Review – The Dracula Files
by Gerry Finley-Day, Simon Furman, and Eric Bradbury
Reprinted by Hibernia press
Printed originally in the ill-fated Scream! Weekly comic in the Eighties, The Dracula Files apparently was seen as the more acceptable comic strip amidst the rest of the horror in that publication. However, upon closure of the weekly edition, the series was discontinued outside of some one-offs in subsequent Scream! Holiday specials. This collection is interesting in that not only does it compile all episodes from both the series, and one-offs, but also shows us some unlettered artwork from Eric Bradbury, indicating the series had been set to continue.
Written in large part by Gerry Finley-Day, the script pops along at quite a pace, despite a fair amount of corner panel expositions. He has squeezed a lot into each frame, and there are many frames per page, making Eric Bradbury having to fit it all in somehow.
It’s a funny plot – a strange figure ‘defects’, is badly shot up in the process, and the injured man is transported from East to West. He comes to British shores under the watchful gaze of MI5. Holed up in a stately manor ‘safe house’, we soon discover the ‘defector’ is actually the Prince of Darkness himself, Count Dracula! From this point onwards he goes on a spectacular spree of either draining folk of blood or making them his slaves through the power of his tainted blood.
Dracula is a fabulous figure, completely egotistical, exulting when he bests the mere mortals, and flying into fits of rage when his plans are thwarted. He is self-congratulatory when he traps his prey, all of whom seem too stupid to realise the menace until too late. This leads to all kinds of fun moments where The Evil One offs people in his inimitable style. Perhaps my favourite was when he traps people in a cinema while they are watching… wait for it… ‘Dracula’!
The plot holes abound, but let’s face it, we shouldn’t be taking this too seriously. That said, they do stand out at times. For example, he didn’t need to be invited into a cinema, but he did need to be invited into a house party and a taxi. Also, early episodes make a point of Dracula not having a reflection, yet one of the later one-off episodes saw him being caught out on creeping up on Stakis because of a mirror embedded in the rim of a police helmet.
These discrepancies may not have been as noticeable in serial form, and don’t take away from the fun of the strip. It is totally barmy, particularly the latter one-offs. Dracula escaping down a helter-skelter anyone?
The real star of this compendium though is Eric Bradbury. I best remember him for his artwork on Doomlord in the Eagle, but these pages are very familiar to me also. As with many of my favourite artists he has a knack for creating unique looking folk, even as throw-away characters (like the many exsanguinated) or regular characters like Stakis, the ertswhile Romanian vampire hunter, hot on his trail.
Many of Dracula’s transformations are captured in a perfectly horrid manner, be they bats, evil choking fog, or rabid devil-dogs. There’s no doubt even the toughest copper would blanch with fear if this came at them!
However, he also excels at atmosphere, particularly in the earlier episodes, set in the MI5 ‘safe house’. The architecture of the stately mansion was beautifully drawn, and even something as straightforward as cellars were given a brooding air of menace befitting the resting place of the Prince of Darkness.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the majority of the Scream! Special one-offs. Besides a rather interesting close up of Dracula in one episode, I felt the artwork in the rest of the compendium felt a bit bare. It certainly lacked the artistry and gothic feel Mr Bradbury had provided us earlier.
These one-off scripts were verging on ridiculous, concentrating more on the humour of the situation rather than any threat the vampire posed. Each one ended with Stakis waving a fist at a departing bat, with a promise of getting him next time.
These just gave me a sense of sadness that the original series couldn’t have been either continued in the Eagle or been wrapped up nicely by the original artist/writer combo in the specials.
All in all though this is a nice package, especially for those who enjoyed the series the first time around. Yet again Hibernia shows it can take a classic comic strip and do it justice in its reprinted form. Finley-Day’s script, anachronisms aside, is a lot of fun, and at least Eric Bradbury provides sterling art duties for the majority of this reissue. You can pick it up here: