Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dracula 12

At last we come to the final issue of Dracula. Enric Sio provides his sole cover for the publication with this issue, and its quite a good one. One of the scarier looking covers we've had over the 12 issue run.

We begin with Wolff in "The Beginning of the End" by Esteban Maroto. A woman from Wolff's tribe named Lenora stands before the witches of Ginza, begging to be killed so she can have peace. Khet-Ahm had warned them of Wolff's coming, and he soon arrives, seeking to avenge his wife. Hearing the cry of Lenora he rushes forward and battles the witches, who are largely decayed. After defeating them Lenora tells him she will bring him to the swamp where he will find the body of his wife Bruma. She brings Wolff to Bruma's body. Lenora asks Wolff to let her come with him and that there may be others out there who have survived. Wolff heads off with her. A rather anti-climatic end to Wolff's story, with the witches being very easily defeated by Wolff. Much of Wolff's storyline has been rather dreary in mood and this story is no different, with Bruma being dead. Overall Wolff was a shaky series at times, but Esteban Maroto's good art always made up for it. His Dax (aka Manly) series that would appear in Eerie is a good place to turn to if one is looking for another series that is similar in tone, while also superior in quality.

Next is "Waiting". The story is uncredited, but from what I've looked into online appears to have been drawn by Manuel Lopez Blanco. A man reads a story about the success of a colleague of his, Hermann Von Schilling, who has recently been appointed chancellor. The man complains to his butler Otto about how he has been forgotten amonst those in his plane squadron (from what appears to be World War I). He considered himself an elite pilot and is upset about how Schilling has obtained this honor. He wonders where those men who used to cheer him and the women who used to fight for his attention have gone. As the story ends he is shown to be horrifically scarred and burned. He proclaims he will wait and once again be called for by his country. A  rather odd story with no supernatural elements to it, a rarity for this publication.

Next is "The Curse" by Jose Bea. The story features a monkey named Chri-Hari, who is the traveling companion of a great samurai named Tanaka. Tanaka ravages the temple of Ochigo, leaving only a blind beggar alive. The begger proclaims that Tanaka will die that day at noon and is quickly killed by Tanaka because of it. Tanaka heads to an attic where he thinks no one will be able to find him, such that noon will pass without him dying. Tanaka thinks of how Chri-Hiri is his good luck charm. It ends up being Chri-Hiri who ends up being Tanaka's doom though as he stabs him from behind with his sword.

Dracula concludes with "Marian" by Enric Sio. A woman lays before her mirror and criticizes her grand-daughter Marian, who thinks her clothes are old fashioned and has no respect for her. She wonders why Marian has been playing around the family vault and the setting is shown to be in an old cathedral. The woman calls for Marian to come to her and the girl screams as the story ends. My best guess at this story is that the lead character has been dead the entire time and leads her granddaughter to her death. She looks too young to be a grandmother though. Like several previous stories by Sio it is hard at times to make much sense of what is going on although the art is quite nice.

Overall this final issue is a bit of a disappointment, with none of the four stories here being at the level of some of the stories we have had here in the past. Still, outside of "Waiting", we have some fairly strong art here and this is probably my favorite cover of the 12 issue run. Looking at the entire 12-issue run, I think Dracula acts as a good preview to the work that we'll see from Esteban Maroto, Jose Bea and Enrich Torres throughout their long runs at Warren. Bea in particular provides some truly scary and bizarre moments throughout. The Agar-Agar series was unfortunately always a big waste of time. Enric Sio is the highlight though and the main reason to try and track these down. While his stories don't always make the most sense, he's got some really strong art throughout all 12 issues. It's a shame he never did any work for Warren as I think he would have fit in well.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dracula 11

Esteban Maroto provides the cover for this issue of Dracula, featuring Wolff fighting an ape-like creature. Unlike the previous Wolff cover, this one has nothing to do with the story inside (and Wolff's hair color is wrong).

The issue begins with Wolff in "The Lair of the Witches" by Esteban Maroto. Wolff heads towards Ghamada, the coast of corpses. Wolff heads inside a castle there, finding the sorcerer Khet-ahm. Khet-ahm summons his master, Sa-Ghot. Wolff comes across a girl Jehane, the companion of Sa-Ghot and warns her to be quiet. Wolff follows her thorugh the castle and then she embraces and kisses him. Khet-ahm as does Sa-Ghot, revealed to be a giant horned creature. Sa-Ghot crushes Jehane in its hands and throws her aside. Wolff attacks it and calling upon the power of Nadira, daughter of Jupiter destroys it. Khet-ahm dies, but warns the witches that Wolff is coming. The absense of Katarina from this story, or her father makes it come off as if we've skipped an issue. This story seems more similar in tone to the earlier stories in this series. With only one issue left, it will be interesting to see how they wrap up this storyline.

