TOMB OF DRACULA ISSUE NUMBER TEN
"HIS NAME IS...BLADE!"
Cover Date: July 1973
Writer: Marvin Wolfman
Artist: Gene Colan
Inker: Jack Able
Colorist: P. Goldberg
Letterer: D. Vladimer
Editor: Roy Thomas
Main Characters: Dracula, Blade, Quincy Harker, Edith Harker, CliftonGraves
Synopsis:: The story opens with a young man and woman preparing to stow away on a cruise ship. Their trip is interrupted by three vampires who arrive and prepare to strike them. However the three are saved by a black man who calls himself Blade. Blade is armed with wooden knives and is a fierce fighter. He overcomes all three of the vampires, saving the man and woman.
After killing the vampires, Blade is interrupted by Quincy Harker who tells Blade he heard he was in the area (this explains why Edith and Quincy Harker left their mansion last issue). Quincy and Blade argue as Harker tells Blade he was waiting for the three vampires to lead him to Dracula. Blade replies that he is tired of Harker's slow methods and that he will get the job done himself. As Blade leaves, Edith tells him Blade is terribly rude. Her father replies that he may be but that Blade does get the job done in his own way.
Elsewhere aboard the oceanliner/partyship Michele, Gabriel Trulaine introduces his guests, various actors, writers, and political leaders to their special guest-Count Dracula. Dracula mingles amongst the powerful guests and tells them that vampirism is misunderstood and that it is merely a disease similar to blood poisoning. He mentions that he needs blood transfusions but nothing more. Then he retires to his stateroom with his slave Clifton Graves. Graves asks him why he does not kill them. Dracula replies that he will put them under his control and use their influence and power for his own ends. He then lures a young woman to his cabin and attacks her. He instructs Graves to watch her until he returns as her blood was most sweet.
Dracula then proceeds to hijack the ship. He attacks the ship's captain and takes control of the ship. Then he confronts the passengers and tells them they will be his. A passenger pulls out a gun and attacks but the bullets have no effect and Dracula throws him overboard. He turns back towards the passengers and tells them that it is time for them to pay tribute to him.
Nearby, Blade is following the Michele in his own boat. He dons scuba gear and sneaks aboard the ship, preparing to "scratch one big daddy vampire".
Elsewhere on the ship, Dracula instructs the passengers that they will help him advance his cause or be turned into vampires. The crew stands in horror until one of the passengers steps forward with a cross. Some of te passengers then advance on Dracula and overwhelm him with sheer numbers. Back in his cabin, Clifton Graves is torn between investigating the ruckus and staying with the young woman Dracula instructed him to stay with. His decision is made for him when the young woman strikes him with a lamp and knocks him out. She leaves the cabin and searches for her "love" (Dracula).
The passengers who have pinned Dracula down search for a stake to finish him with but Dracula changes to mist before they can and escapes them. A new foe arrives in the form of Blade and Dracula is thrown into battle again. Dracula tells Blade that he is nothing but Blade proves otherwise as he gives Dracula a tremendous fight. Dracula manages to get the upper hand but when he is interrupted by the young woman he attacked, Blade breaks free and prepares for battle. Tired of his fight and realizing that the ship's passengers will not serve him, Dracula tells everyone that he has orderd the ship's captain to set explosives that will destroy the ship and its passengers. He leaves the ship as Blade helps the passengers escape. Clifton Graves pleads with Dracula to take him but Dracula tells him he is tired of Graves' bungling and he leaves Graves to die aboard the ship.
NOTES: This issue marks the first appearance of Blade the Vampire Hunter and the apparent demise of Dracula's bungling servant CliftonGraves.
The introduction of Blade added another dimension to TOD. His introduction to the series provded a fresh new character and it showed that Dracula had other enemies besides Quincy Harker and his band. A close examination of the Blade character shows that he is a powerful foe since he is able to wage a one man war against vampires and survive whereas Quincy Harker has many agents to rely upon along with a wealth of special scientific gadgets. Blade by comparison fought his own and had nothing more than the special wooden stakes/knives to rely upon. We also see that Blade and Quincy Harker have their own ideas on fighting vampires. Blade appears to take a direct approach of killing as many vampires as possible in order to get to Dracula whereas Harker prefers careful planning to ensure that his strikes against Dracula are decisive.
The Blade character is obviously a variation of the character "John Shaft" from the film "Shaft" but as the series progresses, Blade is developed into his own unique character as we learn why Blade has devoted his life to vampire hunting.
This issue also shows us that Dracula is concerned with more than just slaying humans, he is also concerned with cultivating power through various means. One means is by enslaving people of influence like artists, politicians, etc.