(Dracula gets inked)
Compared to the bombastic pencils and mind-blowing anatomy of Jack Kirby and the structured layouts and weirdo designs of Steve Ditko, Gene Colan always seemed to take the bronze medal in the Marvel Bullpen in the Mid-‘60s. But think about that for a minute... the guy was the third banana in a club that features not only the greatest comics artist of all time, but one of the other top artists to ever draw a tights wearing true-believer!
Gene had chops and could drive an inker mad with all of the shades he could lay down with those pencils. His work wasn’t perfect for the super-hero, but the fluidity of his panel layout and the sense of movement he gave his figures gave his work both a sense of action and flow that worked quite well.
Gene’s real talent was in drama and lighting. Not even King Kirby could use shadows to such effect. Gene would add mood to scenes that would suffer without it under the pencil of another artist. Emotive faces filled his panels and played on his stage like great Shakespearean actors.
All of this he put to perfect use when he took on TOMB OF DRACULA, a book he had to lobby heavily to Stan Lee to get. Stan had tapped Bill Everett for the book after having told Gene he could do it and Gene quickly whipped up a sample page to convince Stan to choose differently.
Gene based his Dracula not on Bela Lugosi, nor Christopher Lee, but Jack Palance, who had never played the role (but soon would, a year after TOD started publication)! One look at the sample and Stan gave Colan the book--did his Dracula mesmerize the Editor into doing Gene’s bidding?
Certainly it did.
Soon the shadows and mist crept in, the atmosphere of suspense and horror, the thrill of drama and fear lurked in every corner...soon,
Count Dracula stalked the night!
And it wasn’t long before a young writer would join this veteran artist on the series--Marv Wolfman won the job after a few different writers either passed on the job or were kicked off of it. In his intent to write the series, Wolfman went back and reread the original novel by Stoker and that is the sole influence on his version of the character. He had never seen a vampire or Dracula film and wasn’t a fan of them.
It’s a good thing for comics and horror in particular that Wolfman took the work of Stoker to heart and wrote the book with that in mind. The series went on to be the longest-running comic book with the villain as the title character. Seventy issues plus the odd special and what-not--unheard of in it’s time and impossible in the current comic market.
But then, that's Dracula for you... he'll grab ya!
Sources (besides my own opinion and experience reading these fine comics) cited: