Hello and welcome to another week of comic book history in Ye Olde School Café! In this week’s installment, we’ll be checking out a story starring my favorite hero in the Marvel Universe, Dr. Strange! Back in his monthly series (vol. 1, 1974), early on he had an encounter with the lord of vampires, Dracula! It only lasted two issues (one in Dr. Strange, and one in Tomb of Dracula), but it served as a spring board for this later story line. Written by Roger Stern, with art by Dan Green and Terry Austin (Doctor Strange #58-62, 1983).
The story actually begins in issue #58, where writer Roger Stern starts off with the introduction of Hannibal King. He and the Doc meet while King is investigating the death and the estate liquidation of a man named Douglas Royce. He was killed, and Dr. Strange finds out that two demons were responsible, but never why the act was perpetrated. Well, this leads him to the estate, and a meeting with King. The Doc forces King to reveal his true nature and purpose, and then King informs the Doc that his recent findings point in the direction of cults, demons, and more importantly, Dracula!
The next issue shows Dr. Strange, Hannibal King, and Sara Wolfe as they try to understand the situation. As King and Sara talk, Doctor Strange remembers his last encounter with Dracula, but it seems hazy. He uses his all seeing Eye of Agamotto, and it reveals that Mephisto helped to numb his memories to this event. They then decide to set out to find and destroy Dracula before it’s too late.
Over in Chicago, Dracula is alive and well, and has a cult of followers to obey his commands. Dracula departs for some “dinner,” but the cultists keep chanting. Their chants then release two “Children of the Night” (some sort of spirits), and they feel another presence that they must confront. King then tells Sara about their mutual friend, Douglas Royce. It seems later in his life, Douglas became interested in Native American folklore, and King appears to think there was more to it than just a hobby. One evening King followed a scent of blood into the park, and saw Douglas hovering over a dead carcass. After a quick misunderstanding, the two were attacked by these “Children of the Night,” but they didn’t count on King’s extra abilities, and soon fled. The two worked together for a while, trying to find their attackers, and did eventually find their lair, but not the pair of evil siblings. King took a case in England, and not long after received a telegram from Doug, stating he was onto something big. By the time he returned from England, though, Doug was dead.
King goes on to further explain that witnesses have said that Dracula looks younger, and now wears a beard. He tells Strange that vampires don’t grow facial hair. Also, that Dracula and his minions have set their sights on a book called The Darkhold. A warning by Doug on his telegram also read, “beware The Darkholders.” Just as he finishes that sentence, two enormous hawks smash through the window, and tell them that they should’ve heeded that warning! As the two hawks try to kill them, Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to open a portal to another dimension, and he, King, and the two hawks are swept away.
In this other dimension, King is disoriented a bit, so Strange engages the two beasts. He holds his own for a bit, but then one of them goes after King. He gets furious, and then changes into a giant wolf-like creature, and nearly kills one of them. Both of them disappear, pledging allegiance to Ch’thon. As King and Strange return to their home dimension, Sara is relieved to see that they’re OK. They then head for Strange’s home, to make a game plan going forward.
Well, that’s it for now, but return next time, as we’ll see a couple of Avengers join the fight, and Dracula make his final move for the book of power! See you next time!