Comic Book Legends Revealed #216
Welcome to the two-hundred and sixteenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and fifteen.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend last week’s Movie Legends Revealed, which possibly features a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle appearing in Army of Darkness?!
Speaking of armies of darkness, this week is a special theme week – all legends related to vampires!!
COMIC LEGEND: The Comics Code Authority’s attitude towards vampires is not as cut and dry as the Code itself might suggest.
Something that’s often difficult to understand when it comes to the people enforcing rules such as the Comics Code is that is very often a lot more give and take than the enforcers would like you to think, particularly with something like the Comics Code, which was a voluntary oversight group.
Therefore, when the Comics Code says (as it does, in the 1954 original version of the Code):
Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
The enforcers of the Code knew enough to get the gist of the idea behind the rule rather than the exact wording of the rule.
The idea behind the rule was to curtail the (seen at the time as) excessively graphic horror comics of the early 1950s.
That said, vampires basically stayed out of comics for the rest of the 1950s. In fact, even the comic companies that did not submit their books to the Comics Code (Gilbertson, Gold Key and Dell, for instance – Dell had their own code – “A Pledge to Parents” which stated: “The Dell code eliminates entirely, rather than regulates, objectionable material”) shied away from showing vampires.
Dell, notably, tried out a traditional vampire comic in 1962 with Dracula.
And four years later, Dell brought Dracula back, this time as a superhero (weird, right?)…
However, during the mid-60s, the Comics Code Authority began allowing vampires to appear in comics, but only if they appeared strictly in humor comics, not horror comics.
So American Comics Group quickly had a vampire fight Herbie, the Fat Fury…
(They also had Herbie fight a mummy!…
and DC Comics introduced basically ALL of the Universal monsters (Frankenstein’s monster, the Werewof and Dracula) appear as supporting characters for the remainder of The Adventures of Bob Hope, from mid-1965 until early 1968, all along with the superhero Super-Hip, who was Bob’s normal, boring nephew who turned into the superhero Super-Hip (Bob’s nephew attended a high school where the monsters were the faculty)…
By the late 1960s, especially with the success of Warren Publishing’s horror comic magazines, the whole “anti-vampire” position among the comics world was loosening up, noted by Gold Key coming out with a Dark Shadows comic book.
Eventually, the Comics Code determined that vampires weren’t so bad after all, and ended up changing the vampire ban to instead:
Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with, walking dead or torture shall not be used. Vampires, ghouls, and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high-caliber literary works written by Edgar Allan Poe, Saki (H.H. Munro), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and other respected authors whose works are read in schools throughout the world.
Soon, a vampire boom time in comics was coming!
COMIC LEGEND: The success of Morbius helped to get the Comics Code Authority to relax the restrictions on vampires.
In the pages of my book, Was Superman a Spy?, I do a quick piece on the false belief that Morbius the Living Vampire was labeled as such to avoid the aforementioned ban on the use of vampires.
However, another story that has surrounded the creation of Morbius is, as follows (from Morbius’ Wikipedia page, which I am posting not as a slight to Wikipedia, but just to note that this is, indeed, something that is believed to be true):
In part because of the success of Morbius, the Comic Code was liberalized on the subject of vampires and other horror characters several months later, allowing Marvel and other publishers to use vampires such as Count Dracula.
This is not true.
The clause mentioned in the previous legend that lifted the ban on vampires occurred early in 1971, February 1st, to be precise – Morbius did not appear until later in the year (cover date Octobr 1971).
Roy Thomas has said a few times over the years that Morbius was specifically a response to the changed Comics Code. The Living Vampire angle was just to make him unique and more heroic-sounding.
COMIC LEGEND: In the late 1970s/very early 1980s, Toei Animation did a Tomb of Dracula series in Japan!
In the late 1970s, Marvel struck a deal with Toei Animation, the famous Japanese animation company, to produce animated cartoons starring Marvel characters that would air in Japan.
The deal ended up only producing a single animated project, which was released as a made-for-TV movie in Japan.
Out of ALL of Marvel’s comic properties, the only one to make it to pilot was The Tomb of Dracula!
The show was released in 1980 as a TV special called Yami no Teio Kyuketsuki Dracula (Dracula: Vampire Emperor of Darkness) It aired on the TV Asahi network.
The special was really quite faithful to the overall storyline of Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan and Tom Palmer.
Check out these screencaps…
Here’s Frank Drake, trying to karate kick Dracula…
and here is Quincy Harker and Rachel van Helsing….
The story was by by Tadaaki Yamazaki, who actually at least mentioned the original comic creators, Wolfman, Colan and Palmer in the credits as the inspiration for the story.
I don’t believe this has ever been OFFICIALLY released on DVD in the United States, and they really should get on that (they released a dubbed copy on VHS in the U.S. in a limited release back in, like, 1980-81)!!
Reader Bic shared a link with a great article about the movie at Anime News Network. Check it out here – there’s lot more screen caps in that article!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you likely know by now, at the end of April, my book finally came out!
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!