October 1, 2011

Ye Olde School Café: Vampire Tales vol. 1

A big what’s up to everyone out there! I’m glad to be back in the saddle after a week off. I’d like to thank Andrew for filling in for me last week in the Café! He did an admirable job, and hopefully he’ll be willing for more great DC stories in the future. Now, on to this week’s great adventure. As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s October, and nothing says October like a good old fashioned horror story, and have I got one for you! A little book called Vampire Tales vol. 1, to be exact. This book is packed full of hall-of-fame caliber writers and artists that includes Roy Thomas, Steve Gerber, Gardner Fox, Tony Isabella, Gerry Conway, Don McGregor, Jim Steranko, and more! Back in the 1970s, Marvel (Curtis) put out these fantastic magazines called Vampire Tales that were chock full of horror goodness. Not just stories, but also articles about movies from the past and present, screen shots, and all things horror related. I’ll highlight the book’s best stories instead of trying to put it all out there (17 stories – Volume 1 collects Vampire Tales #1-3). Alright, let’s get down to it!

First off, there are three Morbius stories. First, a tale of Morbius giving in to his blood lust in Los Angeles one night. Then he runs into a Satanic cult, “The Children of Satan,” or more specifically, its leader, a woman named Caroline. She tells him that she can see his thoughts and that she knows someone that can help him find the woman he’s looking for. They quickly make their way to Madame Laera, and the mystic uses her crystal ball to see a vision of the woman he is seeking. Morbius is shocked, then outraged to see that the woman is dead, and then he takes out his anger on the crystal ball by throwing it across the room and smashing it. Out of the murky mist comes a lizard-like beast that savagely attacks Morbius. After a bit of a throw-down, Morbius gains the upper hand and is overcome by his thirst. As he bites into the neck of his attacker, he’s enraged to find out that the beast has no blood. He then turns his anger towards the mystic and drains her of blood.

The next story I’ll talk about is one about Satana called, “The Kiss of Death.” This story begins with Satana watching as a group of Satan worshipers are being confronted by a priest and his followers. Satana quickly intercedes and sends the priest and his clan packing. We see that the “priest”  is not what he seems to be, though. Later, while wandering around L.A. with a new friend, Satana coaxes a young man to kiss her. She drains the man’s life force from him, leaving him for dead. Satana then goes and hangs out with one of the female members of the cult, but meanwhile the priest is talking about paying some thugs twenty thousand dollars to kill her. Hours later, a knock on the door reveals two henchmen that are there to end the lives of both girls. They smash the skull of the young girl, then turn their attention to Satana. She easily turns away their strikes, then lands two of her own, killing one of the men. The other tries to escape, but she surprises him with her quickness, and he winds up getting his soul siphoned out of him. As the priest is counting his cash, a knock at his door startles him. The next thing he sees is Satana, and she is also the last thing he sees.

Lastly, I’ll give you “Bats Belfry,” starring, well, vampires, of course. The first thing we see is a man dreaming about a young woman out on the moors at night, calling to him. As the man talks to a servant about the dream, the servant also claims to have had a dream about a beckoning vixen. Just as the men are trying to figure out what is going on, another servant busts into the room claiming he’s seen a ghost. The three men go into town to ask the villagers what they know of the property’s history. A butcher tells the men of a man named Baronet Lohrville that previously occupied the castle. And of how four young, innocent girls disappeared one night, and how the castle’s name was once Bats Belfry. This doesn’t make sense at first, because the men haven’t seen any bats, but that changes when they go down into the lower levels of the castle. A giant bat knocks one of them down, and then the men start to find odd clues to the happenings at this house in the past. While searching through the library, the men find an actual photograph of Lohrville, and also an edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula! One of the servants can’t stand the nightmares any longer, so he leaves the house. The other two men contemplate what their next move should be. One man tells the other that he’ll be going into the village to the church to get some holy water to help against the evil spirits. On his way back to the castle, he drops the holy water and claims he’s very tired and ill. His pale face tells of a familiar affliction. His friend then checks his neck and finds bite wounds that corroborate his “dreams” and reality. As the last servant leaves the home screaming in agony, the lord of the manor is left alone to find out what is really going on. He finds a book of spells and begins reading from it. It tells of all sorts of horrible things, and then he remembers the servant telling him of a gateway to hell in the basement. He enters it and finds nothing but death. Death in a sense of bodies, lifeless bodies strewn all over as far as the eye can see. Death in the most base meaning, as well. His own.

This book is nothing short of 1970s perfection, not only in horror, but any genre. Good stories, artwork that is very creepy, and a different spin on every tale. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up. I guarantee you’ll order the next volume. Speaking of which, next week be back here for that very next volume and more chills and thrills! See you next week!

Billy Dunleavy



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