In the realm of horror, few names resonate like that of Count Dracula. The enigmatic vampire lord has been haunting the pages of literature and the panels of comic books with a chilling grace that continues to allure us. But his very presence in new mediums sparked the need to create characters who were his anithesis – modern-day Van Helsings if you will. Marvel Comics’ venture into the vampire lore succeeded in not only birthing a series that honed the essence of fear but also introduced a memorable and cult-favorite character who would become a horror icon in his own right – Blade, The Vampire Killer. His journey began in the pages of Tomb of Dracula #10, an issue that is often hailed for its fresh take on vampire folklore and its bold introduction of the new King of Cool, Blade! Today, we sink our teeth into this particular issue, exploring the narrative, the eerie ambiance, and the relentless battle between good and evil. And that’s not all! We’ll also take a look at Blade’s evolution and his entry into the world of film and thus, horror stardom.
But first, the comic that started it all:
Tomb of Dracula # 10
Cover Art: Gil Kane, Tom Palmer, Gaspar Saladino
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Gene Colan
Inker: Jack Abel
Colorist: Petra Goldberg
Letterer: Denise Vladimer
Editor: Roy Thomas
The tale unfolds on the gloomy docks of London, where a young couple finds themselves in the clutches of a trio of sinister vampires, members of ‘Dracula’s Legion.’ Before a dark fate could befall the young lovers, a new face emerges: Blade, the stalker from the shadows! His ‘wooden knives’ ready to sever the unholy lives of the vampires! And boy does he get some severing done.
With ease and finesse, Blade eradicates the threat, but is then confronted by killjoy vampire hunters Quincy Harker and his daughter Edith, who critique his brash methods.
Jealous much, Quincy?
The narrative then sweeps us away to the luxurious setting of a private cruise ship, the ‘Michele,’ chartered by the filthy rich Gabriel Trulaine. Unbeknownst to his guests, Count Dracula is among them, masquerading as a mere man with a rare blood disorder. His sinister motive? To manipulate the wealthy and influential for his dark purposes and, if they don’t obey, turn the cruise into a second voyage of The Demeter! (*see Bram Stoker’s original Dracula, if this reference escapes you ;)).
Amidst charm and treachery, Dracula’s true nature is revealed, leading to a confrontational crescendo with Blade on the ship’s deck. A battle of wills and skill unfolds, with Dracula narrowly escaping, vowing to commence with a deadly vendetta against Blade post haste!
Tomb of Dracula #10 does a commendable job of threading horror, action, and a dose of mystery into its narrative fabric. The eerie atmosphere is palpable from the get-go, and the introduction of Blade is executed with a blend of mystique and bold assertiveness that leaves readers craving for more. His contrasting methods to the traditional vampire hunters add a layer of complexity to the ongoing battle against Dracula.
However, there are moments where the narrative could delve deeper into the psychological torment of being hunted by Dracula, a feature that could have enriched the horror ambiance. The dialogues, at times, feel rushed, not providing ample room for character interaction to brew.
The artwork is gripping, capturing the gothic essence of the horror genre proficiently. The dark, grim visuals intertwined with the narrative make the menace of Dracula and the courage of Blade tangible to readers. However, Jack Abel on inks is no Tom Palmer, though he does an adequate job. Look on the bright side – at least it wasn’t Vince Coletta (see TOD #9).
The Best Bloody Bits
- Clifton Graves, Dracula’s fawning manservant, botching the introduction of the Lord of Vampires to the passengers of the ‘Michele’ with his inane stuttering and stage fright. A bit of comedy there by writer Marv Wolfman.
- Blade going Thunderball with a James Bond scuba scene that is as epic as it sounds.
- Dracula seducing a naive blonde bombshell by… by complimenting her brains.🤪
- Blade pimp-slapping a vampire.
- Dracula getting mobbed by a crowd of dilettante fops, then turning to mist and leaping onto the guardrail like some demented circus monkey.
- Clifton Graves getting left behind as Dracula blows the ‘Michele’ to smithereens. Here follows their final exchange:
- Clifton: Master! Come back! Please — I’ve served you well!
Dracula: You were an incompetent idiot, Graves — and you’ve outlived your usefulness. Farewell, Graves — Ha Ha HA!
- Clifton: Master! Come back! Please — I’ve served you well!
This issue merits a rating of 4/5 ‘wooden knives.’ It pioneers a significant character in the horror comic realm and delivers a captivating, albeit sometimes surface-skimming, tale of dark adventure and the relentless pursuit of evil. The promise of a deeper enmity between Blade and Dracula leaves a lingering intrigue that beckons us to venture further into the series.
Tomb of Dracula #10 is a cornerstone in horror comics, opening the crypt door to a saga that has left an indelible mark in the annals of comic history. Its legacy continues when Blade, who was birthed in this issue, made his transition to the silver screen in 1998 and changed the course of comic book films forever.
