Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Vampire is Born

THOIA's Stan Lee Tribute Fest continues with another weird one penned by The Man, this time from the June 1953 issue of Menace #4, and highlighted with really outstanding, atmospheric art by Fred Kida. Younger readers may find the ending to indeed be maddening, that is, if you are part of the historically challenged generation... so when you do get to the final panel, just insert your own current *CHOKE!* candidate's face for the modern day, *UGH!* updated version. *GAG!*













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JMR means it! Haha... thanks, Lenny!

15 comments:

Mr. Karswell said...

And in keeping with Stan’s tradition, I’ll even award a special “no prize” to anyone who redraws an updated version of that last panel— I’ll also add it to the post! Have fun! :)

Mestiere said...

"The only way a vampire can die a natural death is in the form of a human... of old age!" Somebody warn Dracula.

Stalin had just died when Stan Lee wrote this story. For the story to work we have to forget that vampires can't stand sunlight or that by definition they don't age. If Stalin was more of a traditional vampire he might have turned the entire USSR into a different kind of red army, a story I would have wanted to read.

Who was worse, Stalin or Hitler? For a long time people liked to say that Stalin killed more people than Hitler, quoting figures like 20 million non-combatants. But after the fall of the USSR, when archives could finally be studied, it became very obvious that that figure was unlikely to be true. Depending on whether or not you include the victims of famine the actual figures are somewhere between 3 and 9 million dead versus the 11-12 million non-combatants killed by the Nazis. On the other side Stalin won World War II and Hitler lost, meaning that Germany and Western Europe could be rebuilt as prosperous free countries while Communism survived for decades in the east. By being a more competent tyrant Stalin is perhaps worse than Hitler in that sense.

Nequam said...

This seems much more peculiar if you've gone and watched The Death of Stalin, though it's not like it would have been much more of a sick farce if you threw vampirism in there.

Dreidel said...

Several years later, Atlas ran a similar story depicting Nikita Khrushchev as an evil alien from outer space. Adhering to Cold War attitudes of the time, the Atlas horror comics always showed Communists as vicious, butchering thugs.

Caffeinated Joe said...

Commenting not only to say it was a good read, but also in case you update with the new, current monster's face in place.

Grant said...

I know the one you mean (which is how the face on Page 5 SORT OF tipped me off). Even as those stories go, that one is pretty heavy-handed.

Guy Callaway said...

Well, that was different.
Frankly, that looks more like Saddam Hussein to me, so it still works.

Grant said...

I think there's one good thing about "Communist Menace" horror and SF stories being considered dated, and that's that you don't keep seeing new ones over and over any longer. At almost the other extreme are Nazi-oriented ones, which still seem to be a very big thing and even kind of a cliche. (Even though I'm as sentimental about THE FROZEN DEAD as anyone!)

(I just hope this new cold war doesn't inspire a whole set of "Russian operatives" SF stories, but maybe it will.)

nutsilica.blogspot.com said...

