"Forty Coffins" en Broke Horror Fan

Most adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula gloss over the events aboard the Demeter, the Russian schooner that brings the titular vampire and his coffins full of soil to England. Forty Coffins, a Space Goat Publishing comic book, tells the story of the voyage from the ship crew’s point of view. It’s written by Rodolfo Santullo, as inspired by Stoker’s novel, and illustrated by Jok.
Set in 1889, Forty Coffins begins as the Demeter sails into the bay of Whitby, England. Despite its rapid speed and the stormy weather, the ship manages to traverse the reef and stop safely at the shore. Locals are shocked to discover no crew aboard aside from the deceased captain, who’s tied to the wheel. They find the ship’s log, which tells the bulk of the story - carrying over the epistolary format of Stoker’s influential novel.


The vessel’s nine-man crew are being handsomely compensated to transport boxes of dirt by a mysterious employer, but tensions run high as they believe someone - or something - is on board with them. Crew members begin disappearing one by one while the excursion hits a never-ending barrage of storms, fog, and rough seas. Meanwhile, there are sightings of a disappearing stowaway. Captain Strogoff, the weathered commander of the Demeter, is at a loss.
If the cover of the book didn’t tout Forty Coffins as “Dracula on the high seas!” those unfamiliar with the source material may mistake it for something of a haunted house at sea, as Dracula doesn’t show up in his recognizable form until about three quarters of the way through. That’s not a knock on the comic; this horror story is most effective by keeping the boogeyman in the shadows.


Perhaps I’m projecting my own tastes onto the material, but Forty Coffins brought to mind two of John Carpenter’s classic films. The all-male crew, isolated and increasingly paranoid about a monster, is reminiscent of The Thing. And it’s impossible not to be reminded of The Fog when seeing Jok’s eerie illustrations of the large ship enshrouded in a green-tinted mist.
Forty Coffins is a “one and done” one-shot comic, wrapped up in 56 pages (including several pages with early sketches and more). While I enjoy the self-contained nature of the story, I would love to see Santullo and Jok tackle more of Stoker’s Dracula. Santullo offers a fresh take on the familiar material while remaining respectful to its roots, and Jok brings the Gothic atmosphere to life with his artwork.

Alex DiVincenzo

Forty Coffins is available now via Space Goat Publishing.

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