Marvel UK art mystery – who pencilled this “Dracula Lives” cover back in 1975?

[Updated 31st October 2018]

This cover for Marvel UK’s Dracula Lives #29, published in 1975, has some comic creators wondering  who actually drew it.

Dracula Lives #29 - Cover Art

Selling for just over $400 on Heritage Auctions this past weekend, the site doesn’t list the penciller and its credit for Mike Eposito as inker is being challenged, with 2000AD artist David Roach suggesting that Dan Adkins is most likely responsible. But is he responsible for the pencils, too?

David is right to have his doubts. downthetubes understands the art has been previously sold – and on that occasion it was being described as a Pablo Marcos cover.

Like its Planet of the Apes comic, Marvel UK’s version of Dracula Lives enjoyed a much longer run than the American series and saw a broader variety of cover-art styles.

The cover, inspired by art by Gene Colan, takes a dizzying view of Dracula himself, heroic Taj Nital, and (at ground level) Quincy Harker’s crew of vampire-hunters.

The issues features material from the US title Tomb of Dracula #12, published in September 1973, featuring a similar scene drawn by Frank Brunner with inks by Tom Palmer. The story itself – “The Screaming House” – was written by Marv Wolfman, with pencils by Gene Colan, inked by Tom Palmer, coloured by Petra Goldberg.

The cover of US Marvel title Tomb of Dracula #12, published in September 1973, drawn by Frank Brunner with inks by Tom Palmer; and left Marvel UK's Dracula Lives weekly (Issue 29), cover artists unknown.

The cover of US Marvel title Tomb of Dracula #12, published in September 1973, drawn by Frank Brunner with inks by Tom Palmer; and left Marvel UK’s Dracula Lives weekly (Issue 29), cover artists unknown.

Both the US and British covers are inspired by a scene early in “The Screaming House” in which Dracula kidnaps Edith Harker.

The cover of Marvel UK's Dracula Lives Issue 24 is inspired by Frank Brunner's cover for Tomb of Dracula #12

The cover of Marvel UK’s Dracula Lives Issue 24 is inspired by Frank Brunner’s cover for Tomb of Dracula #12

Dracula Lives Issue 28 was published in early 1975, with a cover date of 3rd May. The title was edited by Matt Softley (in reality, Maureen Softley, borrowing her son’s name, as it was thought the editor of boys’ comics should have a man’s name). Alongside the Dracula story were reprints of Werewolf by Night and Brother Voodoo.

Brunner’s Tomb of Dracula cover also inspired the artists who provided the cover of Dracula Lives Issue 24, published a moth earlier.

Doctor Who artist Mike Collins has suggested the cover might have been drawn by Jeff Aclin, inked by Dan Adkins, but Jeff has told downthetubes the cover was created before he started working at Marvel.

“The small figure work isn’t confident enough for Adkins but the inks are pretty slick,” Mike notes of the art in a response to our first posting of this article on Twitter.

Both Bob Budiansky and Steve Stiles have said the art is not by them.

Jeff Aclin drew covers for a number of Marvel US titles and inked issues of titles that include a small number of issues of Marvel Team-Up. Among his art duties for Marvel, he worked on Marvel UK “bridging” pages, where new artwork was used in the weekly British titles to bridge reprinted stories which were split in two. He also drew new splash pages, but his work for the company was between 1976 and 1979 and the Dracula Lives covers predate that. (He’s posted a number of these on his Facebook page).

A Dracula splash page by Jeff Aclin, created for an issue of Planet of the Apes, an extra

A Dracula splash page by Jeff Aclin, created for an issue of Planet of the Apes, an extra “bridging page” that was additional to the reprinting of pages from Tomb of Dracula #42 (March 1976). The weekly format of titles like Dracula Lives and Planet of the Apes meant new splash pages were required for dramatic effect

Dan Adkins joined Marvel in 1967, after a period working in the Wally Wood studio from 1964, and did a variety of work for other comics publishers, including Charlton Comics, DC Comics (on Aquaman, Batman), Dell Comics/Western Publishing and more. He died in 2013.

Perhaps we’ll never know the true identity of the mystery artists – unless there are some clues on the back of the art the buyer this time around might care to share…

• A number of Marvel UK covers are in an upcoming Heritage Auctions auction next month, some also with mystery credits. Check out our news item here.

• If you have any ideas about the artist, why not comment below? Do you know Dracula Lives editor Maureen Softley? perhaps she could step out of the darkness and put us out of our head scratching misery…

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

Categories: Auctions, Comic Art, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Other Worlds

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2 replies

  1. I am fortunate enough to own this page now. Unfortunately there isn’t additional information on the back of the page that will help identify the penciler.

  2. I believe it is either a combination of Ron Wilson pencils and Jack Abel inks, or all-Jack Abel. Both of them worked in the Marvel Bullpen during this time, and on other Marvel UK magazines as well.

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