Blade: From Comic to Screen
The emergence of Blade in the pages of Tomb of Dracula didn’t merely introduce a new hero to the horror comic realm; it reflected a significant cultural moment in the 1970s known as the Blaxploitation era. This was a time marked by the birth of black heroes in mainstream media, a revolutionary endeavor to bring forth representation and challenge stereotypes. The Blaxploitation era echoed through various mediums, including comics, crafting characters that were as stylish as they were formidable.
Blade was a breath of fresh, albeit eerie, air in this movement. His creation was a part of a broader narrative that also saw the rise of iconic black screen heroes like Jim Kelly, who showcased martial arts prowess and a cool demeanor in films like “Enter the Dragon,” Shaft, played brilliantly by the late Richard Roundtree, the smooth-talking, tough-as-nails private detective, and Foxy Brown, a fearless force of revenge-fueled justice. Each of these characters defied the racial norms of the time, carving out a space where black heroes could thrive, be celebrated, and feared in the case of antagonists. Blade stood among these towering figures, his vampire-hunting crusade resonating with the audience’s thirst for justice and the unique blend of horror and heroism.
However, Blade’s narrative did more than just echo the sentiments of the Blaxploitation era; it transcended into a legacy that would later be rejuvenated on the silver screen. The 1990s saw the reimagining of Blade in a form that would leave a lasting imprint on both the horror genre and superhero lore. The premier of the first “Blade” movie in 1998, with Wesley Snipes donning the iconic trench coat and sword, brought a darker, grittier superhero to the forefront, far removed from the often sanitized portrayals of comic book heroes. This Blade was a synthesis of 1970s cool with 1990s action-horror aesthetics, carving through the undead with a style that was as sharp as his signature sword.
The evolution of Blade from comic panels to the big screen mirrored a broader acceptance and anticipation for multi-dimensional black heroes. It also showcased how the horror genre could seamlessly blend with superhero narratives, creating a sub-genre that could thrill, chill, and inspire in equal measure. As Blade sliced through vampire hordes, he also cut through the fabric of conventional hero portrayals, creating a legacy that continues to reverberate through the annals of horror, action, and superhero genres alike. His journey from the eerie docks of London in Tomb of Dracula #10 to the dark, blood-soaked alleys of the cinematic underworld is a testimony to the enduring allure and significance of Blade’s character in the cultural zeitgeist.
Blade’s entrance into the Marvel horror realm enriched the already thrilling narrative soil, ready to bear the fruits of complex, enduring heroes. His stand against evil resonated with readers, providing a dark, yet hopeful narrative amidst the backdrop of gothic horror that Marvel masterfully crafted. Beyond the eerie setting, Blade emerged as a symbol, a black hero with a narrative weight that extended beyond the pages of the comic.
In the broader scope, Blade joined the illustrious ranks of iconic black heroes like Luke Cage, Black Panther, Misty Knight, and Black Lightning. Each of these characters carried a narrative that was as much about heroism as it was about representation and breaking free from the shackles of racial stereotypes. They were more than just characters; they were harbingers of a change that was long overdue.
Blade’s narrative, however, carried a unique flavor. His battle against the dark forces was not just a quest for justice; it was a battle against the inner demons and the haunting past that often accompany those who walk the fine line between light and shadow. His character represented the eternal struggle, the unyielding fight against forces that seek to shroud the world in fear. And thus, Blade didn’t just fight vampires; he fought for a spot in the readers’ hearts, a quest he undoubtedly triumphed in.
Looking back at Blade’s first appearance, it’s not just a nostalgic journey through the inked pages of horror lore; it’s a celebration of a character who defied norms and carved a legacy etched in blood and honor. His evolution from the haunting pages of Tomb of Dracula to the silver screen is a tale of enduring resilience and the power of well-crafted, representative narratives.
As we close the crypt on this chapter, The Longbox of Darkness invites you to share your thoughts on Blade’s first appearance and his legacy in the comments below. How do you think Blade influenced the horror genre in comics and film? We’d love to hear your opinions!
Don’t forget to subscribe to LOD for more deep dives into the eerie, thrilling, and ever-evolving world of horror comics. Your journey through the dark just got a companion in Blade, and there’s much more lurking in the shadows awaiting your further discovery.
Thanks for reading, bloodsuckers! Until next time, sweet screams!
All images are owned by their respective copyright owners unless stated and are used for promotional and review purposes only.
Disclosure: The Longbox of Darkness is reader supported. Clicking on the links we provide may help us earn an affiliate commission at zero cost to you if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Read our affiliate disclaimer to learn more.
To all you fellow fear fans out there, thank you for supporting LOD. You rock!