No Sir Leo this issue, rather Jose Bea provides us a stand-alone story, "A Story of The Stars". A man looks at the stars each night and ignores 2 friends who head out in their car. He notices a metal star appear in the sky and fly off. The man finds his friends gone, but their car still around. As he touches the car, a bizarre, blob/octopus-like alien arrives and starts absorbing him. The alien says they have taken his friends into the stars, a place far better than they have known and will do the same to him as well. The man and his friends are never seen again, but three new stars appear in the night sky. A story with some very bizarre artwork, this is quite good and reminds me of the story "The Other Side of Heaven" from Vampirella 28.

Next is "Over the Rainbow" by Alberto Solsona, the final story in the Agar-Agar series. Now back on Xanadu, Agar-Agar is told she has neglected her mission to find a new place that those of Xanadu could move to. Agar-Agar returns to the blue prince (last seen in issue 8) and he fights a seven headed dragon, killing off evil with each head he cuts off. The prince returns to her and she realizes this place would be perfect for her people to come to. Agar-Agar remains with the prince and they talk of the children they may have some day. This series comes to a very abrupt and lackluster end. Throughout Dracula's entire run this series has been the big weak point and that doesn't change with this final segment.

The story concludes with "Again Highway 61" by Enric Sio. An accident has occurred at the intersection of Highway 61 and Route 84. There are 2 survivovrs being transported in an ambulance. The narrative then changes to some people mourning the death of a woman named Claudette. The group wants to take her to a place named Lourdes; to get there they need to go across the highway. They carry her coffin and head across the highway, causing a large accident. Like with many of Sio's stories, the narrative here is a bit confusing at times. I am guessing that the ending of the story is telling how the accident at the beginning took place.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dracula 9

Esteban Maroto once again provides a pen and ink cover for this issue of Dracula, featuring Wolff taking on an enemy while a woman watches.

As usual Wolff opens up the issue in "The Return of Sadya" by Esteban Maroto. Katerina is captured by Sadya, the torturer for the witches of Ginza. Katerina is taken away by winged creatures to Sadya's stronghold. Katerina's father believes Wolff is their only hope, and works on casting a spell on him so he will awaken. Wolff appears at Katerina's cell, but he is in fact a monster, the Polingur, a hideous spined creature. Polingur carries the unconscious Katerina to Sayda. Katerina's father continues his spell on Wolff. At Sadya's stronghold, the Polingur dies and Wolff appears. Wolff carries Katerina off to safety while harpies kill Sadya.

Next is Sir Leo in "The Mark of Death" by Jose Bea. Sir Leo is told of bizarre screechings that have occurred in the garden of a women named Miss Elizabeth. These have also been accompanied by murders, and the mark of a gigantic bird like creature. Sir Leo meets with Elizabeth, who looks like a normal young woman. He believes that the murders have been committed by a giant bird creature, like a Moa, but such creatures have been extinct for centuries. Leo decides to stand guard in the garden that night and is attacked by bird-like claws. He fires his gun and kills the creature, who is revealed to be Miss Elizabeth, with bird-like legs. A simpler Sir Leo story than usual, but another fairly good one.

Next is Agar-Agar in "The Martian Visitors" by Alberto Solsona. Fred Barber and his girlfriend Constanza tell Agar-Agar that Xanadu has been invaded by strange beings from outer space. Agar-Agar makes her way back there, finding the capital deserted and the city covered by weeds and vines. A martian takes her captive and brings her to his flying saucer. The martians keep saying the same thing, to reach for the skies or she'll be blasted full of holes. Agar-Agar realizes that the martians receive TV signals and are basing their words on that. She causes the TV signals to go away and the martians go away. Agar-Agar is greeted by her remaining sprites as the story ends. Yet another lackluster story, but at least the designs on the martians was interesting and a bit darker than the usual fare for this series.

