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.

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.