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.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dracula 5

This issue will seem a bit familiar to Warren readers, with 2 stories that were eventually reprinted in Warren magazines a few years down the line. This issue is back to 4 stories, although Agar-Agar continues to be absent and we get a second, stand-alone Esteban Maroto story instead. Enrich as usual provides this issue's cover.

Wolff begins the issue in "The Lady of the Wolves" by Esteban Maroto. Wolff, having been turned into a werewolf at the end of the last story, wanders the desert and passes out. When the full moon passes he returns to his normal form. The legendary woman Rulah, who is daughter of Segnar, father of wolves and Lamia the she-wolf appears, with several wolves accompanying her. She tells her wolves to feast upon Wolff, but none do so and he awakens. Rulah tells Wolff of how the men who once accompanied her have all died. The two kiss and Wolff stays in her bed-chambers for many days and nights. Rulah eventually tells him he must flee, as it is the full moon. Rulah has him caged. She heads outside where she herself turns into a werewolf. Wolff turns into a werewolf as well and breaks out and the two fight. Another decent story for Wolff, although by this point his original quest to find his wife Bruma is being completely ignored and he has spent his time with multiple other women.

Next is "Invasion" by Jose Bea. This story begins with a discussion of the human body and shows a pair of space suit wearing men who are heading to another universe. There they plan to inhabit the bodies of physically giant creatures that are devoid of intelligence or the ability to communicate with them. The men continue to talk, about how there has been some resistance from inhabitants, but they have been able to spread throughout the new universe, absent the occasional need to change position. Sometimes some of their men were trapped; they attempted to communicate with no results. The men agree that there are no other dangers to them and depart in their spaceships. They discuss the fact that they've been able to translate the language of the primative giants, who call them cancer. The men take off their spacesuits as the story ends, revealing them to be skull-like alien creatures. This story would eventually be reprinted by Warren in Eerie, #75, in black and white (although part of the last panel was used, in color, for the cover). Bea's specialty is making things as bizarre as possible and that continues to be the case here with many strange looking panels inside and outside of the human body.

Next is "The Viyi" by Esteban Maroto. The Viyi is a creation of folklore, the Cossacks having provided this name to the king of the underworld. An undertaker comes to a house where he is shown the body of a beautiful woman whom he is to embalm. The man has a hard time concentrating because she is so beautiful, and she opens her eyes. He draws a pentagram around her, and starts mumbling exorcisms as she rises. She is unable to pass through the pentagram however. She utters an incantation and winged creatures attack him. She then rises over the pentagram and bites his neck, being revealed as a vampire. A rare instance of a vampire-themed story in Dracula (the last one we had was in the first issue), this story was reprinted in both Creepy 51 and Vampirella 22, and was the first full color story to be published in Warren's horror magazines. In those appearances, an additional page was added to the front that was taken from an earlier Wolff story. Also, the story was rewritten a bit, making it a bit more obvious that the woman (named Melinda in that version) was a vampire.

The issue wraps up with "Karen" by Enric Sio. A man, Mark, is obsessed with the titular character, a woman who he is in love with, but whose father refuses them to be together. Mark takes her photo and writes to her, but stays away, despite obsessing over photos and clothes of her's. A couple of years pass and Karen comes to see him, for real. But Mark tells her that the pictures and clothes of her he has obsessed over are better than the real her. He says he wants to stay in love with his dream and flees. The final page has a splatter of blood which makes one wonder if Mark got in a car accident while leaving, although the final panel does show him alive. A non-supernatural story from Sio here (although several of his has been), with his best art yet.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Dracula 4

Another issue of Dracula that spurns the formula; we once again have only 3 stories here, one of which (Jose Bea's this time) is 10 pages instead of the usual 5. That said, Enrich provides the cover painting as usual.

First up is the latest story in the Wolff series, "The Night of the Werewolf" by Esteban Maroto. The first page of this story was used as the cover for the Dracula book published by Warren. The red sorceress has disappeared, and Wolff stays in the woods where he hears drums of a Wolf Cult, as well as a scream. Nearby, Tanit, high priestess of the cult performs a sacrifice as Wolff watches. Tanit senses Wolff and several men, wearing wolf pelts come after him. Wolff fights and defeats them. Tanit stabs herself as Wolff approaches her alter and changes into a snake which attacks him. Wolff manages to kill her, but turns into a wolfman as the story ends. "Wolff" finally features the creature that inspired the series' name; this story features some similar artwork to that later used by Maroto in "A Most Private Terror" from Creepy 52, a story that also featured a werewolf-like creature.

Next is "The Mummy", another stand-alone story by Jose Bea. This story takes place in London in 1750. A man named Lord Harrington and his hunchbacked assistant Cornelius steal a perfectly preserved mummy (that of Nefer, son of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony). Harrington speaks with colleagues at a dinner who are wondering about the theft, telling of how he has performed experiments to halt death and decomposition. Having discovered that the Egyptians had mastered halting decomposition he has secretly stolen the mummy. He dismisses any talk about the spirit of a person having left them once they have died. One of Harrington's dinner guests sneaks into his mansion where Cornelius kills her. Harrington has her life force drawn out of her, which he injects into the mummy. Harrington believes he'll be able to create an army of the dead and conquer the world. The mummy awakens, but its hands detach from its body and immediately strangle Harrington. This story has a rather abrupt ending, but some very good art by Bea, in particular the introductory page, which is a full page spread of the streets of London in 1750. Also, the mummy is a scary one.

Last up is "Alice" by Enric Sio. Not much of a plot to this story, but a hilarious ending. The titular character lives alone in a home where there is a lot of creaking and cracking in the floor, walls and ceiling. As the story continues, the walls start cracking and water seeps through. The window breaks as well. Alice thinks that she will be safe if she hides in the fireplace, only for it to collapse on top of her, crushing her. Again, not much of a story here, but the idiocy of the main character and the funniness of it makes up for it.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dracula 3

This issue of Dracula is the first to spurn the format established by the first 2 issues. Rather than have 4 five page stories, Agar-Agar takes a break for this issue and we get a double length Wolff story. The cover is provided once again by Enrich.

First is Wolff in "The Sorceress of the Red Mist" by Esteban Maroto. Wolff finds himself before a deserted city and mounts a horse that is waiting there for him. A large snake-like creature pursues him and wraps itself around him. The sorceress of the red mist intervenes however, and Wolff revives. The sorceress appears before him and asks him to love her. Wolff asks if he will ever see his wife Bruma again. She shows that his tribe is in the Swamps of Ginza. A skeleton warrior appears that Wolf fights, getting some assistance from the sorceress. Using the tip she provided him, he destroys it. The sorceress appears before Wolff in the flesh and they embrace. Three days pass and Wolff says that he cannot desert his people. The sorceress disappears. Despite its double length, I don't feel like much happens in this story. Maroto's art is good, but I feel that the story is going all over the place, and is being used more as a vehicle to show various creatures and fights for Wolff than to provide much of a plot.

Next up is "The Snake" by Jose Bea. After having a couple of Sir Leo stories from Bea, this issue features a stand-alone story. Jeremy Harknett is a man living in a boarding house who is very frightened of a large green snake that attacks him as he tries to go to sleep. His friends come up and tell him that it is just a dream, but he believes it is real. After they leave the snake attacks him again and his friends have to once again rush upstairs and tell him its just a dream. Eventually he turns out the lights in his room and the snake attacks him, wrapping itself around his neck so he can't breathe. As a result no one hears him and he dies. As the story ends it is revealed that the snake was just a green curtain hanging by his window, although it did in fact strangle him. Some fun art by Bea here, with the main character's design fitting his personality perfectly.

The issue wraps up with "Eloise" by Enric Sio. A man visits the grave of his deceased lover, Eloise, who died 6 months ago. The man says he'd give his life to be with her, even just for an hour. Suddenly the grim reaper appears and grants him his wish. Eloise appears and the two spend time together on the beach. But the hour quickly passes and Eloise wanders off into the horizon. The man starts panicking, wondering if it was even real. The grim reaper appears and the man flings himself over a cliff. While his body dies, his soul is forced to suffer an eternity of falling. Another good effort by Sio, this is the best work of his yet and quite a bit better than his first 2 stories.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dracula 2

This second issue of Dracula starts off again with an Enrich cover, this time of a warrior (perhaps Wolff?) holding a partially bloody sword.