The issue wraps up with "The Face" by Enric Sio. A model, Pamela, has many pictures of her taken. The photoshoot over, she heads home. When the photographer, Frank, starts developing the photos however, he finds a strange occurrence, that her face and body appears completely blank in all of them. The only thing that appears is the clothing that she is wearing. He and his colleague find the photographs still interesting and believe it will work, but still wonder what is going on. Frank calls up Pamela saying it will be a hit, but it is revealed that her entire face and body have gone blank in real life as well. A strange, but rather non-scary feature from Sio this time.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dracula 10

Today I'll be covering the tenth issue of Dracula. I have purposely skipped over issue 9 for now because the New English Library edition had a printing error whereby the content of issue 10 appeared in issue 9, and the content of issue 9 appeared in issue 10. Given the serials running in these issues, it made more sense to cover this issue first. I'll be covering issue 9 next time. This issue of Dracula features Sir Leo, as drawn by Jose Bea. As usual for Bea, it is some very bizarre artwork, with many scary looking creatures that Leo appears to be fighting off.

First is "The City in the Clouds", the latest Wolff story by Esteban Maroto. Where we last left off, Wolff had met Katarina and her father. Katarina tells Wolff how many of her people died during the journey to here from the swamps. Katarina speaks of the magic of her father, which Wolff doesn't care for, thinking strength is all that is needed. Katarina says she and her father have watched over him all this time and the two kiss. After supposedly having sex, Katarina asks Wolff to give himself to her father and let him turn him from the barbarian he is into one of the most powerfel men in the world. Wolff agrees to it even though there is a risk he could die if the magic fails. Katarina's father starts casting spells on Wolff which causes him to fall into a deep sleep. Suddenly their home is attacked by Sadya (last seen in issue 2), who arrives riding a large bird and accompanied by vultures. Here the story ends, to be continued next time. I'm surprised with how little action we saw in this story given how much of it we typically see in the Wolff stories.

Second is Sir Leo in "The Closed Room" by Jose Bea. Sir Leo. Leo heads to the mansion of his old friend Marcel, who had destroyed his body and mind with alcohol. The letter Marcel sent to Leo said that he must destroy all his work. A strange looking green skinned boy with a stiletto appears off in the distance, but then vanishes. Suddenly a hideous green creature attacks Leo. He is about to stab Leo when he transforms into the boy, asking Leo to come play with him. Leo realizes that he must go to the basement where they kept their treasures as kids, thinking Marcel will be able to find peace in his grave once he destroys whatever is there. Leo makes his way to the basement as the story ends, where a picture of Marcel, the green skinned boy appears on the wall. This story ends rather abruptly, making me wonder if there was an intended second part (if there was, it never appeared in this publication). Still, this is an effective and scary tale. Marcel reminds me of the alien creatures in the animated film Fantastic Planet. The movie came out in 1973, which dates it after this issue, making me wonder if any of Bea's work here was an inspiration for the design.

Next is Agar-Agar in "The Forest of Life and Death" by Alberto Solsona. Agar-Agar says goodbye to the blue prince and meets a red haired man named Fred Barber. He says he was living a normal life in the U.S. but suddenly woke up in this world. The two sleep on the ground for a while but when they wake up, vines have grabbed them. Some plant like women try to seduce Fred, with no success. Agar-Agar is taken away from some bizarre looking humanoid creatures known as Entlings and held prisoner along with another woman who is in love with Fred. The creatures are about to kill her and Fred, but Agar-Agar breaks free and turns them into normal trees. Agar-Agar heads off with Fred and his lover as the story ends. "Entlings" are clearly a reference to Ents from the Lord of the Rings. As usual, this is a weak and boring story with an expected ending. The art is at least a little better than usual.

Last is "Boutique" by Enric Sio. A rather simple tale, with dialogue only appearing on the last page, but the best story from him since issue 6. A glass hand is on a table in a boutique. It suddenly becomes alive and starts growing into an entire body. A man comes by and chops the hand off however, putting it back on the table. He grabs the remains of the body and throws it out, talking about how frustrating it is that the hand keeps doing this every night. Some strong art here and a simple, yet effective concept. It reminds me of a sequence from the movie Hellraiser where an entire body starting growing from just a heart.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dracula 8

After a 1 issue absense, Enrich Torres returns to provide a haunting cover for this issue of Dracula. This would be his final cover for the magazine though (at least for the 12 issues produced in English).

First up is Wolff, in "The Daughter of the Witch" by Esteban Maroto. Where we last left off, Wolff's latest companion, Galadra had been slain. Wolff continues on and hears the scream of a woman, attacked by some lizard-like men. Wolff fights with them, but the woman tells him its useless as their wounds heal immediately after suffering them. Wolff grabs the woman and flees with her. He is under pursuit by the lizard-men however, who are riding beasts. The two of them get on the woman's horse, Bassora and she says they can fly to her father's castle. The woman says her name is Katerina and she brings him to a castle in the sky that looks like a serpent's head. Inside she introduces Wolff to her father, who Wolff recognizes as wearing witch's garbs. The father says they fled to the sky, but their people are sterile and hence his race is dying. Katerina wonders if Wolff can be their new hope, as does her father. It will be interesting to see if these new characters will remain a part of the story longer than the 1-2 issues at most that other characters have.

