Halloween is here! Can’t say I’m much of the celebrating type considering my childhood was spent decked out in flammable plastic…and handing out candy to other kids. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Thanks Mom, for making an 8 year old man the door. Don’t feel bad. I’ve more than made up for it over the years by consuming my body weight in miniature Snickers.
“The sweet smell of nostalgia and noxious plastic fumes.”
We’re not here to discuss my tragic backstory. That’s what hard liquor is for. No dear friends, time to talk comics. With the spirit of this hair raising holiday in mind, I’ve decided to revisit some Bronze Age Marvel Monsters. Everyone enjoys a good fright right? Publishers recognized the appeal of horror and flooded the market with a myriad of titles dedicated to the macabre. The majority of these issues had an anthology layout while solo books were reserved for the genres movie mainstays. Dracula being the most notable and popular with the fans.
This makes The Monster Frankenstein #8 (cover dated January 1974) pretty interesting to me. First, he’s the big brute of scary set but with an over saturated market, the chatter in the crypt was Frankenstein’s book neared it’s demise. Frank’s adventures needed a little life, so Marvel turned to Dracula for a three issue guest appearance. Did it do the trick or was this story more rotten than a Jack o’ Lantern in late November? Let’s take the lid off of this nefarious narrative by Gary Friedrich and the brilliant John Buscema.
As the cover indicates, we start with Frankenstein opening a coffin to reveal Dracula rip roaring and ready to go. For an immortal creature he doesn’t bother to waste any time. This leaves Franky boy a tad shocked. One would think Drac might like to use the bathroom after waking up, or perhaps enjoy a good stretch before going into stalk mode. We got ourselves one nimble Nosferatu here!
“You and me both Pal…”
I gotta admit, it’s pretty cool this story hits you with action outta the gate but how did this meeting come to be? Sheer chance? Of course not. Enter Marguerita the Hag. This little old lady lured Frank into her gypsy camp last issue. Filling his belly with food and his heart with high hopes of finding a home, she requests he follows her to a cave. Turns out only he possesses the strength needed to open the coffin that lies within. Here’s the rub, Marguerita is in fact a vampire herself eager to see her dark lord again. Be careful what you wish for baby!
“Knuckle sandwiches are included with the early bird special.”
While all this geriatric grappling is going down, the reader is introduced to Marguerita’s beautiful granddaughter, Carmen. Bearing witness to the melee, the girl is horrified to discover her beloved Bubbe is a baddie. Marguerita grabs Carmen violently, turning Frank’s eye away from Dracula. He saves the girl from a vampire bite and drives a stake through her matriarch’s ticker.
“You’re the reason for my life…You’re the inspiration.”
Dracula sees this as prime time to hit the bricks. I mean, c’mon all that stalking makes a guy thirsty. So off to the nearest town for blood he goes. Meanwhile, Frankenstein and Carmen emerge from the cave to discover the entire gypsy camp, once welcoming to Franky, have been slaughtered. The nearby Townsfolk felt the need to punish them for turning the woods into the Universal Studios Monsters Tour. Now they gone and done it. Not only is Drac on his way to suck ’em dry but Frankenstein is out to avenge his fallen friends.
“Nowadays you can just illegally download some Gypsy Jams. Back then, not so much.”
Let’s tackle my biggest gripe about this issue. Hell, about Vampire tales in general. Anytime I see the whole change into a bat but keep my face thing, I’m annoyed. Why? Just go full on bat. To add garlic to my gripe, Dracula even keeps his collar here! You may think you’re the most stylish flying rat in Transylvania there buddy but next time just rock a leisure suit. The ladies will love it! Well, some maybe. Ok…keep the collar.
“Do these wings make my ass look fat?”
Where were we? Ah yes, a fury infused Frankenstein! The denizens of Gypsy Genocideville are aware he is en route. Rather than play sitting duck, the Burgomeister insists they set out to kill the monstrosity before it arrives. Gotta love the role of Burgomeister. Has there been any other profession portrayed as a bigger dink in realm of fiction? The only other job that may hold a torch is the Hospital Orderly. I challenge you fine reader, to prove me otherwise.
“Burgomeisters…cementing a bad rep for over 200 years.”
As the Villagers wonder where to start the hunt, Frank’s already arrived at the town square. He smashes a wagon and goes on a diatribe about hatred. For a supposed lunkhead, he’s fairly spot on about men being the true monsters of the world. Word of advice to Frankenstein though: the Ghandi routine gets lost in translation when you murder everyone within arms reach! Hey, It’s the thought that counts…right big guy?
“Quit running! I have to see if your nether regions can accommodate a wagon wheel!”
Similar to Trick or Treaters that descend upon the house giving away full size candy bars, the locals manage to swarm on Frank. Someone finally realizes pitch forks are useless and grabs a rifle. Guns are a pretty lousy solution to any problem but I will say this, I’d be willing to get the resulting sound effect tattooed on one of my buttocks.
“Look on the bright side, at least scarring isn’t an issue!”
Subdued by the bullet, Frank is tied to a post and given the “burn the witch” treatment. This ends with a splash page and is probably my single favorite moment of the book. The beast shows bravado only to seemingly crap his pants and with the odd word balloon placement, the chimney is telling him to die.
“Just friggin’ great, you bumpkins had to go and burn the last good street pole!”
Was this the spooky spectacular that reinvigorated my spirit for the season? Not quite. The problem here is the script. It cashes in on every cliche that’s been used in genre from the get go. Pacing was good but it’s terribly predictable. The art is the strength here as John Buscema makes you feel like you’re watching a classic Monster movie.
Worth a read for fans of the subject matter but for the rest of us, It’s a pass. Seal it in the Tomb of Tired Tropes and hope no one ever sets it free.
David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.
*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.