(w) Alex de Campi (a) Erica Henderson
There have been many attempts to have the gothic imagery of Dracula crossover with the stylized sleaze of exploitation cinema, but it hardly works – if ever. Despite some solid efforts, it seems that the world’s most famous vamp and grindhouse just don’t seem to mesh. While there have been some efforts to make vampires more feral, people have a tough time abandoning the slick, suave, and gentlemanly nature of pop culture’s Dracula. Then again, perhaps the right creators haven’t come along, that is until now. Alex de Campi and Erica Henderson’s Dracula Motherf**ker is the mashup that many have been waiting for.
Dracula Motherf**ker works because the story wisely moves away from the traditional, debonair nature of it’s titular vampire, instead turning him into a malleable force of nature. As I stated, the classic Dracula doesn’t mesh well with the aesthetics of sleazy, pulp stories, so the creative team doesn’t even try to fit that square peg into a round hole. Instead, they take core elements from the Dracula legend – specifically the brides – while playing fast and loose with Dracula as a character. Often, the Prince of Darkness is just a series of eyes contrasting against a black void on the page. By not adhering to a traditional, tangible form, this Dracula is far more terrifying than a Lugosi-inspired depiction would be in today’s environment.
The second reason is Erica Henderson’s art. Squirrel Girl and Jughead this is not, as Henderson renders characters with greater refinement (and realistic proportions) than in her licensed work. But more importantly is the coloring. Holy crap, the coloring is just astounding. While the story begins in 19th Century Vienna before jumping to 1970s Los Angeles, Henderson’s colors unify the two time periods without betraying their unique distinctions. But make no mistake, the colors lean the book heavily into the aesthetic of 1970s exploitative cinema. Rarely is this said, but this book deserves to be picked up for the coloring alone.
As mentioned, de Campi’s story is both faithful and a little fast-and-loose with Dracula’s lore. John Harker is now Quincy Harker, a guy who takes pictures of crime scenes for money. He wittingly stumbles into the world of vampires, a world where Dracula’s brides are trying to rid the world of their bloodsucking husband. These character depictions result in a flipping of “traditional” roles, with Harker becoming a damsel in distress, and the vampire brides as his rescuers. While there is a certain, unsavory part of comics fandom that may scoff at this development, it is a well executed and earned plot point. de Campi sets up the brides as victims rebelling against their oppressor, which is adds an unexpected layer of depth to this story.
Dracula Motherf**ker is a great title to pick up and enjoy as we enter the final stretch to Halloween. There are so may words that can describe it. It’s moody, beautiful, stylish, engaging, and so much more. But to figure out word you’d best describe it as, you ought to just pick it up.