Happy Halloween everybody! Or at least Halloween weekend. Whatever, I’m here to talk about silly-as-hell Marvel stories! And folks, I’ve found a fun one. I decided to looks for something appropriate for Halloween to discuss, since despite what I usually think Triumph and Torment isn’t actually a Halloween tale. And it was surprisingly difficult. I spent a long time reading through just about every appearance of Man-Thing that I could find to come across a silly enough story to talk about here, but despite all assumptions it turns out that Man-Thing stories aren’t particularly insane. That lead to a lot of trying to find various stories featuring Marvel’s version of Frankenstein and the Werewolf By Night, but none of that really panned out, so I had to go back to the old classic. Dracula. I’ve previous discussed Marvel’s Dracula when I told you all about his ill-fated invasion of Britain with an army of moon-Vampires, and I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t think I would ever find anything to top that story. And I still don’t think I did, but I found something fun nonetheless. Because there’s a shocking amount of Dracula stories in Marvel history, especially from the Silver and Bronze Ages. Now, I was tempted to check out some X-Men stories, since the X-Men oddly deal with vampires way more than you would think, but since I just did an X-Men story on here, I decided to try for a different Dracula story. And just in time two write this article, I found something wonderful. I’ve been doing a massive read-through of Doctor Strange, mostly in anticipation of the upcoming film, but also just because I adore the character. I haven’t read everything that Doctor Strange has been in yet, but just about everything I’ve read I’ve loved. But there’s an odd problem with his comics in regards to this series. Doctor Strange stories all tend to be weird, so I would either be talking about them every damn week, or never. But lo and behold, I found an outlier of weirdness, this strange little cross-over event between Doctor Strange and Tomb of Dracula where two cape aficionados fight to the death. And folks, if you think I’m not going to tell you about a wizard and a vampire fighting to the death, you’re mistaken.
The story begins in the pages of Tomb of Dracula where we see Doctor Strange hanging out in the Sanctum Sanctorum, looking in a crystal ball to try and find out where his manservant Wong is. He’s searching for Wong’s presence, and ends up finding him in the orb, seemingly dead in an alley. This freaks out Strange enough that he uses some power of the Orb of Agamotto to create what essentially amounts to a hologram of Wong’s body. He then begins inspecting the body, finding two puncture wounds on Wong’s neck. Strange then doesn’t waste any time, and decides that vampire shenanigans are afoot, and he’s going to have to stop them. So after briefly using the powers of Agamotto to seize the soul of Wong in the Orb long enough to save his life, he heads out to investigate Wong’s attack. He projects his Astral Form into Wong’s mind, reliving the last moments before he was attacked. And what he finds is Wong wandering down an alley to help a woman screaming for help. But when Wong reaches the woman, he finds that it wasn’t some typical mugger attacking her, it was Dracula, Lord of the Vampires, who then quickly attacks Wong as well.
Doctor Strange then leaves Wong’s memories, and prepares to track Dracula down and stop him, while we’re treated to some ongoing plotlines from Tomb of Dracula that I didn’t understand, and didn’t super care enough about to research. We see some dude mad at a woman who is publishing a trashy book about her love affair with Dracula, and some old man stalking Dracula. Don’t really know what’s going on there, but we do learn that Dracula’s homebase in America is apparently Boston, which strikes me as kind of odd. But I guess it’s explained away that he likes the architecture. We also see Blade sneaking around doing god-knows-what, in his wonderful 70’s costume, before establishing that Dracula is pissed about everything that’s been going on in his book, and is getting ready to take a nap in his coffin after destroying some TVs.
But enough about that nonsense, because we see that Doctor Strange has been tracking down the alley that Wong ran into Dracula. And once there he’s able to use the Amulet of Agamotto’s light of truth to track down Dracula. He silently flies through the sky, getting ever closer to Boston, until he ends up at the abandoned building that Dracula is living in. And, seemingly with no fear, Strange just marches up to Dracula’s coffin, opens it up, and prepares to throw down. But Dracula is apparently a light sleeper, because he immediately wakes up and gets ready to fight Strange. After a momentary exchange of pleasantries where they both admit that their familiar with the others work, they start having a straight up wizard duel. Apparently Dracula has picked up some magical abilities in his centuries on Earth, and the two being slinging spells at each other. But no matter how good of a wizard Dracula is, Stephen Strange is the goddamn Sorcerer Supreme, so he’s able to attack Dracula with the power of the Images of Ikon, which makes Dracula relive the pain that he’s inflicted on all of his victims. Which for some reason takes the form of Dracula becoming Vlad the Impaler, and Doctor Strange attacking him on a magic horse!
And after a brief joust in Dracula’s mind, Strange seems to gain the upper hand. Mainly because Dracula start wigging out, reliving all the personal deaths that he’s caused, and feeling the emotional turmoil that he’s apparently been ignoring for centuries. Unfortunately, that pain just gives him the initiative he needs to start fighting back. And he pretty quickly finds that there’s one weakness in Strange. His anger over Wong’s death. Dracula begins needling Strange about how he killed Wong, and didn’t even care about it. He calls Wong a “mere hireling” not to be worried about, and when Strange start to get pissed, Dracula strikes. He takes the opening that Strange’s anger leaves, and uses his abilities to hypnotize Strange, dropping his defenses in time to grab Strange, and bite him on the neck. Yep, the first issue ends with Dracula seemingly turning Doctor Strange into a vampire!
But that’s not the end of the story, because when we turn over to the second part in Doctor Strange we find that Dracula isn’t counting Strange out yet. He gloats a bit over Strange’s body, but remembers that besides the cross the only thing he fears is magic, and knows that Strange could still find some way to best him. So he responds to that realization by just tossing Doctor Strange’s knocked out body down a trap door into some dark and dank cellar, knowing that in three days time Strange will become a member of the undead, and he’ll have won. Dracula then leaves, not realizing that Strange is still alive, and his Astral Form is able to escape. However, he then realizes that because his body is kind of undead at the time, he can’t get back into it.
Strange is a little pissed off about this, mainly because in his book he’s recently saved all of existence and basically became immortal, only to have been beaten by some damn vampire? Bullshit! So Doctor Strange begins meditating in his Astral Form, trying to come up with a way to outsmart Dracula despite the fact that he cannot use his corporeal form. And while he’s figuring that out we cut back to Dracula to see what he’s up to. And it’s just kind of nonsense to me. We see him devour some random old homeless lady before thing get really weird. Now, I’ve never read Tomb of Dracula, and I do want to, so I have no idea what’s going on here, but it’s nuts. Dracula is randomly visited by some old foe of his, called Dr. Sun, who Dracula has apparently killed and is now haunting him as a floating brain. The brain makes fun of Dracula for a while, until Dracula realizes that something isn’t adding up. He apparently killed Sun a while ago, and has been living in his house, so it doesn’t make sense that he’s suddenly being haunted. He thus determines that it’s some trick of Strange’s.
However, when he goes to check on Strange in that cellar he finds that his corpse is still just laying there. This confuses Dracula more, but he still decides that there’s still something going on, and that Strange is involved. So he zips out to New York, trying to find Wong’s body and see if that was involved. However, when he gets to the alley that he killed Wong in, he’s surprised to find that the body is gone, since he didn’t know that Strange had teleported it into the Orb of Agamotto to save. But as Dracula is fuming in the alley, he’s suddenly approached by another ghost, this time taking the form of a woman named Maria that he apparently loved. Dracula freaks out, thrilled to see this woman that he loved, but she just vanishes, and ends up attacking Dracula with magical fire, making everyone wandering by the alley to just assume that Dracula is a crazy person.
So Dracula freaks out at the random passersby, vowing to find this ghost that’s following him around and mocking him. But before Dracula can calm down and rationally think about what’s going on, the ghost flies off into the night, and he decides to become a bat and chase it. So Dracula follows the ghost all through the night, not thinking of anything else. Which turns out to be a bad call when the sun comes up, and he realizes that he hasn’t been thinking about the sun, and now has to flee. Dracula begins booking it away from the ghost, trying to get back to the house of Dr. Sun which he’s been living in, all while the ghost finally admits that it’s Doctor Strange, and that he’s just been trolling the Lord of the Vampires.
But, against reason, Dracula has made it back to Boston, and flies into a hole in the roof, narrowly missing the first rays of sunlight which would vaporize him. He then gets a hold of himself, and realizes that there’s no point in messing around with Strange anymore. This would be the day that he will officially turn into a vampire, and instead of turning Strange into one of his minions, Dracula decides to just stake him through the heart. So Dracula uses his abilities to awaken Strange’s newly vampiric form, only to let Strange’s Astral Form slip back into the body. At which point Dracula has made his situation much worse, because now he’s dealing with vampire Doctor Strange! The two begin tussling, throwing each other around the dungeon while Dracula relies on his brute strength and Doctor Strange on his mystic abilities. However, Doctor Strange realizes that he has one ace up his sleeve. Now, in case you aren’t familiar with Doctor Strange, his magic works in an odd way. It’s not really a lot of magic spells or anything like that, more often than not it’s portrayed more similar to praying. Doctor Strange works with a bunch of magical deities, and beseeches them to give him their powers. So when he gets his hands around Dracula’s throat, he decides to change things up, and pray to the Christian god, using Dracula’s aversion of Christian magic against him. And, shockingly, Doctor Strange’s prayer works. Dracula is bombarded with Holy Light, and is straight up killed! He becomes a shriveled husk, and has seemingly been defeated. Strange then uses his abilities to bring Wong back to life, and uses his magic to heal his own vampirism, and the duo leave the castle of Dr. Sun, never to speak about this again.
This is some grade-A goofiness folks. I walked away from this little story very interested in checking out the Tomb of Dracula series, because it seems to be incredibly silly. I double checked, and that book went on for years after this story, so I assume it wasn’t actually the death of Dracula, unless that book got seriously retooled after Doctor Strange straight up desiccated the dude. But regardless of how things followed this story, it was a hall of a time. I just adore Doctor Strange so much, and I’ve been dying to find a story to talk about here on the site. But like I said earlier, it’s kind of hard to find ones that are noticeably weirder than average. This period of Doctor Strange stories from the mid-70’s are pretty flawless, and I’ve seen Doctor Strange do some insane things, but not really “ha ha” insane. That is until he started dueling with a Nosferatu. That tends to amp things up in the ridiculous department. Especially when you have Doctor Strange end up conquering Dracula by basically praying at him, and then being stunned that that worked. It’s just a hoot. I mean, I would check out any story that you say includes a wizard duel between the Sorcerer Supreme and the Lord of the Vampires, and this story more than delivered. So this Halloween please dip into some fun Marvel Madness and watch Doctor Stephen Strange open a can of unholy whoop-ass on Dracula.
Tomb of Dracula #44 was written by Marv Wolfman, drawn by Gene Colan & Tom Palmer, lettered by John Costanza, and colored by Tom Palmer, 1976.
Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts #14 was written by Steve Englehart, drawn by Gene Colan, inked and colored by Tom Palmer, and lettered by John Costanza, 1976.