Next is the latest Sir Leo story, "The Cat", by Jose Bea. Sir Leo has never had time to have a pet, but is taking care of Jolyon, a cat that belongs to a friend of his. Jolyon has large, scary green eyes and Leo feels himself drowning in them. Jolyon starts speaking into his brain and Leo sees some very cruel images as Jolyon proclaims his hatred of humans, most especially his owner Mehitabel. Jolyon continues on and on about how he would like to kill his owner, children that have come across it and others. Jolyon, knowing that it won't be able to do this itself, orders Leo to head out with a gun and kill people for her. Leo instead shoots Jolyon, saying that he wouldn't have been able to do it had her lust for death not been so great. He thinks about how he doesn't need to go out of the way to find evil and how he'll explain this to Mehitabel. He pets another cat, who thinks about how foolish Leo is; all cats have such powers but they are not all as paranoid as Jolyon. For those who don't like cats or are scared by them, this story is in line with such thoughts.

Next is Agar-Agar in "The Fairest of Them All" by Alberto Solsona. Having killed the superhero Superbat, Agar-Agar finds some butterfly wings in his home and puts them on, thinking she'd be a match for the evil witch Faberta. She makes her way to the castle of Lost Souls. There she meets the blue prince, who tells her that Faberta wrecked his marriage to Snow White and has seduced him with her irresistible charms. Agar-Agar becomes a maid for Faberta and is brought before her. When Faberta tells Agar-Agar to clean up around the prince, she tries to free him but is being watched by Faberta through her magic mirror. The room bursts in flames, but Agar-Agar waves her wand and water splashes throughout the room, putting it out. Faberta is then turned into a frog by Agar-Agar, who rides off with the prince on a unicorn. Yet another mediocre tale that is redoing things we've already seen before in this series. I'm looking forward to the next issue in which we don't have an Agar-Agar story. That said, at least the color in this story was better than usual.

Last is "Minim" by Enric Sio. Another story of Sio's where it is kind of hard to tell what is going on. A man, the titular character, heads up to the attic and goes through some of his childhood toys. He thinks of himself as a child and how he didn't want to grow up. The child grows in size, while the man shrinks, and at the story's end he is locked up in a little cage by his childhood self. Some effective use of color here, with the adult being shown in color and the child being shown in black and white. Also, Sio uses himself as the model for the adult character. Still, I had a really hard time telling exactly what was going on in this story.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dracula 7

This issue of Dracula is the first to feature a cover by someone other than Enrich, in this case Esteban Maroto. In fact Enrich will only provide one more cover the rest of the way, while the magazine's interior artists get some chances to do the cover, usually in pen and ink instead of a painting.

First up is Wolff in "Mother of Waters" by Esteban Maroto. Mitra, the mother of waters calls for Wolff to come closer to her, but Wolff refuses, saying he takes no orders from anyone. Having been denied for the first time, Mitra sweeps Wolff and Galadra into another dimension. Wolff awakens, surrounded by half-lizard, half-human creatures who have captured Galadra. The creatures sacrifice Galadra to Wolff's dismay and he breaks out of his chains. He fights the creatures, defeating them and embraces Galadra's body. As the story ends Wolff cries over her body and the narration says it is the only time in his life he had done so. The usual fare for the Wolff story in this issue, although we continue to get some strong art, especially on the final page.

Sir Leo returns for the first time since issue 2, in "The Sea of Blood" by Jose Bea. The story takes place in Paris, in 1889. Leo has been asked to come and guard a jewel, the Sea of Blood. A man greets Leo as he arrives and Leo asks about the security over the jewel. The man says the jewel needs no protection and is its own guardian. Leo decides to remain on guard anyway. In the early hours of the morning, a masked thief arrives with a shotgun and orders the man who greeted Leo to bring him to the jewel. The thief picks up the jewel but it draws him directly into it. The next day, the man tells Leo of how the jewel drew the thief into itself. Leo realizes it glows red because of the souls it has drawn into itself. Bea provides his usual strangeness in style here when the thief arrives, with a bit more of a grounded story than the last few Bea stories.

