Interview by Thomas A. Tuna
There are those comic book icons who are instantly identified by the books they wrote. Think Stan Lee, you come up with the Fantastic Four and Spidey. Consider Roy Thomas, you conjure up Conan and the Avengers. Chris Claremont? The X-Men, of course. How about Denny O'Neil? I see Green Lantern, Green Arrow and The Batman.
And then there's Marv Wolfman. Despite his enormous contributions to the superhero stable through the years, one character--and one award-winning title--comes to mind: Dracula, King of the Vampires.
Along with oustanding penciller Gene Colan and inker supreme Tom Palmer, Wolfman chronicled the adventures of the immortal Prince of Darkness in the color-splashed pages of Tomb of Dracula to the immense joy of comic book readers everywhere. An unqualified success as looked back on, Wolfman, nevertheless, didn't hold out much hope for the title when he assumed the writing reins.
"Frankly," he said, "since there had been three other writers on the series, each writing two issues each, I assumed the book was good as dead and that I was put on it because I couldn't hurt it any further. I did not expect anything but a few issues worth of work." Great writer; bad prophet.
As Wolfman pointed out--and as many comics fans will remember, TOD was hardly the writer's first foray into the realm of illustrated horror. He had been scripting monster and horror stories for DC and Marvel, and I was the editor at Warren Magazines for Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. "On top of that," he explained, "when I was just a fan, I published a horror fanzine called Stories of Suspense that actually co-published Stephen King's first story."
Wolfman added that he wasn't even that well-versed in Dracula lore at the time he took over TOD. "I had read a kid's version of the novel years before, but not the whole thing," he said. "I had never seen any of the Dracula movies. To this date, I've only seen a very few and I never saw the original Lugosi movie.
"But once I was assigned to it by Roy Thomas, I read the full novel and decided the approach Stoker took, telling the stories from the point of view of the vampire hunters, was the only way to go."
Wolfman also knew he was breaking new ground in comic book history with this full-length horror book. "There had never been a horror series before in comics," he said. "Only one-shot horror stories such as at EC. So there was no template on how to do it, which meant I decided to write what I really wanted to see, which was a story about characters the effect horror plays on them.
"Horror is in your mind and we couldn't do much physical violence in those days anyway--the Comics Code--so trying to create character-driven stories and have the horror come out of their reactions felt right," Wolfman added. "And, mostly, I was trying to write what I really wanted to see, as I never had a chance to do that previously. Roy set up the company where we were given a lot of freedom to do what we believed in. Also, I was working with Gene Colan who drew the best real people in comics so that let me write stories about real emotions."
As fans might expect, Wolfman looks back on his TOD years as a very happy time. "Tomb of Dracula was the book where I learned to write what I believed in. It taught me how to tell compelling character stories.
"Whether it's the highlight of my career, or one chapter, is up to others to decide," he said. "To me, it was the first chance I had to grow as a writer."
And the chance of a lifetime for lovers of the horror comic genre to savor wonderful tales of suspense, horror, love and death we will hold onto forever.