Well folks, it’s the most wonderful time of the year yet again. Which can only mean one thing. It’s time to talk about Dracula, y’all! For the past several years I have been more than happy to share the many insane adventures of Marvel Dracula with you all, and we certainly aren’t about to break that trend this year. In case this is the first time you’re reading about one of these Dracula stories, or if you’re generally unfamiliar with Marvel Dracula, he’s the goddamn best. Dracula is usually a fun character, but the one that exists in the Marvel Universe is an absolute delight. He’s melodramatic, insanely cocky, calls everyone ‘fool,’ and has a tendency to smack any random hero he encounters upside the head. We’ve talked about Dracula as he has launched an assault on Earth with an army of moon vampires, we’ve seen him battle Doctor Strange multiple times, and perhaps most insane we’ve seen Dracula fight the Silver Surfer after a cult convinced them to fight. Marvel Dracula just kind of travels around the world, scheming and plotting to take over the world, until he encounters a hero who vaporizes him, only for another set of cult members to bring him back to life. He’s extremely similar to Doctor Doom, who I obviously love, so it’s a joy to share his various escapades. And, this time the big wheel of Marvel villains has fallen on the Mighty Thor as his unwilling combatant. Let’s see a god battle the Prince of Darkness everyone!
The issue begins kind of in the middle of some very complicated thing. See, this is still from the period of Thor’s history when he still had to occasionally turn into Donald Blake, his incredibly lame alter ego. And, after spending quite a bit of time out in Asgard doing Thor things, he and the Lady Sif have returned to Earth to find Donald Blake the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Well, a missing person’s investigation that they suspect foul play in. For Jane Foster, Thor’s original love interest and former nurse working under Dr. Donald Blake. Jane has apparently been dating a different bland blond doctor named Kincaid, who has reported Jane missing after vanishing off the face of the planet. And, in case you were wondering, Thor didn’t kill Jane Foster. He actually did something much more insane, which requires several panels of explanation, recapping events that sprawled over a few issues I definitely haven’t read.
So…yeah. Apparently Jane came to Asgard, and was deemed unworthy, causing Odin to wipe her memory. But, not able to let things drop, Thor returned to Earth and refilled her memories, which led to the Lady Sif absorbing Jane’s soul to try and heal her when she was ill. This did not work, and in the process Jane just kind of vanished from existence, and they apparently never bothered to look into it. So, Thor didn’t kill Jane, but she apparently doesn’t exist in any Plane, in body or soul…so I guess he kind of did? But, Donald Blake does want to prove himself innocent, since he doesn’t want his dumb alter ego to be in prison, so he tries defending himself to the police officer in charge of his case, Lt. Timpano. And Timpano does not really believe any of that. But, he has nothing to charge Blake with, so he leaves the police station and immediately transforms into Thor.
Thor realizes that he needs to go figure out where Jane Foster ended up, both to make sure she’s fine, and more importantly to clear Donald Blake’s name. So, he heads to New York while leaving Sif behind in Chicago so she can shop and learn about Jane Foster’s murder in the newspaper. Thor gets to New York and goes to Jane’s old apartment to find the runestaff that accomplished the magic in the first place. But, the super for the apartment lost it in the ensuing time. So, Thor decides to stop by Avenger’s Mansion to ask his teammates for help, only to find only two Avengers on staff, neither of whom he knows. Monica Rambeau and Starfox sympathize with Thor, but they have no idea where the runestaff is. And, while Thor is off searching for the staff, we see that a cult in Chicago is about to complicate matters by summoning their dear leader back to Earth.
Dracula’s never-ending collection of cultists have raised Dracula, once again, and he immediately turns into a bat and flies out into the night so that he can slake his thirst. He flies around the warm Chicago night, looking for someone to bite and drain, when he comes across two strangely dressed people standing on a rooftop. It just so happens to be Thor and Lady Sif, who are meeting to discuss Thor’s failures. And, also, he fills her in on what is happening, because Thor was bad at deciding the order of things he did that day. And, after a rundown the two adjourn to their Chicago hotel room to have some mythic sex. But, during this process Dracula has managed to get a very strong sensation from Sif, showing him that she’s something special.
