Once upon a time, in the mid-to-late Sixties through the early Seventies, there was a television show called Dark Shadows…
It was a thirty-minute show that came on five days a week, late enough in the afternoon that most kids could catch it if they came straight home after school. It was a daytime serial — a “soap opera”, in common parlance — but one that built its stories not around adulterers, secret children, and long-lost evil twins, but rather vampires, witches, ghosts, Frankensteinian monsters, warlocks, werewolves, zombies, and even more things that go bump in the night.
Was it good? Well, perhaps not as good as it might have been, if the show had been given any kind of budget (we’re talking your basic rubber-bat-on-a-string level of special effects, folks) as well as a more forgiving production schedule than that which required the show’s makers to turn out two-and-a-half hours of content every single week, fifty-two weeks a year (as compared to that of some justly lauded programs in our present era of “peak TV”, whose makers may take up to two years to produce a mere thirteen hours of television). But it was at least as good as it needed to be, in its time — and with everything else that it had going for it (see preceding paragraph), how good did it need to be, really?
All of which is my way of saying that if you weren’t bitten by the Barnabas Collins bug a half century or more ago, Dark Shadows‘ enduring appeal may seem unfathomable today, in 2019. But that’s OK. There are enough of us diehard DS-heads still comfortably chained in our coffins to keep the eldritch fires burning at least a while longer (if you’ll forgive my mixing my macabre metaphors).
Dark Shadows first aired on June 27, 1966, but I didn’t actually see an episode until relatively late in its almost five-year run –probably sometime in January, 1970 (late 1969 at the earliest) — in spite of the fact that virtually all of my peers were watching it. The reason was that it looked scary; and, as I’ve written about on this blog before, my younger self was something of a wuss, who generally shied away from the spookier sorts of entertainments available to me as a youngster. For that reason, I might not have ever seen DS during its original run at all, if it hadn’t been for my good friend Ann Cummings. I’ve already written about how Ann got me interested in DC Comics’ “mystery” (i.e., horror) titles, such as House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and The Witching Hour, back in 1969; and her convincing me to give Dark Shadows a try may be considered part of the same informal project, through which my friend helped me realize that I could, in fact, handle the scary stuff (at least, as long as it wasn’t too scary).*
The way I know that I must have started watching in very late ’69 or early ’70 is because the storyline I came in on was the one involving the Leviathans, which is what all the online episode guides say was running during that time. (The Leviathans were a race of demonic entities who had ruled Earth in the eons before the rise of humankind, and now worked through mortal cultists to facilitate their return. — and if that sounds to you like the show’s writers were riffing on early 20th century horror author H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos”, go to the head of the class.**) That means that I probably picked up the fifth issue of Gold Key’s licensed Dark Shadows comic book, which the Mike’s Amazing World website says came out February 12, 1970, within a month or two of my becoming a viewer (though it could have been longer, considering that the title was only published quarterly).
Like most Gold Key stories, “The Curse of Collins Isle” bears no creator credits; however, the Grand Comics Database identifies the writer as D. J. Arneson, and the artist as Joe Certa. Arneson was an editor and writer for Dell Comics in the ’60s and ’70s, who also wrote for Charlton and, obviously, Gold Key. He’s best remembered today for being one of the co-creators of Lobo, the first African-American comic book hero to headline his own title. Certa, on the other hand, was a veteran artist who’d worked for various comics companies since the late ’40s, doing a little bit of everything, though his primary claim to fame is probably his having co-created J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, whose feature he illustrated for thirteen years. Following DC’s cancellation of that strip in 1968, Gold Key — for which the artist was already working regularly — became Certa’s primary employer.
Not being privy to the creators’ names, however, let alone all this biographical information about them, the main concern that my twelve-year-old self had upon seeing the story’s opening splash page was wondering why this werewolf — if that’s what he was supposed to be — looked the way he did. Because, thanks both to Universal Pictures The Wolfman (a film I’d never seen, but had somehow come to own the Aurora model kit based on it, nevertheless) and Dark Shadows itself, I knew what werewolves were “supposed” to look like — and I knew that they should have a lot more hair — both on their face and elsewhere — than this guy was sporting.
