"The Silver Surfer vs Dracula" is a 1994 one-shot comic book by Marvel. However, it is a reprint of comics from Marvel's past, with only the cover being from 1994. The 1994 reissue date is interesting, since it may have coincided with a resurgence in interest in vampires in popular culture, since it falls around the date of Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stroker's Dracula, and also of Interview with the Vampire, but it could just be that vampires are perenillially popular.

The cover is by Ron Lim, who defined the look for The Silver Surfer and Marvel's other "cosmic" heroes in the 1990s. The cover shows a muscular Silver Surfer, hands glowing with halos of the power cosmic, being jumped on by a bestial, angular Dracula. "The Cosmic Battles The Undead" a spiky hype balloon on the cover promises us. And below: "Bonus: Three Weird Vampire Tales".

When I opened it up, I quickly discovered that I was not reading a story from 1994. Instead, this was a 1970s story, (1976, apparently) from the Tomb of Dracula comic book, and written by the legendary Marv Wolfman. As such, we begin in the middle, and the story is interrupted by several background subplots that aren't resolved, mostly involving Blade, or maybe the clone of Blade. But the basic plot is that some group of people who is even worse than Dracula convinces The Silver Surfer, through mental subterfuge, that he must fight Dracula. So the Silver Surfer flies off to fight Dracula, who at this point, is perhaps an anti-hero, with a pregnant wife. Dracula doesn't know why he is being attacked, and the Silver Surfer doesn't know why he is attacking, which fits the general format of fights in Marvel comics: two characters accidentally fight, before realizing that they don't want to fight. The Silver Surfer also realizes that he is fighting sluggishly because he is mind-controlled, because otherwise, The Silver Surfer could destroy Dracula without much trouble. (Although, and this is important, whether the Silver Surfer's "cosmic" power would match Dracula's "magic" power is something that is kind of questionable in terms of Marvel Universe power levels.) But in the last two pages, the fight is settled when the Silver Surfer sees a figure reflected in the wife of Dracula, from a painting on the wall. I was a little bit confused about this, because it looked like Jesus Christ. I found out later in the issue, in an editorial comment, that it was indeed Jesus Christ.

Boy did I sound like an overly-excited and not particularly articular comic book nerd in that last paragraph, so let me try to explain something seriously: Marvel Comics, like many creators, were balanced between world building and story telling. Marvel would try to build a coherent universe, but then an exciting story would come along that would break some of the rules, and the story would have to be integrated into the established world. The introduction of horror comics into Marvel continuity, due to changes in the Comics Code Authority, added an element that was at variance with the general tone of Marvel comics. So the conflict here is a symbolic one, between the nobility of the Silver Surfer and the demonic nature of Dracula, with the story hinging on a literary question--- in this case, whether Dracula could be saved by Jesus (and this is especially notable because "real" religious topics were mostly taboo at Marvel at the time, and indeed still are)--- and not on the bean counting of whether The Silver Surfer or Dracula "outranked" the other in Marvel's complex cosmological hierarchy. But by the time this comic was reprinted, in 1994, Marvel's cosmic hierarchy had been much more filled out, and that is why the cover focuses on the Silver Surfer as a powerful cosmic being, with bulging muscles and visible "cosmic energy", and not as the 1970s Silver Surfer, who was a more existentialist literary figure.

And things get even more interesting when we get to the Bonus Stories. The first is a pre-comics code story, from 1952, featuring Venus, the Goddess of Love, who had a romance comic that ended up as a supernatural comic. She fights a vampire. The second is also pre-code, with no publication information, and tells the story of a man whose conjoined twin is a vampire. And the last story? The last is Howard the Duck, fighting a vampiric cow. I have no idea how they chose these stories, reaching from the 1950s to the 1980s. Dracula, The Silver Surfer, Venus and Howard the Duck. And of course, Jesus Christ. That it was indeed Jesus was confirmed in a guide to the comic, which says he had a "cameo" in this issue, and plugs the Marvel Comics biography of Jesus, the "Life of Christ" and even mentions that

He's stronger than Spider-Man, he's more charismatic than Captain America, he's the savior...Jesus Christ!
I can only thank Marvel Comics for having the restraint to not use Jesus in the Infinity Gauntlet sagas. But this comic, in all its entirety, shows the strength and weakness of Marvel: by combining disparate elements together, novel stories can be told, but it also weakens the uniqueness of the moods of each character and theme.

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