Next is Agar-Agar in "Even Heroes Get Tired" by Alberto Solsona. Agar-Agar and Endymion travel into the paradise of Arcadia and its lovely garden. Soon Superbat, a man that looks like Superman arrives. Agar-Agar heads off with him and says goodbye to Endymion. Superbat flies her through the air of Arcadia to his temple, which looks like a super-advanced globe in the sky. Superbat promises to give her his autograph but heads out for a little while saying there is something he must attend to. Agar-Agar starts sensing that he isn't to be trusted, and is correct. She creates a double of herself while she is gone, made out of Marvelite, a substance fatal to superheroes. When Superbat returns he grows weak then melts. Some very obvious references to Superman in this story, and "Marvelite" is certainly a reference to Marvel. As usual, the Agar-Agar story is the weakest one here.

Last up is "Lisita" by Enric Sio. The titular character is a young girl singing up in her attic. Her parents, downstairs, wonder what she is up to and her mother calls up to her. The window breaks and when her parents rush up to the attic, they find that Lisita has disappeared. The police come and Lisita's mother hears her singing again upstairs. She heads upstairs and finds Lisita laying in a coffin. Her mother collapses, but Lisita awakens and starts calling for her mother. While the art is good as usual, it is hard to understand exactly what is going on with this story, especially the ending. Was Lisita a vampire? Did her mother die, or just pass out? I guess we'll never know, given the stand-alone nature of these stories. Also of note is that the story itself shows no title, but "Lisita" is displayed on the inside front cover of the issue.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dracula 6

Today I'll be covering the sixth issue of Dracula. As usual, the issue starts off with a cover by Enrich Torres. This would be the last issue to appear within the Dracula book published by Warren, although I'll be continuing to cover the next six issues after this one.

The issue starts off with the latest Wolff story, "The Manuscript of Rep-Tah" by Esteban Maroto. A woman wakes up Wolff, telling him she found him by a pack of wolves and a mutilated body of a lovely girl. She says she is Galadra of the moon and needs to remain hidden from the witches. She asks Wolff to help her. They head through a swampy area and dive into the water. There they are found by a humanoid creature riding an aquatic beast. Wolff fights and defeats it. Wolff and Galadra make it out of the water into a cavern where she admits she shouldn't have been hard on him earlier. There they come across Mitra, the mother of waters as the story ends. We continue to get some good art here by Maroto although the start of the story was confusing since Galadra looks just like Rulah from the previous story.

Jose Bea takes an issue off, and we instead get "The Messenger" by Carlos Giminez. Giminez appeared only rarely in Warren magazines, with four appearances (one uncredited), and all such stories were originally sourced from elsewhere. This is a fairly simple story, with no dialogue. A man rides through some scary looking woods to deliver a letter. Along the way we see evil faces in the trees. Many more appear and tree limbs pursue him, but he escapes from them. He eventually makes it to a castle. A stone faced man opens the door for him and leads him to a room inside where he finds Dracula! After 6 issues of this magazine we finally see an appearance of the titular character.

After a 3 issue absense, we have the return of Agar-Agar, in "The Harem of Bacchus" by Alberto Solsona. Agar-Agar heads to land and says goodbye to Gandor. Suddenly a group of fauns grabs ahold of her and carries her off with them. She is brought to a beautiful city where she meets their lord, Bacchus, a fat god drinking wine and accompanied by many women. Agar-Agar  has her wand taken away and is brought to a perfumed bath. Sh is then given a dress and flowers to wear and is taken to Oleri, an evil looking faun who chains her up and tortures her. A bearded centaur, Endymion, watches and she tells him to get her wand back for her. Endymion steals it back from Bacchus' harem and gives it to her. Later, Bacchus has Agar-Agar brought before her but she turns him into a pig, also transoforming his companions into other animals. She then rides off with Endymion. Definately better than the last Agar-Agar story although I'll admit I'd prefer it if they dropped this series entirely and featured more stand-alone (or double length) stories instead.

The issue wraps up with "Squadron Leader Braddock" by Enric Sio. A fighter pilot facing off against Germans defeats several of them and starts heading back. Suddenly the controls in his plane start melting, and then the entire plane itself. He calls out to his colleagues with no luck and has to depart the plane, which is now soft and trying to envelop him. He jumps off with his parachute and thinks it is safe, only for the parachute to be revealed to be alive, and it quickly consumes him. Another strong showing from Sio, in arguably his strangest story yet. A rare instance where his story isn't named after (and heavily featuring) a woman.