Speaking, art-wise. I'll try to keep this subject on art and expression. Here's one indication of the difference between Hitler and Stalin. (they were both monsters. I'm not siding with either).
Stalin jailed and killed artists and free thinkers.
Hitler destroyed their careers but allowed them to live and work. example: Otto Dix, an artist that anyone reading this blog regularly should check out, he would've made an excellent Atlas artist! Well he made direct caricatures of Hitler as an evil troll in paintings, but wasn't punished. Hitler just hung photos of mentally handicapped people next to his paintings in a gallery. That's evil... of course, but not as evil a sending Dix to the gulag.
Hitler was pathological. If you shared his racist fantasy or were heavily into animal rights, you would like what he was doing.
I watched a documentary of the KuKlux Klan and they were really trying to prove how nice they were to each other and that they were just tribalistic. It's stupid and evil, but it is evil because of stupidity, misunderstanding and ignorance rather than the Stalin type of evil where it is just about control over others.
Stalin was cold and logical control. No artist would ever have gotten away with mocking him!
Germans got away with disagreeing and mocking him, not because he was nice.. He was evil! He just didn't take the extra step to the level that Stalin did. A lot of Germans refused to put up Nazi flags. That sounds like a small thing, but Stalin didn't allow for such 'leniency.'
I have Ukrainian relatives that died, (I never met them) because Stalin occupied their country. Millions of them died. He didn't have to do that to people that weren't fighting.
That's an extra level of evil above what would occur to Hitler. Hitler didn't ruin countries that he occupied.
Stalin's own people couldn't stop clapping for him or they would be killed. (45 minutes of clapping and the first person to stop was killed).
If a soldier took one step back, his fellow soldier was to shoot him dead.
Hitler was a populist leader that if he didn't try to wage war with other countries or kill Jewish people, he would've been remembered as a beloved leader. Again, I'm not defending him. He was a monster but compared to Stalin. Stalin would split up Russian families just to have people dig ditches up north. He didn't care about human values for his own people. That's an extra step into evil, I think.
A lot of the German people seemed to fall in love with Hitler's charisma, but Stalin was all control. people didn't choose him.
Hitler is an example of the evil consequences of nationalism, but Stalin is a more complicated level of evil.
People should check out Dix though. If he was an Atlas artist, he might've looked a bit like Chuck winter's art.

Mr. Cavin said...

What a great example of collaborators working at the top of their game. Page three is beautiful, a poem. I don't typically love this kind of historical name dropping. As a conceit it's flashy and attention-getting, but also kind of shoots for the moon with a patina of unearned gravitas. I mean, it's hard to laugh along with a silly vampire story if it's also grafted onto the Great Purge, jeeze. That's a whole different kind of capital-T Terror. Ultimately the blithe mythic thrills and the historical gravity can become unwieldy, defeat one another. Luckily, this story has the good sense to put a lot of energy into involving the reader in the first few pages, before trying to balance these elements.

And since it's a fusty ol' vampire story at heart, the fact that mid-century name-dropping instantly dates a story actually adds a little something here, too.

glowworm2 said...

This is one of those stories that doesn't quite age as well due to its political message thinly disguised as a vampire tale. It's definitely very easy to update this story today by simply replacing Stalin with someone easily recognizable in this present day. I won't name anybody in particular, but the story still works well regardless as long as the punchline remains somewhat political.

Brian Barnes said...

Stan's early career -- especially in the pages of his super-hero stuff -- was chuck full of anti-communist rants. Many of the villains were from Russia or China (for instance the black widow being an important example.) He calmed down in later years but boy did he lay it on thick for a while! One thing Stan always did though was humanize most of the enemies ... another thing he really changed in comics.

This is a really fun tale though I'm not exactly sold on the political ending. It dates it and seems out of place. That said, the bottom 3 panels of page 3 are great, and there's some awesome turns of phrase, especially in the opening pages. I especially like page 4/panel 4 ... what a poor, scared vampire!

JMR777 said...

On the first page first panel, that is how I feel when I have to get up for work, (minus the coffin, bat ears, wings and fangs)
-then again, I don't look in the mirror when I get up so I never know how awful I look before sunrise. I don't mind silver or garlic and I prefer solid food so I'm not one of the living dead, though on Monday mornings you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Grant said...

At the bottom of Page 5, at east at a GLANCE, he reminds me of Omar Sharif in DR. ZHIVAGO. Of course, this is before movie came out, so it's a coincidence that he looks like him in this Russian setting.

varanid9 said...

I've always wondered why people are so quick to laugh at cold war fears when, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, many declassified documents on both sides showed that much of the late, unlamented Senator McCarthy's fears proved to be true. It especially amuses me that younger people haven't a clue as to just how utterly convinced my generation was that a third world war was a matter of when, not if. I look back and realize that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt that I didn't have a future. Many of my friends were the same way, and it showed in the way we lived.