Friday, May 07, 2021

The Dracula File – review

Author: Gerry Finley-Day & Simon Furman

Artists: Eric Bradbury, Geoff Senior & Keith Page

First published: 2020 (tpb)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: A brand-new paperback new edition of the sold out and beloved classic horror comic!

KGB officer Colonel Stakis desperately hunts for Count Dracula, who is spreading terror in 1980s Britain after escaping from behind the Iron Curtain.

Blending Cold War paranoia with horror staples, Gerry Finley-Day and Eric Bradbury's strip overcame sustained attempts at censorship to become one of the most popular strips in the 1980s best horror comics.

The review
: I have to confess that I don’t remember Scream comic – despite probably being the exact age of the target audience when it circulated and, given this collection, that seems a shame. A short run horror comic it does mean that the story in this volume doesn’t conclude. Dracula manages to ‘defect’ to the West, via the Berlin wall and is taken to Britain where, luckily, the MI5 safehouse he is taken to is his old residence when he was last in Britain and so has some of his native soil stashed there.

He is soon terrorising London with the secret services convinced they lost the defector somehow and the police convinced a killer is on the loose. The one person who knows the truth is KGB agent Colonel Stakis who is disgraced in the USSR for his superstitious beliefs and so manages to escape to the UK to hunt the vampire. We get so much of that story, which then moves into a 2-issue flashback of Dracula facing another hunter in the 19th century. That covers off all that is available of the story from the substantive comic, but the title was subsequently maintained as holiday specials from which we get some stand-alone stories of Stakis hunting Dracula.

Lore-wise, I’ve mentioned native earth and this Dracula is vulnerable to sunlight it seems (or at least aims to be in his native earth before the sun rises and does not leave his coffin until it sets). We get transformation into smoke, bats and wolves (and Stakis employing an eagle to hunt the bat form, which was fun). It also mentions garlic, holy water, silver bullets (though a reproduced quiz refutes that as being for werewolf only) and wooden stakes… silver stakes are mentioned also. There are lore errors – lack of reflection is used as a plot point and then, in one of the holiday specials, we get Stakis posing as a policeman and somehow seeing the vampire attack in a mirror taped to the inner brim of his helmet!

The art is black and white, certainly reminiscent of the style of the time and could be best described as gritty, which suited the vibe. Dracula’s artwork does have a bit of a Christopher Lee vibe to it. The new cover art for this collection is fun, what with the attack on the pin stripe berk, but perhaps one of the original Scream covers would have served better. The writing for Dracula posed him as arrogant and quite pompous (“You dare strike at me!”) and this reminded me of the Marvel persona for Dracula.

This was fun, it's not a massive book (the comic didn’t run long enough) but it was a nice discovery for me and I suspect a lovely bit of nostalgia for others. Thank you to Sarah for the volume. 7.5 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

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