But, before dealing with Sif he realizes that he’s going to need a late-night snack, and just so happens to spot some high-school students walking around in the middle of the night, tossing out some hilarious early 1980’s references. Dracula begins stalking the children, scaring them with ominous fog, before finally just strutting out, hypnotizing them, and devouring them on the side of the road. And, let me tell you, Dracula is often just kind of goofy in these Marvel stories, a supervillain version of Dracula who is more campy than scary. But, I’ll hand it to this story, Dracula gets a little scary here.
The next day Thor wakes up and immediately begins pounding the pavement. Or, Donald Blake does, I suppose. He heads to a hospital to check in on some of his patients, putting in the normal human time, when he just so happens to run into Lt. Timpano, who is investigating the death of those teenagers above. And, apparently the doctor running the morgue is friends with Donald Blake, and he ends up asking the Doc’s opinions on these obviously vampire-related homicides. Hell, they do even mention the fact that if they didn’t know better they’d say that this was a vampire attack, but shrug that off as impossible, and only something that would happen in a movie.
This does give Thor some concern though, and he ends up excusing himself so that he can turn back into Thor and chase down Timpano. Thor then offers to help the man with the whole vampire thing, which Timpano really does seem to appreciate. Because who wouldn’t want to get help from the God of Thunder? Unfortunately, ‘vampire detective’ isn’t exactly one of Thor’s well-known attributes, and he doesn’t exactly do a good job. He seems to split his time looking for the vampire and attempting to hunt down the runestaff, neither of which end up going his way. That is until a few days later when he gets word that one of the corpses from the morgue has gone missing. The high school students and other assorted victims were buried, but this unidentified person was just sitting in the morgue. However, it wasn’t stolen. It became a vampire and began prowling the streets outside the hospital, which is when Thor comes across it. Luckily though, we learn something very important about Thor. And, more specifically, Mjolnir.
I love this. Essentially, Thor has just learned that Mjolnir is super-effective against vampires, much in the same way that crucifixes traditionally are. Because vampires are wounded by religious symbols, and because Thor is a god, his hammer is a religious symbol. So, Mjolnir explodes vampires! Which, is maybe going to make this whole vampire hunt a little easier than expected. But, before Thor can start gloating over the fun new power he’s stumbled upon, he makes a realization. If this man has just turned into an undead killing machine, what about the other victims? Timpano told him that they were all buried, but that may not stop them.
So, Thor hightails it over to the cemetery that they were all apparently buried in, and sure enough, there are some Nosferatu afoot. They’ve all climbed out of their graves, giving the nightwatchman quite a shock, and have begun to attack. Unfortunately for them, Thor is really great at hitting stuff with his hammer. The vampires immediately recognize Thor and his hammer as a huge threat, and all turn into bats so that they can scatter and attempt to flee. But, one by one Thor manages to track the bats down and pummel them into dust. Thor then happily flies off, knowing that he’s done good work that night. Unfortunately, while he’s been gone, Dracula has been up to some mischief. Because the Prince of Darkness has decided that tonight is the night he’s going to make good on his new obsession with Sif. He arrives at their hotel room, and begins using his classic hypnotism. And, with Sif in his clutches, he makes her his thrall.
So, that’s less than ideal. And, that wasn’t a cliff-hanger fake-out. Dracula has successfully bitten the Lady Sif and turned her into a vampire. As soon as he’s done draining some blood she wakes up and begins praising him as her new lord and love of her life. And, weirdly, she also seems to have gotten some blood-borne amnesia, essentially forgetting who she is, where she is, and most importantly, who Thor is. Which, is even a shock to Dracula, who has never experienced this particular effect to his bite. But, he chalks it up to never having bitten a literal goddess before, and decides to just move on. Plus, since she has no memory of who she was, he has the opportunity to craft her into his own personal image.
Meanwhile, Thor has decided it’s time to call in the big guns for his hunt for the runestaff. He has traveled to New York in order to seek the help of Dr. Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme. Thor and Doctor Strange dispense with some pleasantries, and then Strange offers to skip things ahead by scanning Thor’s mind to get all the information he needs about the runestaff. It’s a pretty intense experience, viewing the mind and spirit of a god, but he ends up getting a recap of the whole Jane Foster drama, learning Thor’s secret identity in the process. But, Thor trusts Doctor Strange’s discretion, and Strange decides to look for a different tactic. Because Sif used the staff, Strange attempts to read her mind with the Orb of Agamotto. Which is how he learns what’s going on with Sif.
As we’ve learned over the years, Doctor Strange has had several run-ins with Dracula, so while scanning Sif’s mind, he immediately finds out what’s going on. He lets Thor know that his lady love is currently under the thrall of the Prince of Darkness, which means he can’t figure out where the staff is. Thor doesn’t take the news particularly well, and essentially just running off and jumping out of a window so that he can speed away to Chicago as fast as possible and reach Sif. And yet, there’s still a part of him that doubts Strange’s realization, so he transforms back into Donald Blake and races to the hotel that they were sharing. And, sure enough, he finds the place empty.
Donald Blake then begins searching for Sif, after quickly cancelling all of his appointments for the day, not that there are many left since he seems like a monumentally unreliable doctor, what with the frequent jaunts to Asgard. Meanwhile, Dracula is noticing some unexpected side-effects from his feeding on Sif. She’s progressing very quickly, becoming a vampire much quicker than most women he bites. And, it’s not just her. It seems that Asgardian blood is having a huge effect on Dracula himself, giving him greatly enhanced powers and vitality. He’s feeling great, he has a powerful new bride, and he’s ready to take over the world!
And while Dracula is cavorting around his apartment, Thor is racing around the Windy City, looking for Sif. But, he has no real leads, so he decides to make another stop to Lt. Timpano, hoping that Chicago has had more run ins with vampire-related crimes. And, luckily enough, Timpano has apparently just received a tip from someone claiming to know what’s going on with the vampire killings. Thor then takes that tip and races off to a weird alley where one of Dracula’s sycophantic cultists is waiting, ready to spill his beans. He’s a little shocked when Thor shows up, ready to beat him to death with a magical hammer. The cultist is a little tongue-tied, not ready to betray his Prince quite yet, but after Thor threatens the hammer beating, the man spills that Dracula will be with his new bride at the opera.
Thor then flies away, looking for the Chicago opera, while the cultist returns to his colleagues, and commits some sort of ritualistic suicide in front of them all out of penance. And, while all of that’s going on, Dracula is busy being a complete asshole at the opera, telling Sif about how he was at the original production of this particular Wagner opera. Sif does seem interested, since she’s a thrall, but Dracula starts to notice something else about her. She’s already acquired fangs, moving far faster through the whole vampire evolution than anyone he’s ever infected. He’s a little concerned about this, but luckily he’s about to have bigger things to worry about, because Thor is about to come bursting into the room, screaming for Dracula to come fight him like a goddamn professional wrestling promo.
Sif is fairly shaken by the mere presence of Thor, so Dracula decides he’s going to need to nip this in the bud and take care of Thor as fast as possible. Plus, it seems like the Asgardian blood now pumping through his veins is giving him some over-active confidence. So, he changes into a bat and swoops down to attack Thor, and the two begin battling. They rage around the opera house, destroying the set and causing everyone to flee in panic. Thankfully, Thor has recently learned that his hammer has a pretty explosive reaction against vampires, so he throws his hammer as hard as he can at Dracula, seeking to end his charade as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, the hammer doesn’t seem to have as big an effect on him as it did those fledgling vampires. Dracula even mocks him, telling him that he doesn’t respect Thor’s religion, and thus the hammer has no effect on him. Which, doesn’t really make sense? I guess Dracula is a big believer in Jesus or something. But, this whole attempt at vampire-exploding does result in the roof of the opera house being ripped open, meaning that Thor and Dracula are now going to go fly out into the Chicago night to continue their battle. And, once outside, they both realize that they have a pretty similar power. Because, in case you weren’t aware, Dracula can summon storms. So, the two stir up a massive storm in Chicago, both trying to wrestle control away from the other.
