Tales from the Longbox – Dr. Strange (1983)

Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.

A drought of horror comics stretched after the 1970s revolution which had been spearheaded by Tomb of Dracula. In the mid-1990s, edgier titles like Ghost Rider and Morbius would resurface and embraced the anti-heroes of that era. However, the 1980s were pretty sparse in terms of horror comic books, in particular for Marvel Comics. DC Comics had their award-winning Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, which set the stage for the Vertigo revolution of the 1990s. However, one title, Doctor Strange, although more supernatural than horror, kept an eye on the darker corners of the Marvel Universe.

Doctor Strange, the Master of the Mystical Arts and Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe, had a memorable story arc in 1983 when he turned his attention the hordes of vampires that plague the Earth. The Lord of Vampires and the Sorcerer Supreme had clashed in the 1970s where Strange had left Dracula for dead.

Veteran 1980s comic scribe and easily the decade’s most underrated writer Roger Stern wrote The Montesi Formula story that ran through Doctor Strange #58-62 (1983). What’s refreshing about this story is that while it’s an event that affects the large Marvel Universe, it doesn’t feel like a company-wide event requiring you to ready half a dozen other comic books to get the full story. The art stands up quite well with Dan Green and Steve Leialoha providing the moody, action-filled panels. Dan Green was well known inker for John Romita Jr. during his run on Uncanny X-Men.

Issue #60 stands out with horror slamming into the Marvel Universe as the vampire hordes of Dracula siege Avengers Mansion as the Lord of Vampires tries to get his hands on the famed mystical tome, the Darkhold. The Darkhold contained a spell, The Montesi Formula, which can purge the planet of all vampires.

The storyline culminated with issue #62 bringing together all the carefully woven story threads. In a fine tribute to the 1970s title, Tomb of Dracula, Blade and Frank Drake are called upon to defend Dr. Strange from Dracula as he invokes the Montesi Formula.

If you love vampires, mystical cults, dark sorcery, and the Marvel Universe, this story is worth tracking down. You might be able to find the more recently published Dr. Strange vs. Dracula: The Montesi Formula Trade Paperback.

Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.

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