's right, folks. . .it's October!  Leaves turning beautiful colors, the weather turning cool and crisp, and the sweet smell of pumpkin spice hand sanitizer!
We've been having a little Longbox Junk Retro Review Halloween party lately, but then I realized SOMETHING was missing!  What kind of Halloween party is it without that debonair creature of the night, Count Dracula?  In my humble opinion, it's not a party at all!
Let's go ahead and invite the dastardly Count into the house! 


DELL (1962)

COVER:  L.B. Cole (?) or Vic Prezio (?)
I've said it before and I'll say it again.  In my extremely humble opinion, Dell and Gold Key comics had some of the all-time BEST comic covers!  Don't try to fight me on it, I'll defend that hill until the end! 
This is another in a huge list of fantastic painted covers from Dell.  It makes regular appearances on the Halloween version of my "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  What can I say about it?  Just LOOK at it!  THIS is what a Halloween comic cover is all about right here!  
Under that beauty of a cover there's one full comic story taking up most of the issue, along with three one page space fillers.  Let's take a look at them each in turn. . .
(One Page, Black and White)
SCRIPT: Bernhardt J. Hurwood (?)
PENCILS: Robert Jenney (?) or Max Elkan (?)
Basically a one page piece on a mischievous Russian folklore creature similar to a siren.  Actually pretty interesting and well-illustrated.  It would have been nicer in color, though.  Not a bad appetizer for the main course.
On to the main story!
SCRIPT: Bernhardt J. Hurwood
PENCILS: Robert Jenney (?) or Max Elkan (?)
Our tale begins on a dark and stormy night as physician and staunch man of science, Sir Basil Shawcross speeds to the home of  Professor Janos Tesla, expert in literature and folklore, and a good friend of Shawcross. . .

Upon arrival, the distraught Shawcross demands Professor Tesla tell him everything he knows about the legendary creature known as the Vampire.  Tesla proceeds to inform Shawcross (and the reader) about the history and known powers of Vampires.  Shawcross seems reluctant to accept that such a supernatural creature can exist, despite his friend's belief. . .
Tesla asks Shawcross exactly why he's come so late and asking such strange questions.  Shawcross hands over a telegram announcing the death of his son, Bruce, in Transylvania, where he had been working as an artist.  
He continues with descriptions of his son's letters home, which started off normally until the night he met a mysterious, beautiful woman in a village graveyard, a woman named Irina who immediately captivated the young man over the course of the nights they met. . .

Bruce's final letters home spoke of his intent to marry Irina, as well as a strange illness that had come over him with a terrible weakness and vivid horrific nightmares.  Then the letters stopped, except for the telegram with the news of his death.
Shawcross is determined to travel to Transylvania to collect his son's body and find out what happened.  He wants Professor Tesla to accompany  him.  Tesla fears that Shawcross will be in grave danger travelling alone, so he reluctantly agrees. . .
Having some idea of the supernatural creatures they may encounter, Tesla makes preparations over the next couple of days before the two friends travel to Transylvania.  Upon arrival, they find suspicious villagers and discover that the body of Shawcross' son has gone missing!  
They decide to start their investigation at the inn where Bruce died.  Shawcross takes his son's room over the objections of the innkeeper.  That night, Shawcross wakes to find his supposedly dead son standing at the end of his bed!  
Bruce demands that his father accompany him at once and alone.  Shawcross reluctantly agrees, but as the pair set off in a carriage in the dead of night, they don't realize that Professor Tesla is following them. . .
In the carriage, Bruce introduces his father to Irina, informing him that they have been married.  Irina explains that they are travelling to meet her Uncle, Count Dracula, at his castle.  Upon arrival, Shawcross is introduced to Dracula while Tesla observes unseen. . .

As Dracula offers wine to Shawcross, Tesla rushes in shouting that they are all vampires and he's fallen into their trap!  Dracula admits that the game is up, and that he wanted to make Shawcross an offer. . .as a doctor, it will be easier to provide the vampires with blood than by hunting.  He offers Shawcross riches in exchange for his services.
Shawcross refuses and Dracula attacks, intending on turning the doctor into a vampire and forcing him to do the Count's bidding.  Tesla rushes to his friend's defense, using garlic and wolfsbane to drive the vampires back. . .but he's too late to save Shawcross, who has a heart attack during the fight.

As Shawcross lays dying in Tesla's arms, he asks him to save his son.  As the sun rises and Tesla brings Shawcross' body to the village, he decides to honor his friend's final wish and work toward finding a cure for the curse of the vampire. 