Thor and Dracula end up realizing that this is a fairly futile little battle of wills, and just go back to fighting each other with fists and hammers. However, even with his little cocktail of Asgardian strength, Dracula doesn’t seem to think that he’s going to be a physical match for Thor, and responds with trickery. He starts turning into fog, avoiding Thor’s blows, and slipping away from him. Dracula flees from the rooftops, and lands on the streets, goading Thor to come down to his level. At which point Dracula uses another one of his fun powers to summon a shitload of rats to come pouring out of the sewers to attack Thor. Which, doesn’t really work that well.
Thor begins destroying the rats, while Dracula sits on a nearby rooftop, heckling him. At which point Thor hucks his hammer once more at Dracula, which earns even more derision as Dracula turns back into mist, causing the hammer to pass through him again. But, Thor wasn’t trying to do it for damage. He noticed that when Dracula turned into mist it took concentration, which meant he had less to control the storm. So, when Dracula turned to mist he ceded just enough control of the storm so that he can summon a massive thunderbolt, straight into Dracula’s face. Dracula is pretty damned injured at this point, but right as Thor is about to pound Dracula’s face in with Mjolnir, taking advantage of his weakened state, he suddenly blips out of existence. At which point Thor gets a magical phonecall from Doctor Strange, telling him that Dracula has been teleported away by a different group of cultists, off to harass some other hero. And, with Dracula gone, Sif is suddenly free of his mental control, at which point her Asgardian biology destroys the vampirism, bringing her back to normal. They then set off to find the runestaff, which no longer fall in the purview of this story.
I have spilled quite a bit of digital ink discussing my deep love for Doctor Victor von Doom. And, over the many pieces I’ve written about his exploits, I’ve hit upon one of the major reasons that that character works so well for me. And it’s because he works in any sort of story, with any sort of Marvel hero, because he’s a perfect villain. And, in a weird way, Marvel’s version of Dracula is kind of the same. Dracula is such an iconic villain, and has been portrayed in countless different way across virtually every form of media. But, the specific brand of Dracula that Marvel created, the verbose and cocky asshole who just travels around getting into evil shenanigans and called everyone fools, is perhaps my favorite of them all. Dracula is a perfect Marvel bad guy. He has a laundry list of vaguely defined powers, he has no real motivation other than self-preservation, and he just loves being evil. Which, similar to Doctor Doom, means that he can slot into basically any type of story. The first few times we talked about him he was fighting Doctor Strange, which makes sense in a weird way. Dracula and Strange travel in similar mystical circles, and they worked well as antagonists. The Silver Surfer was an absolutely insane choice, almost to the point that they didn’t gel quite as well as they should have, being from two completely different narrative worlds. And, literal worlds. Which, I was worried would be the same case with Thor. Because, as much as I love him, Thor doesn’t always gel well with other characters. I love Thor, and all the bullshit surrounding him, but it seems to be quite hard to make that cross over with the regular Marvel universe, unless you’re some sort of comics wizard like Jason Aaron. And yet, Thor versus Dracula ended up being an absolute hoot. They paired quite well with each other, both talking like men out of time, and even having similar abilities at times. Plus, I will never get over the brilliance of having Mjolnir become a religious symbol powerful enough to kill vampires. That’s genius, and I’m so sad that I’ve never seen anyone else take that idea and run with it. It’s just a really fun superhero story, featuring a ridiculous monster, that even managed to find time to be scary at moments. Which is exactly what I’m looking for here on Halloween. So I’ll see you again next year with more tales of the Prince of Darkness.
Thor #332-333 was written by Alan Zelenetz, penciled by Don Perlin and Mark Bright, inked by Vince Colletta, colored by George Roussos, lettered by Janice Chiang, and edited by Mark Gruenwald, 1983.
Categories: Marvel Madness