The five people we see raising their glasses on this page — from left to right in the second panel, they are Dr. Julia Hoffman, Professor Timothy Eliot Stokes, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Roger Collins, and Barnabas Collins — are the primary cast of the Dark Shadows comic book (up through this issue, anyway; Quentin Collins would join the gang with the following issue, and Barnabas Collins’ nemesis, the witch Angelique Bouchard, also turned up from time to time). This represented a significant paring down of the TV series’ dramatis personae, but is perhaps understandable when one considers how difficult it would have been for Gold Key’s creative personnel to keep the current statuses (e.g., married or single; friend or foe; alive, dead, or undead; etc.) of such a varied lot of characters consistent between the comic book and its source material, which, after all, was an ongoing serial. (Continuity was still all over the place, naturally, as we’ll soon discover.)
For those unfamiliar with DS in any of its incarnations, some introductions may be in order. Prof. Stokes, a scholar with an extensive knowledge of the occult, is a valued friend of the Collins family, as is Dr. Hoffman, a physician. Elizabeth and Roger are brother and sister, the heads of the family in the present day (and also the focus of most of the TV show’s earliest storylines, when the series was more of a standard Gothic romance, before the advent of the vampiric Barnabas in the 211th episode). All of these characters are ordinary mortal human beings — as is, you may have been surprised to discover, Barnabas Collins himself (at least for the moment).
Barnabas had been “cured” of his undead, blood-sucking nature in a 1968 storyline of the television series; though Gold Key had originally ignored this development when launching their comic at the end of that year, they did eventually acknowledge it, beginning with issue #3. In conjunction with this change in his physical status, the television Barnabas’ character had also undergone a shift (though a more gradual and subtle one), by which he evolved from being a black-hearted (if romantic) villain to become a sort of hero, or at least an antihero; this change, too, was reflected in the comics.
Ironically, the TV show’s Barnabas would be re-cursed with vampirism (by those dastardly Leviathans I mentioned earlier), in an episode that aired Feb. 16, 1970 — a mere four days after Dark Shadows #5 went on sale.*** As it’s likely that I didn’t pick up my own copy of the book until after that episode had already run, I probably saw this as a discrepancy; still, it was easy enough to read “The Curse of Collins Isle” as having happened “before” the events I’d just seen unfold on TV.
The “signed” parchment seems a bit redundant, considering the very visible tracks — bit hey, maybe our mysterious (presumed) werewolf didn’t realize quite how muddy his paws were.
Flashbacks to earlier times were par for the course for Dark Shadows on television — although generally, these weren’t so much flashbacks as actual journeys backwards (or, on one memorable occasion, forwards) through time, taken by one or more of the show’s present-day characters.****
As Barnabas’ recollections continue, we see how Jonas Starbuck’s father, William, sent his son across the sea to Europe, to study “to be a merchant!” Barnabas hoped that things might be different when his friend eventually returned — and those hopes indeed came to fruition, though not as Barnabas might have wished…
Presumably, Jonas did most of his studying in Spain, as Villalobos is a Spanish surname meaning “town of wolves”. And, yes, the Count’s name would prove quite apt:
In Certa’s renderings, the appearance of werewolves is usually accompanied by the presence of… bats? Well, they are spooky, I guess.
The next day, William Starbuck confronted his son about what he’d seen:
Later, the senior Starbuck agonized alone over the choice that lay before him, until he conceived of an alternative — if he used the silver bullet to kill Count Villalobos, instead of his son, perhaps that would release Jonas from the curse…
One wants to make allowances for a father’s grief, but for William Starbuck to blame Barnabas — let alone the whole extended Collins family — for Jonas’ tragic fate is quite a stretch. On the other hand, it’s been pretty clear from his first scene that the guy is an arrogant jerk, so perhaps it’s not surprising that he’d be even less reasonable as a werewolf than he was as a normal human being.
Hmm, seems to me that a better, or at least more direct, plan might have been to arm all the remaining Collinses with silver-bullet-loaded pistols, but what do I know? Sailing to Europe to hunt for a cure could work too, I guess.
Based on Barnabas’ dialogue, he apparently hoped to make it to Europe, find the cure for lycanthropy, and return to America before the next month’s full moon. Even given optimal conditions, he seems to have underestimated the time required for his journey by about two months. (I guess he wasn’t the nautical expert in the family.)
Starbuck sneaked on board the ship without Barnabas (or, apparently, anyone else) seeing him, then laid low until that night, and the rising of the full moon:
Barnabas attempted to reason with the werewolf even as he fought with it, trying to explain that he was trying to find a cure for the creature’s condition; but his pleas fell on deaf (if large and pointy) ears:
I’m pretty sure that this is the first time I ever saw a story suggest that werewolves were unaging and immortal, in much the same way as vampires; I’m not sure that the Dark Shadows TV series ever made such a claim, but then again, the show’s storylines never got around to putting that idea to the test.
Following the conclusion of Part 1, the comic serves up four pages of “Gold Key Club” features, including news of upcoming Gold Key issues as well as cartoons, jokes, and drawings, some submitted by readers. Then it’s on to Part 2, and another splash page, which tidily summarizes Part 1:
I’m not certain whether the Gold Key powers-that-be believed that their young readers might have forgotten the events of the preceding 14 story pages after being temporarily distracted by the likes of “Reader’s Page Doodles” and “Jokes on You”, and thus needed this recap to get back on track — or if they simply structured issues this way so that it would be easier later to chop stories up, either for sale to foreign markets (who might want shorter story chunks to include in anthology titles) or for later domestic reprinting in different formats. Anybody out there with Gold Key expertise who could enlighten the rest of us?
One of the aspects of Gold Key’s Dark Shadows comics that consistently disappointed me, from this first one I bought forwards, was the general poorness of Joe Certa’s attempts to capture actors’ likenesses. None of the comic-book versions of the TV series regulars were really “on model” on any kind of a consistent basis, though Barnabas (Jonathan Frid) and Elizabeth (Joan Bennett) probably came closest. Certa’s version of Dr. Julia Hoffman was perhaps the worst offender, however; Grayson Hall, the actress who played Julia, was a very distinctive-looking woman, and the indifference with which the artist drew her would almost be enough to make me believe that Gold Key didn’t actually have the rights to use the show’s actors’ likenesses, if not for the fact that Barnabas and Elizabeth did kinda-sorta look like themselves in at least a few panels of every issue.
Back at our story, Julia approaches Barnabas, who rebuffs her attempts to learn what’s bothering him. Convinced that our man in black (with whom she’s secretly in love, just so you know) has indeed become a vampire once more, the doc quickly prepares a serum “to combat the curse”. (This is pretty much in line with the TV series, in which Julia attempted to cure Barnabas through medical science, but had only limited success.)
This is followed by yet another instance of Elizabeth screaming off-panel, and the other characters rushing to her aid only to find that “that thing” has vanished once again. It’s a pretty pointless scene that seems to serve no real purpose save to burn up another story page or two.
More convinced than ever that it’s up to him and him alone to stop William Starbuck, Barnabas races to the Collins family cemetery, where he calls out a challenge to his foe:
Starbuck lunges at Barnabas, knocking him to the ground; and then…
One thing you can say about Joe Certa’s Barnabas is that he displays rather more agility than Jonathan Frid’s ever did on the show.
As Barnabas prepares to sacrifice his own newly-regained mortal life to save his family, D.J. Arneson’s script captures the qualities that made it easy for my twelve-year-old self to see the “reformed” Barnabas (who, on the show as well as in the comic, would remain pretty much on the side of the angels even after becoming a vampire again) as a straight-up, bona fide hero.
Pursued by the werewolf, Barnabas flees across the temporarily-dry sea bed — just as the tide begins to come back in:
Atop the island peak, the life-and-death struggle resumes…
Since I ragged on Joe Certa for his actor likenesses earlier, I’d like to take this opportunity to say some nicer things about his work. On these last two pages, in particular, he delivers some deft visual storytelling, using varied camera angles as well as foreshortening to good effect. There’s also something about Certa’s dark, scratchy linework that reminds me of old woodcut illustrations (a comparison that, you probably won’t be surprised to learn, wouldn’t have occurred to me as a twelve-year-old in 1970) — especially the grisly sort of woodcuts I’ve given you an example of at left. While I don’t want to overpraise an artist whom I think is best thought of as a journeyman, I do feel obliged to acknowledge that Certa’s art for Dark Shadows has a bit more going for it than I’ve tended to give it credit for in the past.
Another two hundred years,huh? Boy, I bet ol’ werewolf Starbuck will really be carrying a grudge against the Collins family by that time. Of course, we won’t be around to worry about it — though I suppose Barnabas Collins might.
That was my first issue of Dark Shadows. Though I had some reservations at the time (mostly about the art), I enjoyed the story (and, for the record, I still think it holds up fairly well); and so, when the next issue of the series showed up in May, I picked it up. From there, I continued to buy each issue of the series upon its release, every three months — despite the fact that my reservations were growing with each new issue, and that they now involved the stories as much or more as they did the art.
My qualms related mainly to questions of continuity — for, while the tale in DS #5 could be made to fit into the TV show’s established canon (at least, as much as any independent story could ever fit into the tight continuity of an ongoing daytime serial), the same couldn’t be said of those that followed. As I’ve already mentioned, Quentin Collins — probably the most important character on the show after Barnabas — joined the comic’s regular cast with #6, and the problem here was that scripter Arneson consistently presented Quentin as a werewolf. But as I and every other Dark Shadows fan knew, Quentin had only been a lycanthropy sufferer for a relatively brief period on the show; before that, he’d been both a ghost and a zombie, and his current, present-day status was as a normal human (more or less), who just happened to be immortal thanks to a magical portrait which not only managed his lycanthropic curse, but aged in his stead as well.***** Today, I can understand why the Gold Key folks thought that Quentin-as-werewolf was more interesting (and lent himself to more springboards for stories) than Quentin-as-basically-normal-guy, but in 1970 and 1971, I didn’t like it.
Then there was Angelique, the witch who’d originally cursed Barnabas with vampirism in the late 1700s, and who’d returned to (rather literally) bedevil him not only in the present day, but also in just about every other time period he jaunted off to over the course of the series. When she made her occasional appearances in the comic book, she was generally depicted as a vengeful ghost; again, this contradicted her 1970-71 status quo in the show, in which the present-day, main-timeline Angelique was very much a flesh-and-blood witch (though semi-retired), and at least provisionally an ally of Barnabas and the other “good” characters. In this instance, the changes made by the comics’ creators seemed more arbitrary.
There were other problems with the stories as well, including inconsistencies in how the “rules” governing vampirism, lycanthropy, time travel, and the like were represented and employed — not just between the comic book and the TV show, but also between individual issues of the comic, and even individual scenes within the same story. These discrepancies gave the impression of carelessness of the part of the writer (who continued to be D.J. Arneson for every story up through issue #17, according to the Grand Comics Database); and, combined with plots that were frequently mediocre at best, not to mention generally uninspired dialogue, tended to make the Dark Shadows series a less than fully satisfying read.
Despite my dissatisfaction, however, I kept on buying and reading the title, at least up to #17, which came out in December, 1972. The main reason for my continued patronage, I think, is that the comic book had become the only game in town as far as new Dark Shadows stories were concerned — as the television series had been abruptly and unceremoniously cancelled some twenty-one months earlier, its last episode being broadcast on April 2, 1971.****** (And I do mean abruptly cancelled — few if any viewers, myself included, had any inking that the show was ending prior to the final moments of that episode, in which a voiceover narration informed us, in so many words, that all the characters we’d been following through the latest storyline lived more or less happily ever after.) Even so, by the end of ’72 I’d apparently had enough of a comic book series that was neither “my” Dark Shadows nor a reliably entertaining horror comic in its own right. After all, if I wanted to read a good vampire or werewolf comics story, I had no further to go than the latest issues of Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula or Werewolf by Night series, both of which I was collecting by then.
Gold Key’s Dark Shadows would continue on along without my patronage for three more years, achieving a run of thirty-five issues before finally giving up the ghost (if you’ll pardon the expression) in December, 1975. By that time, D.J. Arneson had left the book, being replaced by such writers as John Warner (who also wrote for Marvel in the ’70s, co-creating the monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone as well as scripting Son of Satan and other series), Gerry Boudreau (best known for his work on Warren Publishing’s horror titles), and, finally and perhaps most surprisingly, Arnold Drake (a long-time writer for DC Comics, for whom he co-created the Doom Patrol and Deadman, and also briefly a writer for Marvel, as discussed at some length on this very blog a while back). Joe Certa, on the other hand, had hung around as the story artist for the book’s whole run, and had even gotten the chance to do a few covers towards the end (including for the final issue, shown at left), following a long string of painted covers by Gold Key mainstay George Wilson.
I’m aware of all these facts now, because I’ve learned them in doing my research for this post; but, truth to tell, when the comic-book Collinwood shuttered its windows for the last time at the end of ’75, I was eighteen years old, and in my first semester of college — and I’m not sure I even realized that Gold Key was still publishing Dark Shadows. That’s not because I was no longer buying comics — far from it — nor was it because I was no longer interested in DS. (In fact, one of the local TV stations started carrying the show in syndicated reruns sometime during my freshman year, and I watched it every weekday in my dorm room, even if not with quite the same avidity as I had five or six years previously; for one thing, I pretty much knew what was going to happen, this time.) Somehow, I’d simply put the book out of my mind so thoroughly that, when I saw a new issue on the stands, my mind didn’t even register the fact. Or maybe the title had run into distribution problems, and those latter-day issues never even showed up at the retail outlets where I bought my comics; at this late date, of course, there’s really no way to know.
Still, it’s rather remarkable when you consider how long the original Dark Shadows comic book lasted beyond the demise of the television show, not to mention any other extension of the franchise.******* Its relative success in relation to its source is comparable to that of another Gold Key comic based on a cult TV show of the ’60s, Star Trek. Like DS, the Trek comic was launched during the television series’ original broadcast run, but outlasted its basis by more than half a decade; indeed, its run lasted a full ten years beyond the original Star Trek TV series’ cancellation — and the only reason that the run ended then was that Gold Key lost the license to Marvel Comics, who struck a new deal with Trek’s licensor, Paramount, in 1979 in anticipation of the release of the first big-budget motion picture based on the property. The Star Trek comic book, then, managed to hang on until mass popular culture caught up with the franchise’s devoted fanbase; Dark Shadows, alas, would not be so fortunate. Perhaps things might have turned out differently if George Lucas had decided to make a Gothic horror movie in the mid-’70s, rather than an outer space fantasy adventure — but, once again, that’s something we can never know.
The cold, inanimate body of intellectual property that was the Dark Shadows franchise would not twitch with signs of new life until 1991, when the original series’ creator, Dan Curtis, produced a rebooted version for the NBC-TV network. This new Dark Shadows, which aired weekly in prime time, retold the tale of Barnabas Collins’ return to present-day Collinwood from the first series’ early (if not earliest) days, though with considerably better production values and an entirely new cast. Unfortunately, this take only lasted for 12 episodes — though even that was long enough for the short-lived independent comics company Innovation Publishing to license it for a new comic-book series. While Innovation’s comic, like Gold Key’s, managed to outlive the TV program it was based on, it didn’t do so by nearly so wide a margin, shipping its ninth and final issue in late 1993, just before the troubled publisher itself went out of business.
The following decade brought an aborted second attempt at a DS television revival in 2004 (a pilot was shot, but never broadcast), as well as an unrelated single comic-book appearance of Barnabas Collins, when he guest-starred in 2009’s Kolchak Tales: Night Stalker Annual #1 from Moonstone Books. This was an interesting idea, at the least, as the “Night Stalker” property was derived from a well-regarded 1972 TV movie of that name, about a vampire in Las Vegas, that had been produced by none other than Dan Curtis, himself. The resultant mashup of Curtis’ two vampire worlds wasn’t bad, exactly, but it wasn’t what you’d call overwhelmingly good, either; and if the publisher ever had any intentions of using this release as a launching point for a new Dark Shadows series, they never came to fruition.
Moonstone’s dalliance with the DS franchise, as brief as it was, may have been inspired by news of a forthcoming major motion picture based on the property. Warner Bros. had bought the Dark Shadows movie rights from the late Dan Curtis’ estate in 2007, and soon thereafter, both Johnny Depp (slated to star as Barnabas Collins) and Depp’s frequent collaborator, director Tim Burton, were attached to the project. The film eventually saw release in May, 2012 — but some six months before that, the first issue of the third (and, to date, the last) ongoing Dark Shadows comic book series was released by yet another publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
Dynamite’s version wasn’t based on the upcoming movie, but was rather a sequel to the original television series — taking the series’ storylines as canon (for the most part), its narrative began in 1971, and continued on from there with new adventures of Barnabas, Quentin, and the other denizens of Collinwood. At some point, the title was doing well enough to generate two spin-off minseries — one a retelling of the TV series’ “origin story” of how Barnabas first became a vampire way back in 1795, and the other a ill-conceived crossover with another ’60s horror property revived by Dynamite, Vampirella. Nevertheless, the ongoing series ran for just two years, ending in November, 2013, with the 23rd issue.
The fortunes of Dynamite’s Dark Shadows enterprise probably weren’t helped by the lukewarm response to the 2012 film. “Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows” sure seemed like it should have been great; and I think it could have been, had the director opted to go for a bit more of a Sleepy Hollow take (and a bit less of a Beetlejuice one). As it was, though the film had its good moments (in my opinion, at least), it ultimately failed to satisfy either the diehard DS fanbase or the mass moviegoing audience. In any event, it was hardly the Star Trek: The Motion Picture-level watershed moment that the Trek franchise’s fellow Gold Key Comics alumnus had been waiting for for over four decades.
But, as the saying goes, you can’t keep a good vampire down, and the fall of 2019 brought us the news that yet another television revival of Dan Curtis’ 53-year-old brainchild is in the offing. According to Variety, the CW network’s Dark Shadows: Reincarnation will be “a modern-day continuation of the strange, terrifying, and sexy saga of the Collins family of Collinsport, Maine — a mysterious, influential, publicity-shy group hiding a ghastly secret: For the past 400 years, they’ve lived under a curse that bedevils their blueblood with every imaginable supernatural creature and horror.”
This… could work, y’know? The CW’s going with a “next generation” approach may allow all of us old-school fans to keep the original show’s lore (and cast) sacrosanct in our hearts, while allowing a new audience to discover the sinister charms of the Dark Shadows mythos for the first time. The proof will be in the blood pudding, as they say, but I see no reason not to be optimistic, if only cautiously so.
And if there’s a new live-action media incarnation a-borning in the darkness, can it be long before another comic-book adaptation shambles into the harsh light of the pop-cultural day, as well? Only time (parallel or otherwise) will tell — but I wouldn’t bet any I Ching wands against it, if I were you.
*It’s worth noting that at this time the Comics Code Authority hadn’t been significantly revised since 1954, so you still couldn’t read about vampires, werewolves, or zombies in comic books from DC, Marvel, Charlton, and most other publishers. Of course, Warren Publishing (and its few competitors in the black-and-white comics magazine field) danced to a different tune; and so, rather remarkably, did Dell and Gold Key (aka Western Publishing), two major publishers whose output included a large volume of “kiddie” comics, but who nonetheless never submitted their books to the Code. (According to an article by Dark Shadows historian and collector Jeffrey Thompson, the show’s producer, Dan Curtis, may have approached both DC and Marvel in 1968 before going to Gold Key, only to find that neither of those companies could produce a DS comic under the Code’s strictures.)
**Many of Dark Shdows‘ storylines were cribbed from classic horror and other Gothic literature; in addition to Lovecraft’s stories, these included such works as Dracula, Frankenstein, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, The Turn of the Screw, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and even Wuthering Heights. Some of these I was already familiar with as a young viewer, and could recognize when DS‘s writers appropriated them; others, I wouldn’t catch on to until years later, long after the program had left the airwaves.
***Gold Key’s Barnabas would eventually revert to his vampiric state as well, beginning with issue #8 (Feb., 1971), and continuing as such through to the end of the comic book series in 1976.
****Twice, the storyline even made sideways temporal journeys, as a room in the great house of Collinwood was belatedly discovered to be a portal to an alternate timeline, where the lives of the “main” timeline’s characters unfolded differently. This might have been a novel concept to many of DS‘ viewers, though it seemed plenty familiar to yours truly, who’d been seeing different versions of Flash, Green Lantern, and other DC superheroes jaunting between Earth-One and Earth-Two at least once a year, ever since 1965.
*****This actually just scratches the surface of the TV series’ “Quentin Collins” — a name that was in fact shared by four discrete characters, all of whom were portrayed by actor David Selby, but who existed in different time periods and dimensions. (And you thought X-Men continuity was complicated.)
******Another alternative source for Dark Shadows storytelling — the series of paperback novels by “Marilyn Ross”, which, like the comics, deviated dramatically from the show’s continuity (but which I bought and read nevertheless, also like the comics) — outlasted its television inspiration as well, though only by a year, with the last one — Barnabas, Quentin, and the Vampire Beauty — being published in March, 1972.
