A New Comics Wednesday Present [no regifting]

I recently had an ill-considered flirtation with most of small pile of Steve Ditko's greywash comics that weren't his "Mr. A" work. The following panels are from a Marv Wolfman-written story in some gawd-forsaken late issue of one of Marvel's B&W horror magazines. TOMB OF DRACULA #2, I think but don't care.

This story reads like one of those backdoor pilots for a new character that Marvel loved to shove onto stands disguised as Annuals for their flagship characters ["Step Aside, Spidey! INSERTNAMEHERE has Arrived!!!"] only written for the more sophisticated Marvel reader. So, this is a Dracula comic without Dracula but with lots of sexiness [sexiness being to sex what truthiness is to truth] and a 12-year-old's concept of how adults talked during Carter's Administration. I was going to write "Here comes the pain:" and give a capsule synopsis of this rambling incoherent wreck of a comic, but I've already forgotten what little of the plot I understood after trying to read it twice.

When you hear old fanboys babble about how Ditko's level of craft has never been less than impeccable through his entire career, you can't help but admire the devotion they must have to be able to build and retain such massive blind spots. Every line the man drew for Marvel for the first few years of his '70s return couldn't radiate "FUCK YOU ALL" more if he had drawn them with just graphite dust and his middle fingers.

Every picture tells a story, but in this case we'll all be better off pretending that it doesn't:

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Like I said, Dracula does briefly show up in the piece -- my first read-through, I thought it was actually two different stories -- as some sort of prologue that really showcases the golden ear for dialogue and character throughout. Ditko totally did not draw this with the meter running.

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You know, most of us would make a joke about how cute it is when virgins write sex scenes, but I'm going to choose to see this as brilliant, Hemingway-esque minimalism. Sure, that second panel isn't "For sale, baby shoes, never used," or even "Hills Like White Elephants," but in that one line of dialogue -- "Handsome, I'll give you three reasons" lies a hard life lived, even for a floozy with a statue's hairstyle and character speech patterns that even Sam Fuller was embarrassed to use by the time this comic was published.

"Three reasons" implies that she's missing at least one of the four standard "reasons" the average, intact woman has to entice a disinterested, caped man into having sex; she's technically missing two if its the "reason" that arrives installed in pairs direct from the factory. I'd like to think that this woman has no ass to interest Dracula or anyone else, and that's why the crappy dialogue comes out of her mouth. Backdoor pilot, indeed.

Holy fuckin' shit, here it comes!

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Satanic Jawas With Ditko Hands!

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Never mind using Aleister Crowley, you want your Scandinavian Black Metal demo to sound totally evil, you sample in some Jawa babbling and slow it dowwwwwwnnnnnnn.

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This is the antihero of the story, but i can see why he never caught on. Still, a vigilante in a trench coat, fedora and faceless graphicsy mask who narrates in a torrent of purple-prose logorrhea -- nah, there's no way such a character would ever catch on, no matter who wrote him.

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I like that he calls them "sycophants" with "bloated, piggish hands" -- the only thing keeping this panel from being an appropriately shitty political cartoon are tags citing the Satanic Jawas as Congress and proto-Rorschach's sister as, well, just about any issue.

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I'm not even going to dignify this panel with a comment.

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Is the Hell Brand really an X or was Ditko giving the drawing as much time and care as I gave the reading by this point? Maybe he didn't want any part of this ... madness either.

[Next Wednesday, I have some genuinely awesome greywash Ditko panels to share.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read this many years ago when it came out. I remember liking it for all the wrong reasons. In some ways it seemed like the dirtiest Marvel comic I'd ever read. If I'm not mistaken, if you read between the lines, isn't the "Ditko Face" guy's sister on the inverted cross raped by a Cthulhu like tentacle? Jeez, even the brother/sister thing seemed "wrong." Did Wolfman plot this thing or did he just write the dialog over Ditko's plot? Your mentioning sex scenes written by a virgin implies this was Ditko's show all the way. Ditko was fine when taking on corporate corruption but didn't know squat about basic male/female relationships.