Flashback Friday: X-men Classic #63

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X-Men Classic #63

Written by Chris Claremont
Art by Bill Sienkiewicz and Bob Wiacek
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Colours by Len Wein
Published by Marvel (1991)

This is it. The perfect opportunity to pull horror movie fans into the comic book world. (As if there’s a divide there already.) In 1982 Chris Claremont had a genius idea among many, one that he would drop into the middle of X-Men continuity, an idea so wonderful that we would all wonder afterwards why it hadn’t been done constantly since the inception of the comic book genre.

Put Dracula in a comic book.

I know what you’re thinking. This is not an original idea. The Transylvanian icon has been in piles and piles of comics over the decades, has starred in his own book, has fought nearly everyone, inspired and created iconic heroes like Blade and Morbius, and been involved in all manner of team-ups. This time though, it was in a duel with one of comics’ most popular teams, the X-Men.

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This was the 80’s, when X-Men was the most popular title in comics, and when Chris Claremont could do no wrong. Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, Fall of the Mutants, all of these would be story arcs that were examined in that decade. I came to this book when it was reprinted in 1991 as a Classic title. #63. The book that would change my feelings about Dracula and the X-Men forever.

OK, That was more dramatic than it should have been. That being said, I do recall seeing this on the rack, that great Mike Mignola cover, and thinking, “this cold be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” I had read Stoker’s Dracula, I’d been a fan of the X-Men for years. Could I have been right?

In a word, yes. This is one of those books I’ve come back to again and again, especially if you pair it with the companion What If…? #24 What if Wolverine was Lord of the Vampires? But I’m getting ahead of myself. (If you can find it. Buy that What If…?)

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The story is simple. The X-Men, on a short trip for Kitty Pryde to visit her parents, overnight at a friends apartment. On her way home from dropping Kitty off, Storm is attacked and left for dead, her throat “slashed”. When she’s finally retrieved from the hospital by her teammates she has an aversion to sunlight and a nasty temper. Of course Dracula is the cause, as he’s been seen lurking around Belvedere Castle in Central Park. (What better B&B for Transylvanian nobility looking to shake it up in the Big Apple?) They fight to a draw, with Storm finally overcoming Dracula’s hold on her, and hitting him with a lightning bolt. It was the only way the story could convincingly end. The X-Men couldn’t possibly lose, when up to this point they’d constantly beaten most of their foes soundly. Dracula, for all of his otherworldliness and mysticism, shouldn’t be bested by mortals, mutant or not. So he takes the noble route, bows to his foes, and vanishes. I loved it.

Even on a re-read, three decades after it was first printed, this story holds up. The art is dated as far as the fashion of the characters goes, but that’s nothing you can’t read past. This remains one of my favourite X-Men singles, one that I’ll read again in a couple of years and probably like just as much. Chris Claremont at the top of his game cannot be bested. X-Men Classic #63 is a great read, and just in time for Halloween.

 

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