Wolff again starts off the issue in "The World of the Witches", drawn by Esteban Maroto. Things continue where they left off the last time, with Wolff seeking revenge upon the witches that slayed his wife Bruma (or captured her? Dialogue here makes it seem like Bruma was captured, not killed, but this could be poor translation in this story or the last one). Wolff calls out to the witches for them to bring forth their best to fight him. They respond by opening up a chasm in front of him which he dives into. Along the way he slays a giant worm then fights Sadya, a whip bearing woman riding a red bird. Wolff is then summoned upward by the sorceress of the red mist, who wants her to battle for him. This second entry for Wolff is already going in odd places and it looks like Wolff will be participating in some strange adventures as this series continues on.

The second Sir Leo story is next, "The End of a Legend" with art by Jose Bea. The story continues where we left off the last time, with Sir Leo firing at the creature from the lake, which keeps changing its shape. This causes the creature to depart. The next day however the body of the innkeeper is found dead by the lake. Leo recalls that those who have perished by the lake were all evil people in someway. Leo reads up on the Necronomicon and realizes that the evil creatures can only materialize through the evil in the minds of men. He confers with some friends of his and assembles a silver bullet which he uses to fire at the creature and destroy it. This story is a bit fast paced and wraps up this storyline after only 2 issues. It seemed fitting to see the Necronomicon, which was frequently referenced in stories by HP Lovecraft, referenced here since the creature was clearly inspired by those in Lovecraft stories.

Third is "The Village in the Sea", the second entry in the Agar-Agar series by Alberto Solsona. Agar-Agar and Aquarius depart from each other, since he can only appear once every 500 years and his time has come to an end, for now. He provides her with a vehicle, which she uses to head into the ocean, the domain of the God Neptune. Agar-Agar finds a submerged city and some sick children. A man named Gandor arrives and says a strange pestilence has infected them. This is due to some white flakes that fell upon the city, causing bubbles to arise which infects those it touches. Agar-Agar discovers that this is due to a crashed oil tanker, and that the government has been using detergent on the ocean to clean things. She casts a spell which causes the bubbles to vanish and saves everyone. She agrees to stay with Gandor for a night as the story ends. Another rather poor story (with Agar-Agar again casting a spell to save the day at the end), and unlike the last issue's story which at least had some good art, it simply isn't as good this time.

Last up is "Krazy" with art by Enric Sio. Whereas Sio's last story had pretty much no dialogue whatsoever, this one is more traditional. It features a pair of young women who are friends with each other. One of the women gets a present for the other, an adorable little white kitten. She then heads off, leaving her friend alone with it. The woman goes to sleep after feeding the kitten some milk. While she sleeps the kitten lets in some other cats from outside. When her friends comes to get her the next day she finds her friend has been killed by the kitten and the other cats it let in. This story doesn't make all that much sense, but at least it is some interesting art again from Sio.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dracula 1

Back after yet another long absense, today's post is the first in hopefully what is 12 entries covering the publication Dracula by Buru Lan and New English Library. Yes, these aren't Warren publications, but if one is a fan of the Spanish artists from Seleciones Illustrada that appeared in the Warren mags, as I am, these are some interesting books worth obtaining.

Readers of Warren magazines in the early 1970's were frequently treated to advertisements for "Dracula", a 120-page, full cover book featuring art from Warren artists such as Esteban Maroto and Jose Bea. This book actually drew upon the Spanish publication Dracula. New English Library issued 12 English-language versions of the publication, which was originally produced by Buru Lan in Spain. The New English Library publication ended after 12 issues, although it continued for many issues afterwards in Spain. Only the first 6 issues were included in the Dracula book produced by Warren, but one can probably track down the remaining 6 english language issues if they try hard enough, as I was able to do.

