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The Dracula File

by ModernPanther on September 20, 2017

Writers: Gerry Findley-Day; Ken Noble; Simon Furman

Artists: Eric Bradbury; Geoff Senior; Keith Page; Chris Weston

Publisher: Rebellion

 

 

At the height of the cold war, a dark figure in an East German military uniform flees across the Iron Curtain, desperate to escape the soviet state to a new life of possibility in the West.  East German border guards open fire on their escaping citizen. Bullets pierce his uniform. Still the figure stumbles onwards, collapsing just over the border and safe at last. Fatally wounded, the man is rushed to a British military hospital, where the authorities are eager to learn what information this defector has to share. Little do they know that they have welcomed the ancient evil that is Count Dracula.
 

Launched in 1984, Scream! was a children’s horror comic which emphasised comedy in order to get some terrifying moments past the censors. Scream! lasted only fifteen issues before industrial action made the comic financially untenable. These fifteen issued were packed with original stories from talented creators such as John Wagner and Alan Moore. Its sudden disappearance from newsagent’s shelves added to is mystique, as fans claimed that its lurid pages had finally fallen foul of Britain’s restrictive publishing laws. Scream! disappeared into legend.

 

In 2016, Rebellion Developments, publishers of 2000AD, purchased from publishing giants Egmont Group not just the rights not just to Scream!, but to a vast swathe of classic British comics. Rebellion launched their Treasury of British Comics imprint in order to republish some gems of the era. The collected Dracula File is one of the first of these classic stories chosen to be reprinted

 

Written mostly by the prolific Gerry Findley -Day, the Dracula File is the story of the Prince of Darkness terrorising 1980’s Britain, whilst former KGB agent Colonel Stakis tries to convince an unbelieving British establishment of the danger they have brought to their shores.

 

Eric Bradbury’s art blends gothic horror staples with images of ‘80’s Britain. The traditional tropes of Bram Stoker and Hammer Horror are all here; wolves, bats, gothic castles and foggy graveyards abound, but so do images of a mundane Britain of the 1980’s, of public transport and run down, rainy streets. Much of the story’s comedy comes from the clash of these two ideas - Dracula’s angry disappointment at a hotel bathtub standing in for a coffin, or his hiding inside a postbox to await his next victim. At the same time, though, there are some genuinely creepy moments as Dracula gradually builds an army of expendable servants, or attacks an innocent young woman on her way home from a party

 

Bradbury depicts the Count as a combination of the charming aristocrat of Bela Lugosi and the subhuman monster of Max Schreck. Bradbury’s Dracula is an eloquent, opera-cloak wearing beast, frequently appearing from shadows, wild eyed and baring fangs, to feast upon an innocent, or roaring abuse at his incompetent followers. The character is both the hunter and the hunted, but he is given no room to develop. Other characters come and go, whilst Dracula is the only constant throughout the entire run, but he exists only as a broadly written killer. Another Scream! alumni, Monster, was reprinted by Rebellion last year, and shows how monsterous characters could still have arcs, as the deformed and murderous "Uncle Terry! rampages across the country, leaving a surprising number of corpses in his wake - but Dracula himself has no arc. Even when the story digresses into flashback, which would have been the perfect opportunity to add meat to the villain's bones, he remains only an unsympathetic monster.

 

Originally published in five to six page episodes, the Dracula File is fast moving and relentless. The format required for the story to frequently recap, catching up from last week’s issue, whilst briskly moving forward. It is packed full of characters who appear briefly them disappear into the background. Potential heroes remain one dimensional and are quickly dispatched. The plot leaps from one set piece to the next- Dracula in the cinema, Dracula on the bus, Dracula at a fancy dress party. The style is very much of the time, and might appear some what outdated.

 

The sudden demise of Scream! Also means that the Dracula File isn’t given a chance to come to a satisfying conclusion. Dracula is pursued by the determined Colonel Stakis, and a final few episodes follow the exact same format of Stakis almost defeating the villain and failing. The stories slowly declining in quality before petering out.

 

Above all, and despite these issues, the Dracula File is fun. It’s ridiculous premise brilliantly combines the horrors of gothic fiction with the fears of the cold war era. It is packed full of atmospheric details, comedy, action, and some really creepy moments. The dark, inky and detailed art is perfect for the classically creepy aesthetic of British horror.   The writing is frenetic, wild and original.  The collected Dracula File sets a high bar for future collections from the Treasury of British Comics line, and is well worth picking up this hallowe'en.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Score:

10/10

A Look Inside