Marvel Preview #12: The Haunt of Horror (1977)

I miss the days when some comics would come in magazine size instead of the regular comic book size. For years that size was a viable alternative: artists could spread out a little more and be a little bit more experimental. Writers didn’t have to worry about the comics code, so the stories could be a little bit edgier, a little bit more scary or intense.

At least that was the idea. The fact is that, while there were some wonderful magazine-sized comics from Warren, Marvel and a host of other publishers (DC only published two magazine sized comics, BTW, which I should talk about eventually in this blog), most of them were mediocre at best. For instance, Warren published some amazing artwork and stories by some of the greatest creators in comics history. They also published some drek. Marvel’s line was more even-keeled than Warren’s, mainly because they published work by mainline Marvel creators. But much of the work in those magazines were also mediocre.

Marvel Preview was a black-and-white anthology comic, a showcase for ideas that they wanted to try out before launching them in their own series. Preview presented oddities: a two-issue Sherlock Holmes story, two issues about UFO aliens, a slightly more adult version of Thor, a wonderfully-drawn Kull the Barbarian story. But when the deadlines were running tight, Preview could also run inventory stories that were bought and paid-for but hadn’t seen the light of day. I assume that’s the story with this issue.

The first story in this issue is the continuation of a serial featuring Lilith, Daughter of Dracula. Lilith was a kind of vampiric ghostly spirit that possessed the body of Angel O’Hara, a young woman just starting her life in New York with her new husband. She’s also pregnant in this story, though you wouldn’t know if from her slight figure. When her husband takes a job working in an evil chemical company, Lilith attacks the evil-doers, channeling Angel’s frustration and anger. The story’s written by Steve Gerber, who’s one of the most dependably interesting writers of his generation, but this yarn is a bit dull and without character. The bland art of Bob Brown doesn’t help at all.

Bland art isn’t a problem in the second tale, "Psycho Ward," as it features a rare Marvel art job by Michael Kaluta. However, the story is short and cliched, and left me wondering if this was just an old piece of fanzine art dressed up for use in this issue.

The most effective story in the issue is a typical twist-ending tale. "Picture of Andrea" involves a New York detective obsessed with a strange murder case in which a woman’s dead body is found, drained by blood. Investigating the murder, the detective encounters Dracula, and their confrontation leads to a fun ending. The writing by Doug Moench on this story – he also wrote "Psycho Ward" – fits the story’s mood perfectly, and is fun. Sonny Trinidad’s art was also fitting, but it really made me miss the art of Drac’s artist on the color Tomb of Dracula series, Gene Colan. Colan could have made these scenes sing!

Overall, another mediocre ’70s Marvel book. It’s not terrible, it’s not filled with masterpieces. It’s just… okay.

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