Dracula has both differences and similarities with the Warren magazines. The individual stories here are short, typically only 5 pages long, although there are multiple long running series throughout these issues. The longest running series are "Wolff" by Esteban Maroto" and "Agar Agar" by Solsona, although Jose Bea's "Sir Leo" also appears in several issues. Maroto was a prolific artist for Warren, being only behind Jose Ortiz for most stories drawn. Jose Bea also had a fair amount of stories appear in Warren and appears often here in Dracula. Aside from the page length, the other big difference with Dracula is that it is full color. The quality of the color can vary at times (for example at times there is too much of a single color in a panel) but the color also enhances things quite a bit in some stories.

Enrich Torres provides the issue's cover. A Dracula-themed cover (a rarity, as the titular character of Dracula and vampires in general were pretty rare) and admittingly not in the same league as those cover painting he would later do for Vampirella.

Wolff is very similar in vein to Dax the Warrior, the long running Eerie serial and he begins the issue with his first entry, "The Path of the Dead", drawn by Esteban Maroto. It takes place in a post apocalyptic world where one has to be strong to survive, and Wolff is one of such people. After searching for food, Wolff returns to the caves in which he lives to find only one person still alive, an old man. The old man tells him that wiches came and killed all who were there including his wife Bruma and children. Seeking revenge, Wolff heads out, believing that he can hear Bruma calling his name. He eventually comes upon an ancient temple with the mouth of a large best for an entrance. Inside Wolff is attacked by a troll-like creature, whom he decapitates in combat. The creature's head turns into that of a beautiful woman as the story ends. A short introduction at only 5 pages (one of which is taken up by a splash page), this story nonetheless provides a decent motivator and start to Wolff's quest. This first issue also includes a poster featuring Wolff.

Next is "The Thing from the Lake" by Jose Bea, the first story featuring the character Sir Leo. Sir Leo is heir to a noble family living in the late 1800's who travels the world seeking the bizarre and unexplained. He heads to the Black Lake, an accursed lake where a body was recently found. Sir Leo heads there at night with a couple of men and a bizarre creature steps out of the lake. The creature starts transforming, hundreds of times, and Leo's colleagues seek to leave in fear. Leo is confident in his handgun though and shoots at the creature as the story ends. Bea often provided some very bizarre art in the Warren mags and it is much of the same here. The creature that comes out of the lake is a Lovecraftian monstrosity and I'm looking forward to seeing where things go in the next segment.

Next up is "Rendezvous with Aquarius", the first segment of the series Agar-Agar, by Alberto Solsona. Agar-Agar is a sprite from the star of Xanadu. Chief of Xanadu, Nicron instructs Agar-Agar to determine what is going on with the satellite Mohr, from which all their energy comes from. Heading there, Agar-Agar finds Aquarius, a horned sprite whose powers only arise once every 500 years. Aquarius attempts to capture Agar-Agar, but she makes a copy of herself to trick him. When he creates a creature known as Zagor to attack her, Agar-Agar turns it into a dragon which she rides upon. She then turns Aquarius into a good sprite and they head off together. Solsona has some very surrealistic art here which is all the more enhanced by the color. The character design of Agar-Agar I can recall being swiped in at least one Esteban Maroto story that appeared in a Warren magazine ("Scourge of the Spaceways from 1984 #2). That said, this is a poor and nonscenical at times written story. While most of the material that appears in the Dracula publication could cut it in a Warren magazine, Agar-Agar is too light in nature and it isn't much of a surprise that the artist never made an appearance.

Enric Sio's work is the highlight of the Dracula publications to me. He's got an interesting style, albeit one that is obviously inspired based on photographic reference. Its unfortunate he never did any work for Warren, although the color in these stories certainly helps, maybe it was thought that his work wouldn't have the same effect in black and white? In any case, this first story of his, entitled "Eleaonor" features a young girl who sneaks away from her mother to play with a hoola hoop. She wanders towards the beach where she finds a man that is knocked out. She pokes at the man and snips away at some of his hair, only for him to wake up, revealed as a vampire. He attacks the girl but she flees. He turns into a bat, but she manages to kill him with a stake. Numerous additional bats appear however, and she screams in horror as they capture her upon the story's end. Said stories by Sio will get more interesting in later issues, but this was a decent beginning, in a story featuring no dialogue except for screaming in the final panel.