The style of Dracula casts its titular hero in a kind of absurdist buffoon role, just by its very nature, and many of the Dracula stories are basically meant to be funny comics which build to a humorous final punchline. It makes sense that Breccia would see Dracula in this way, given his background with the real horror of Argentina’s Dirty War which as part of the overarching monstrosity called Operation Condor led to the disappearance of between 9,000 to 30,000 men, women, and children in Argentina. Among those “disapeared” was Breccia’s friend and collaborator Hector Oesterheld. Breccia’s reality during the 70s in Argentina would have been one of the kind of nightmarish state sponsored atrocity that is real horror manifest.
So it makes sense that his Dracula would be less serious. I mean compared to the Generals in Argentina during the 70s and early 80s, Dracula was no monster.
Enter Breccia’s Dracula…Fui Leyenda, which is his loose adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend as applied to Dracula and the Dirty War.
We start with Dracula strolling through town oblivious to his surroundings. Right behind his head we see a propaganda poster for a military general dictator. But then he begins to see things. And we now see what Dracula’s primary role in this short is, which is as witness to atrocity. To see, and to remember.
This second page is amazing. We get this throng of tortured faces protesting for peace, their words and ideas overwhelming the military who are cooped up into the corner of the page, afraid and small. The way that electric pink and blue divides the page like a wedge is really cool. And then in the third panel these monstrous decorated generals almost on top of each other, hidden in the windows like cowards. One of them barks the orders, which aren’t words, just blood. The pink and purple has pulled out of the third panel, so that that blood is the focal point.
And then we get this Guernica type vertical panel of atrocity, the violence piled on top of itself. Almost incomprehensible in its chaos and evil. It overtakes the entire page. And then the next biggest panel is Dracula drenched in blood. Blood the very thing that vampires love and live on, but rather than be in heaven, he is in shock, barely able to comprehend what he has seen, and he is sent running from the scene. But Breccia doesn’t even have him running away from the violence. The direction of the last panel, is angled back into the violence of the first panel. As if no matter how far Dracula runs, he will be unable to escape this atrocity.
A defeated Dracula wandering the wastelands, Breccia drawing his form like a ghost. The top half of him floats in the air like Casper, and his legs seem to move as if only because that’s what legs know how to do. The bottom half of this page was probably for me the moment where this comic really just kicked my stomach in.
Notice how in the left panel Dracula is looking out at the reader, but the boards and direction of Dracula’s neck/body arrow into that last panel. Which is a 180 degree flip. We are actually seeing what Dracula is looking at in the left panel, concurrent to our watching his reaction to it. It is a uniquely comic thing its timing and scope.
The body parts are being ripped off of these human beings and put into the wastebasket. It was really difficult for me to read that panel because I am somewhat well informed about the types of things that were done in those settings, during that time, in latin america. And knowing that I live in a country that was extremely cognizant of what was going on during Operation Condor all over South America. And not only did we know what was going on, we were complicit, offering funding and support during both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, all because communism was this big bad thing that it wasn’t enough to go after it in our own country–we had to stem its tide in countries that had nothing to do with us! And then you see like the things that happened this past week in Egypt…nothing changes. And why? Why are people doing these things to each other for politics or religion? Why is something as inane as a combination of ideas and words, enough to get you to commit horrible atrocities on someone who is fundamentally the same as you. In Argentina, sometimes when they would disappear a family they would give the children away to families that supported the party. Do you know how fucked up that is? Imagine these kids growing up and then finding out the parents that raised them aren’t their parents, and more than that, were complicit in the deaths of their real parents? The scale of the horror of Operation Condor and the Dirty War is of a scale that challenges your ability to imagine terror.
And while the children scream, the monsters dance. The bottom panel depicts the children who were given over to convents during the Dirty war.
The colors on this page contrast the drab colors of the lives of the protesters, creating an even more monstrous depiction of the elites. Also notice that those in power are generally drawn as these lumpy well-fed monsters with sharp teeth, and the people are drawn more in the vein of either traditional forms, or like in the protest page, like innocent monks in some old religious woodcutting.
NN is the label that was applied to the plots of unnamed children who were disappeared and then buried. Breccia has the third panel pulling down into the graves with the figures warping more and more the closer they get to the actual graves. And then the last panel has this stretching effect. Their long faces pushing up questioning the horror. The distance between the top head and the skull in its hands exacerbates the effect.
In the end Dracula is completely terrified out of his mind. He sees the car rolling up behind him, and fears he could be next. The way he is slinking in the top panel shows his internal paranoia, and the way Breccia has now given him this shadow against the brick wall, as if he is ready to be stood up for execution. And then you get him just completely cracking in that middle panel. His top hat comes flying off. His legs are going in one direction, his hands and torso in another direction. He is out of his mind.
The punchline to the comic which I’ve not included here is that he runs straight into a church for sanctuary and becomes a monk.
World cold enough to drive a vampire to Jesus.