Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Hallowe'en from Dracula

Here's one I had completely forgotten I had in one of my long boxes. When Batmania hit in 1966, many publishers were unprepared for the sudden appeal of Super Heroes. I've talked a bit in the past about some of these efforts, such as Jigsaw (by Harvey), Nemesis (by ACG) and Pureheart the Powerful (by Archie). Dell Comics, while no longer the major player in the comics biz that they had been in the 1950s, obviously felt the need as well, and thus we had the brief and rather strange incarnation of Dracula as a superhero. Well, he is the original "Bat-Man".

We learn that Count Dracula is the last of his line, and "determined to clear his family name of the superstition that sets men's hearts to beating faster". He is working on a bat-derived serum to help cure brain damage. Believing he has succeeded, he has a drink in celebration, not knowing that the bat he set free had knocked over his serum, causing it to drip into his cup. He discovers:

Traveling under the name of Al U. Card (Dracula spelled backwards), he sets sail for America. But the ship he's on encounters some rough weather, and the radar isn't working. Fortunately, Dracula himself has radar as one of his powers (a bit of a mistake there, as bats actually use sonar to guide them) and, after kayoing the helmsman and taking his place:

He guides the ship to safety, but is curious as to what caused the sudden storm.

Another error there; bats have terrible eyesight, which is the reason they use sonar. Changing into his bat-form, he flies up to the dirigibles, and discovers that they are responsible for the weather modification. He's captured, but manages to convince the villain, named Admiral Maltemps, that he wants to join up:

Pretty classic villain there down to the bald head and monocle. Have you ever seen anybody with a monocle in real life? Neither have I. His plot is to devastate North America with his weather changes, causing drought in one area, floods in another and blizzards elsewhere. Nasty stuff. Dracula plans to stop him, but:

So that's the first rule of evil? I wonder what some of the others are: "Never kill the hero quickly?" The Admiral drops him to Earth, unaware that he can change into a bat and fly away. First he goes to the nearest missile base, but the general is unimpressed with his story. So he heads to Washington. And, atypically for a hero, he doesn't let anything distract him from the immediate task:

But even at the Pentagon he is unable to convince the brass of the actual situation, so he has to head back to the dirigible. We'll assume that couple on top of the car has drowned by now. Dracula takes over control of the ship, and maneuvers it above the other blimps. He unleashes the snow on them, which causes them to crash, then tackles the Admiral:

The Admiral and his men are taken into custody. Dracula heads back to the ship so he can enter the country legally, and even finds a potential girlfriend:

Comments: A silly story, but the entertainment value is pretty good and the artwork is acceptable if uninspired. One thing Dell did have over Marvel and DC; the story is a full 32 pages long; there are no ads whatsoever inside the book other than the inside back cover and back cover.

Hat Tip to Silver Age Gold, who posted a few covers from Dell's monster superhero era, for inspiring me to dig out this comic.