Friday, September 7, 2018

Here There Be Monsters, Part Six: Vampire Tales, Volume 1

 I wish I was old enough to be on board with the Marvel magazines in their heyday, because they were the shit.

 I was probably three or four years old when VAMPIRE TALES originally appeared on newsstands, so I almost completely missed out on the Marvel magazine boom. As I got older, I picked up THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, and an occasional issue of the Dracula magazine, but I missed out on the really good stuff. Thankfully, Marvel has been collecting some of their great old magazines recently, and I am loving these collections.

 The great thing about these old Marvel magazines was that they functioned almost as a variety show on paper. VAMPIRE TALES, VOLUME 1 collects the first three issues of VAMPIRE TALES, and those issues contained serialized adventures of Morbius, The Living Vampire and Satana, classic reprints by folks like Stan Lee and Carmine Infantino, adaptations of classic horror stories, movie reviews, photo features about Vampire films and the actors that starred in them, and an ongoing text feature by Chris Claremont. You get a lot of bang for your buck, and if something isn't to your liking, wait a few pages and you'll get something new.

 The talent on display in this collection is staggering: Steve Gerber, Pablo Marcos, Ron Goulart, Roy Thomas, Winslow Mortimer, Gardner Fox, Paul Reinman, Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, John Romita, Jim Steranko, Carlos Garzon, Klaus Janson, Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Esteban Maroto, Chris Claremont, John Polidori, August Derleth, Stan Lee, and Tony Isabella. The print version is digest-sized, and there have been a lot of complaints that the artwork and text are hard to read at that size. I bought a digital copy when Marvel and Amazon were doing those crazy 99 cent sales, and the collection looks phenomenal on my ten-inch Fire tablet. The bulk of the book is in black-and-white, but the painted covers are featured in full color. There are no extras at all, but I have no complaints. There's a lot of great reading and art here, most of it very high quality.

 One thing that struck me, and I vaguely remember this from when I was little, is the nonchalant inclusion of Satanism in these stories.....At least once an issue, we meet a friendly person who just happens to worship Satan. They have no evil plot, they don't really figure into the story....they're just there to spread the good news about Satan. Odd stuff now, but I remember Satan being everywhere when I was a kid.....THE EXORCIST and ROSEMARY'S BABY had started a satanic panic, and you couldn't throw a rock without hitting something related to Satan. Seeing so much of it in this collection makes you wonder if any of these stoned-out writers were secretly worshiping old scratch....

 VAMPIRE TALES, VOLUME 1 earns a strong eight out of ten Satans:

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