The End.
Okay.  Hmmmmm. . .
Not bad. Not bad at all.  A pretty good read.  The ending seems a bit rushed compared to the slow burn build up at the beginning of the story.  It looks like this was originally pointed toward an ongoing story with Professor Tesla vs. Vampires (that was abandoned in favor of the infamous "Superhero Dracula" series that came a few years later), which would explain the sort of dangling nature of the ending.
Other than that, I can't find much to fault in this creepy little tale.  It's well written, it has interesting characters, and I want to see what happens next.  Unfortunately, this is all we get of this story.
On the art side of things, I was pleasantly surprised to find some decent art in a Dell comic. . .which is a bit of a rare occurrence.  Dell may have had some of the best painted covers that have ever graced a comic rack, but the art inside is pretty consistently disappointing.  Is it the best comic art I've ever seen?  Not even close.  But compared to a lot of Dell's art, this stands as an exception to the standard "Great Cover. . .Lousy Interiors" I automatically assume whenever I see one of those great painted covers.
Overall, a nicely done story.  A good amount of meat on the bone to be found here.
Let's check out the final bits. . .  
(One Page, Black and White)
SCRIPT: Bernhardt J. Hurwood (?)
PENCILS: Robert Jenney (?) or Max Elkan (?)
A one page article about the strange Slavic forest spirit called the Leshy.  Another pretty interesting read with some decent illustrations.  Like the first of these, it would have been better in color.  Other than that, not a bad little space filler.
(One Page)
SCRIPT: Bernhardt J. Hurwood (?)
PENCILS: Robert Jenney (?) or Max Elkan (?)

Another one page space filler. . .this time concerning the Witches' Sabbath, and in color, unlike the other two one pagers in the issue.  This one has a lot more text, but I found it the most interesting of the three.  Not a bad finish.  Not quite a cherry on top, but not bad.


One of the best parts of these "Retro Reviews" for me is taking the opportunity to learn a little bit while I'm in the process of writing a review.  I look up the artists and writers, read up on them and what else they've done.  I check out whatever I can find on the comic itself to see if there's anything interesting or possibly controversial about it.  
During the course of writing this review, I DID discover something worth remarking on. . .but not about the comic itself, more about the modern information to be found on it. 
 It seems that about half of the sources of information on this comic (Including the specific Wikipedia page on Dell's Dracula comics) cite this issue as being an adaptation of the 1931 movie.  As you can see from the synopsis above, it is not.  I'm not sure if different sites simply copy and paste information without checking (that seems the case), but here at Longbox Junk we actually READ the comic at hand.  This is an original story, NOT an adaptation of the movie.
As for the comic itself, I found it to be well written and entertaining.  It's too bad this storyline was abandoned by Dell as they tried to move their line more toward superheroes, including their ill-advised attempts to turn Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man into costumed heroes.
I'd certainly recommend this one to anybody wanting a decent Silver Age vampire story under a fantastic painted cover.  It might be a bit pricy to find a copy in decent condition, and it doesn't look like it's been collected or reprinted, but keep your eye out!
Up Next. . .
The Longbox Junk Halloween party keeps going!
The paper time machine is heading back to the Golden Age again for a look at 1953's Beware #13.
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk Halloween - Nosferatu Wars

6607 views • Oct 31, '19 • (0) Comments

Welcome back to Longbox Junk. . .the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

It's the day before Halloween, but we're still having some spooky fun here at Longbox Junk by spotlighting some of the creepy comics hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) collection.

This month we've taken a look at American Vampires (great!), Vegetarian Duck Vampires (pretty good) and grumpy reformed Vampires (meh).  So even though this Halloween Longbox Junk season HAS been a bit Vampire-Heavy, I'm of the opinion that in this time of year Vampires are like bite-size Snickers. . .you can never have enough in your bucket!

And so. . .more vampires. I pulled this one from my daughter's collection after spotting that SWEET Halloween-y cover while delving for some good Longbox Junk.  I've never heard of this or read it until now, so you'll find out the same time I do:

Is this Snickers or Candy Corn?

Let's do it!



SCRIPT: Steve Niles
PENCILS: Menton3
COVER: Menton3
So the cover on this is what caught my eye.  Let's linger on it for a moment.
Is this or is this not an almost perfect Halloween cover?  I say it is!  It's a bit late to put it up on the office wall (just spotted it this morning), but this one is DEFINITELY on the list for next year.  That  strangely beautiful, yet fierce, face standing out strongly as the focal point against the dark shades of black and grey really makes this cover great.   It's a very simple cover that is outstanding in almost every way.  
Such a great cover.  Let's see what's underneath. . .
The story goes like this:
During the time of the Black Plague, there is so much death that vampires roam the earth freely as sort of an open secret.  Our story begins as Moria and Tarquin, ancient vampires and lovers, leave a plague-ridden city and seek directions to the country estate of Lord Mattering. . .who has turned his home into a fortress against both plague and vampire.
Shortly afterward, the doctor who they speak to is seized by a priest and his men and burned at the stake for being seen talking to vampires.  As the doctor burns, Moira hears the screams of a woman and convinces her lover to avenge the senseless death.
The vampire lovers follow the priest back to his cathedral and confront him, mocking his belief that the vampires are the spreaders of the plague when their great age (they're from the days of the Roman Empire) gives them the knowledge that it's actually rats and fleas.
The pair of vampires kills the priest by hanging him and leaving his body on public display, then continue their journey to Lord Mattering's fortress estate. . .
Upon arrival at Lord Mattering's Castle, Moira and Tarquin see that the rumors are true.  The estate is heavily-fortified, with soldiers everywhere.  Tarquin decides that since every effort to enter will be equally dangerous, a direct attack is as good a way as any to get inside. . .
As the pair of vampires fight their way through the castle guards, Tarquin reflects on how they met about 100 years after the fall of the Roman Empire and became former enemies turned lovers.
Once inside the fortress, Moira and Tarquin surprise Lord Mattering and his family as they hide in their inner sanctum.  The vampires brutally kill Lord Mattering's two young children in front of the terrified nobleman and his wife. . .
Tarquin strikes a deal with Lord Mattering that if the nobleman will marry the two vampires, they will not harm him.  Mattering agrees and so marries Tarquin and Moria.  Unfortunately for Lord Mattering, Tarquin's deal said nothing about his now-vampiric children.  The vampire children slaughter their parents as Tarquin and Moria take their leave of the fortress. . .

Outside of Lord Mattering's estate Moria and Tarquin are confronted by a large group of vampires led by one called Mangus.  He tells Tarquin that the couple's activities. . .namely the public killing of the priest. . .are bringing too much attention to vampires.

The confrontation turns heated and Mangus threatens Moira, who attacks.  Knowing they can't defeat so many other vampires, Tarquin and Moria flee the encounter.  The rest of the vampires pursue them.


As Moira and Tarquin make their escape, a strange craft comes from the sky and Moira is drawn up into it by a brilliant beam of light, leaving Tarquin alone to escape the pursuing vampires. . .

On board the mysterious craft, Moira finds herself surrounded by strange beings.  She attacks them.
The end of the tale comes some undetermined time later in the future, as Moira returns to Earth after having apparently conquered a planet, intent on finally reuniting with her lover, Tarquin, who has been fighting for survival alone since her disappearance.  Her return starts some sort of war.
The End.  To be continued?
Okay.  Well then.  THAT escalated quickly.  Let's try to unpack what's happened here.

Basically, this story went from a pretty decent tale about two vampire lovers during the Middle Ages and turned into a ALIEN ABDUCTION story out of nowhere!  Where the did ALIENS suddenly come from?

It's as if you were watching Lord of the Rings and suddenly Gandalf whips out a machine gun and starts blasting orcs to a heavy metal soundtrack.  It's so incredibly sudden and out of left field that it just sort of leaves me wondering what the just happened.  And then the story just ends!  All I can think of is this:

Okay.  Deep breath.  Let's put the aliens aside for the moment and look at the rest of the comic.
Steve Niles creates a grim world of fanatic priests, wandering vampires, and terrified survivors set against the backdrop of a grimy, plague-ridden Europe.  It's a fantastic setting for a dark tale such as this.   The dialogue perfectly captures the weary feel of a world and its inhabitants at a time that feels like the end of everything.  
Unfortunately, there's not much story here to go with Niles' grimy, desperate world.  It feels more like some sort of disconnected prequel to a larger story that never got written.  It's more of an introduction than an actual story.  There are multiple references to things that we never see. . .such as the Nosferatu Wars of the title itself, Moira destroying a planet, and Tarquin's fight for survival during her absence.  
Reading this is like reading the first and third issues of a four issue mini-series without reading the second or last issue. You can tell what's going on, but it definitely feels incomplete in many ways. 
I can't find any good information on this comic except that it was originally a 4 part story in Dark Horse Presents (Issues 26 - 29 of the 2011 series that I'm surprised lasted 36 issues because each issue cost SEVEN DOLLARS), but it really feels like there was supposed to be quite a bit more coming that never got done.   I think maybe the writer was planning on some sort of Vampire/Alien war from the looks of it.

The art also feels extremely inconsistent. There are definitely moments of greatness here.  The artist has an almost monotone, dreamlike (or nightmarish?), very dark style that perfectly matches the grim and weary world the writer has created. 
Unfortunately, mixed in with this very interesting and appealing style are panels that look like unfinished pencil sketches.  The sketches aren't bad in most cases, but when put next to the other art style on the same page they aren't very complimentary and give the comic a bit of a schizophrenic feel.  Maybe this was what the artist had in mind, but to my eye it doesn't quite work.


What we have here is a strange little piece of Longbox Junk that is contradictory in many ways.  
The setting is amazing, the characters and dialogue are interesting, and there are hints of a larger story to come.  BUT. . .Those hints never pay off, the story is more of a fragmented introduction than a complete story, and the ending is off the hook random craziness that makes you wonder what the just happened.
The art is dark, dreamlike, and perfectly matches the grim and weary setting.  BUT. . .Mixed in with that fantastic art, often on the same page, are what look like unfinished pencil sketches that give the whole comic a disorganized look.
Overall, this whole comic is an exercise in contradiction.  Good mixes freely with bad on almost every page.  I don't think I can recommend this to anyone but the most devoted fan of vampire stories, and even then I warn that there is no follow up to what's here.  This strange introduction is it.
As for anyone else, the cover is definitely worth a buck if you spot it in a bargain bin.  There's also some curiosity value that comes from seeing aliens suddenly appear in a Middle Ages vampire story.
Up Next. . .
That's it for this year's Longbox Junk Halloween fun!  So it's back to business as usual. I'm not sure exactly what will be next. . .so much junk to choose from. 
Be there or be square!

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