Superheroes Vs. Dracula!
"My revenge has just begun! I spread it
over centuries and time is on my side."
–Count Dracula (from chapter 23 of Bram Stoker’s Dracula)
Much like Mary Shelly’s immortal Frankenstein Monster, Bram Stoker’s equally renowned Dracula has grown far beyond his gothic literature roots and assumed a prominent place in our modern mythology. With that status has come countless appearances of the Lord of Vampires across many decades, media and genres…including superhero comic books!
What better way to sink our teeth into Dracula’s history among the superfolk than with the granddaddy of superheroes himself? The wonderful Garcia Lopez cover for Superman #344 (1980) featured a thoroughly freaked-out Superman getting attacked by Dracula and a truly chilling Frankenstein Monster. Despite the Super Scaredy-Cat act on the cover, our hero was actually quite calm as he dealt with the two monsters in the story itself. Dropping Franky with a super-punch, he then subdued Dracula in unique Superman fashion: by creating a miniature sun using only a hydrogen balloon! Get it? Sunlight? Vampires?
The Man of Steel’s next encounter with the Transylvanian Terror came in Superman (vol. 2) #180 (2002), as Dracula terrorized visiting Daily Planet reporters Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen. In the closing pages, Dracula managed to bite Superman’s neck but was destroyed by the “daylight energy” of Big Blue’s solar-charged blood. Or something.
Fellow DC Comics legend Batman crossed paths with the infamous Count in Batman & Dracula: Red Rain (1992). Under the banner of DC’s “Elseworlds” series of alternate reality tales, Batman fended off an invasion of Gotham City by Dracula and his underlings. In a tragic twist, Batman became a vampire himself, but not before he used his wits and supernatural powers to destroy Dracula.
It was Dracula vs. Zorro when 19th century aristocrat Don Diego crossed paths with a mysterious Transylvanian nobleman aboard a sailing ship in…well…Dracula Versus Zorro (1993).
As novel as these varied Dracula/superhero encounters were, few were as entertaining as Dracula’s clashes with the Marvel Comics stable of superheroes. Starring in his own critically acclaimed Tomb of Dracula title, this version of Dracula was a complex, well-defined villain who occupied the dark fringes of the otherwise bright and bombastic Marvel Universe. Occasionally, those two worlds would intersect, making for some unlikely (yet always entertaining) matchups.
One of the first occurred when Spider-Man and Dracula found themselves at cross-purposes (no pun intended) aboard a ritzy cruise ship, as webhead tried to protect a life-saving vaccine that Drac wanted destroyed! It all happened in Giant-Size Spider-Man #1 (1974), incidentally one of my favorite covers.
It was only a matter of time before the supernatural threat of Dracula intersected with Doctor Strange, Marvel’s resident Sorcerer Supreme. Despite their mutual fondness for billowing capes, vision-obscuring collars, and thin mustaches, Drac and Doc clashed numerous times throughout the 1970’s and into the 80’s. Beginning here with a crossover bridging Tomb of Dracula #44 and Doctor Strange #14 (1976), their rivalry would apparently come to an end in Doctor Strange #62 (1983) with the “final” destruction of Dracula at the hands of the good doctor….garnering a skeptical “Yeah, right!” from comics fandom.
Despite his alleged death, Dracula turned up once again in Avengers Annual #16 (1987) as a member of “The Legion of the Unliving”, a team of dead heroes and villains revived by a cosmic manipulator named the Grandmaster.
Encountering another Marvel superteam, a demon-possessed Dracula quite literally crashed a team gathering in Defenders #95 (1981). The outnumbered and addle-brained Count was easily defeated by the Defenders, who then enlisted their teammate Damian Hellstrom (a.k.a. The Son of Satan) to exorcise the demon from Dracula.
Say what you want about the wicked ways of Dracula, but at least he doesn’t share humankind’s prejudice and hatred toward the world’s mutants. As the X-Men discovered in Uncanny X-Men #159 and X-Men Annual #6 (1982), he’s an equal-opportunity bloodsucker!
History repeats itself on the cover of Generation X vs. Dracula (1998), as Dracula meticulously re-creates the scene from the X-Men Annual above.
Trying out his new Anne Rice/Harlequin Romance look, Dracula compares feral snarls and fang sizes with Wolverine on the cover of Marvel Shadows and Light #1 (1997).
Okay, so Dracula’s met the Avengers, the Defenders, and most of the X-Men franchise…so that leaves the Fantastic Four, right? Could it be that the Lord of Vampires has never met Marvel’s “first family”?
Well…sort of. While it’s true Drac never met the famous foursome in their present form, he did encounter a pre-Fantastic Four Susan and Johnny Storm in The Storms #2 (2001).
As if holding his own against Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme and their assorted superteams wasn’t enough, two additional clashes proved Dracula could go toe to toe with even the most powerful of cosmic beings.
In Thor #333 (1983), Drac bewitched the goddess Sif, whose Asgardian blood supplied the vampire with enough power to take on her thunder god boyfriend!
Reprinting a story from Tomb of Dracula #50 (1976), the self-explanatory Silver Surfer vs. Dracula (1994) featured the Count’s shockingly lopsided beat-down of the ex-Herald of Galactus…courtesy of a little super-charged assist from Satan himself.
Wow…busy little vampire, wasn’t he?
I wonder…could Bram Stoker ever have imagined that the same Count Dracula of his 1897 novel would one day be duking it out with caped crusaders, space gods, or chrome-plated surfers? Doubtful…but if he did, I can’t help but think he’d be amused by his vampire’s long, strange road to pop cultural immortality.