Dracula (Blah!)

If you happened to be reading Ink Puddle last year, you may have noticed my homage to Frankenstein imagery in book illustration.  So, instead of posting my Halloween post after Halloween, which is just silly (kind of like a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror playing in November), I figured I would step up my game and post early this year.  I even had the idea of running a contest for a FREE GIVEAWAY in honor of the macabre month of October! Muah-ha-ha!

I think that like Frankenstein illustration, which owes much imagery to its 20th century film adaptation, the imagery of Dracula is inevitably influenced by the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi. I have been told that Bela Lugosi really sent the women swooning with his European exoticism and “sexiness” when we appeared in Hamitlon Deane’s Broadway adaptation of Stoker’s novel.  He was then tapped to star in the Universal film.

Lugosi’s piercing stare and his histrionic movements were necessary to project on stage and they became indelible in the minds of people who watch the film. His tuxedo, his metal pendant, his widow’s peak, everything about him became a part of what it meant to be Dracula. But what about the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler?

My original Vlad drawing was stolen, I suspect by a US Postal employee

It is generally thought that although Bram Stoker did not take the historical details of Vlad’s life into account for his novel but that he did base his description of Count Dracula on the woodcut of Vlad in the pamphlet Die geschicht dracole waide (1488).  If you look at comic books and dime novel adaptations of the adventures of Dracula, they tend to be modeled after Lugosi’s Drac, but comics and the Francis Ford Coppola adaptation seem to favor the historical Vlad.  I could have literally posted dozens of Dracula comic covers, but I did not feel that was necessary.  For more Tomb of Dracula covers, check out http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/tomb-of-dracula.

Drac looks good, even while battling Mr. T!

Edward Gorey not only illustrated a book edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but he also designed the sets for 1977 revival play adapted by Hamilton Deane.

Loving the batwing cape.

These photos are of the Edward Gorey Dracula toy set, bought for me by my pale-skinned, sun-averse girlfriend, Elizabeth.  Come to think of it, she is of both Germanic and English descent, just like Dracula…Hmmm.

I like Gorey’s use of a swarthy mustache for Dracula

Gorey’s Dracula is wearing a tuxedo, he has the cape, and his hair seems to be combed with pomade, but keep in mind, his Dracula was meant for a play adaptation based on the novel.  The 1931 film was based on the play as well as the novel.  So, there is a level of adoption of previous texts as well as expectations from the audience.  Again, I bring up the idea that the Universal monster movies are often more influential than the original textual sources when it comes to the popular imagination.  I love all of Gorey’s drawings, but I like his focus on the cape as batwings, which if you ever played Dracula as as kid, you know is exactly how it should be.  Whether you have a $1.00 plastic cape or you are using a towel, you hide your face with your cape, a la Bela Lugosi, and then you transform into a bat with cape wings! Duh!

Art by Barry Moser

Just a couple of weeks ago, I happened to see Barry Moser’s illustrations for stories by Edgar Allan Poe at “Picturing Poe,” a super cool book illustration exhibit at The Brandywine River Museum.  I highly recommend it.  Anyway, Moser is a woodcut artist, like Lynd Ward and Rockwell Kent.  His high contrast, black and white artwork blend very stylized realism with old school art process and are reminiscent of black and white film if not the Universal movies themselves.

You can win this!

Look at the image at the left.  Pretty spooky, right?  What is it about horror imagery and use of black and white?  Was it the limitations of the printing press and black and white film?  Or is it perhaps something super primal, like maybe humans used to see in black and white, like dogs, hundreds of thousands of years ago, and we subconsciously think of fight-or-flight fear imagery in terms of black and white?  Is it some kind of shared collective memory of “fear”?  Am I just pulling this out of my ass? Maybe.

The black and white imagery of Dracula found in book editions, the Universal films of 1931, comic book interiors, and the illustrations of Barry Moser really just provide me an excuse for writing up a post on one of literature’s most enduring and imagination-exciting characters.  Whether you think he is scary or cheezy, Dracula is here to stay, and you are bound to see a lot of him every October.

By now you may be asking “So, what are you giving away, Pat?”  Well, I am glad you have read this far down on the page to find out!  I picked up The Curse of Dracula for 50% off at my local comic shop (aptly named The Comic Crypt), and I am passing the savings on to my readers (and then some)!  Just leave a comment for this post by clicking “Comments” and tell me what you see when you close your eyes and think of Dracula.  Bela Lugosi? Gary Oldman? A cape and teeth?  Be as specific or abstract as you like.  One comment will be picked at random to receive this graphic novel written by Marv Wolfman (oh yeah!) and drawn by Gene Colan.  Retail value equals $9.95 + whatever it costs for me to ship it.

RULES: Only one comment per user will be considered.  Readers trying to scam me by using multiple identities will be scorned and poked with a sharp stick.  No staff members or family members of staff members of The Ink Puddle Art Blog can qualify.  You must leave contact info, DM me your contact info on Twitter email me at inkpuddle@hotmail.com so I can notify the winner.  Winner will be chosen and notified on October 12th, so I can mail it and it will get to you before Halloween. Good luck!

7 thoughts on “Dracula (Blah!)”

  1. I didn’t read the actual Dracula novel by Bram Stoker until I was an adult–but that’s the version of Dracula that stuck with me. It’s kind of a hazy image–a very proper but terribly frightening gentleman.

    P.S. I’d watch out for your girlfriend. It sounds like she’s trying to get you to develop positive feelings about vampires.

    1. Did you know that Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan (see the comic I am giving away!) created Blade the comic book character?

Comments are closed.