*******In addition to the Gold Key comics and the paperback novels, Dark Shadows media spinoffs from back in the day included two feature films (the second of which hadn’t even been released to theaters yet when the TV show got the ax) and a newspaper comic strip, illustrated by Ken Bald, that ran from March 14, 1971, through March 11, 1972. Like the Gold Key comic book series, the DS newspaper strip has recently been reprinted in its entirety by Hermes Press.
Oh, did I love Dark Shadows! I don’t remember when exactly I began watching, but I do remember several of Julia’s attempts to cure him scientifically, especially when Professor Stokes tried to do it by building a Frankenstein-type creature they called Adam, which would somehow absorb Barnabas’ vampirism and leave him human and cured. I also remember the Dorian Gray plot with Quentin and that ignominous ending, where they just stopped rolling the cameras and assured us that everything would be OK. I never read the comics, though. At that age, I was something of a comics snob, and if it didn’t come from DC or Marvel it wasn’t worth my time or money. I did love this show, however, and have a vague memory of watching an ep or two with you in the dorm our Freshman year. I watched the two reboots religiously (loved Ben Cross as Barnabas) and look forward to what the CW has in store. I hated the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp fiasco and have only watched it once. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Those “not so Peak-TV” days still managed to have their charms.
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Well Alan, it appears that again our developmental paths crossed at almost the same time. I started watching “Dark Shadows” in April 1970 during the parallel time storyline. The first episode I saw had Cyrus Longwood(?) take the potion to turn himself into John Yeager (this was before I knew about the source material for this). One of my earliest and biggest celebrity crushes was on Lara Parker, who played Angelique, despite the fact that a few days into my watching the series, she killed her twin sister Alexis. I’ve always said that my crush on Angelique proved a precursor to some poor choices I had in real life crushes in the years that followed (although fortunately things eventually turned out all right for me on the romantic front).
I recorded almost all of the Dark Shadows episodes when they aired on the Sci Fi channel in the 1990s, missing only about 12. When I first watched the Leviathan episodes I found them very boring, as did others at the time apparently because that was when the ratings began to nosedive. I forget when I found out about the impending cancellation, but in retrospect, the biggest clue should have been when they did a parallel time story in 1840s Collinwood in which Jonathan Frid played a different character for the first time in the series about six weeks before the cancellation. I thought that the lottery story in that storyline was terrific. Again, at the time, I didn’t know the literary ripoff there.
I did read the comic books, which I found forgettable (although one did survive the flood that destroyed almost all of my comics collection in 1972) and many of the Dan (Marilyn) Ross books (all of which I lost in the flood although I bought one for a dime at a book sale several years later). Last month, my wife and I were visiting relatives in Southern California and a friend took us sightseeing to an old mansion where they had filmed a lot of TV shows, films and music videos. The place looked familiar and I eventually saw a sign that identified it as the building used for (among many other things) Collinwood and the Old House in the 1991 revival series. I was very excited to find that out and began taking a lot of pictures. My greatest thrill though was in 2009 when I went to Newport Rhode Island and tracked down the mansion that was used for the exteriors of the original Collinwood. Little did I know that by then it was no longer used as a girl’s college but was a private residence and I was actually trespassing. Fortunately, no one caught me and let the dogs (or werewolves out).
While I have never attended a Dark Shadows convention, I have met Jonathan Frid and David Selby when they were touring in other projects (Frid in “Arsenic and Old Lace”, Selby doing an Abraham Lincoln tribute) and later found out that a former Miss Pennsylvania that worked in the office of a summer camp I attended had appeared on one episode of the show (her character was killed by one of the Jennings’ werewolf characters).
Regarding the comic book you share, I did notice the scene in which the werewolf tries to get his father to kill him but the father won’t do it. This reminded me of the classic Dark Shadows episode from the 1795 storyline when Barnabas’ autocratic father, Joshua Collins (played by the guy who played Roger, Louis Edmonds), discovers that Barnabas is a vampire and Barnabas begs his father to kill him, but Joshua can’t bring himself to do it. That was one of my favorite episodes in the series and one of the best acted with two Shakespearean actors raising their games to the summit.
Did you have the Barnabas Collins game? I did, but it was another victim of that flood.
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Never owned the game, Stuart! I wish!
Thank you for this very comprehensive history, Alan. While I’m fairly familiar with the history of the show itself, I never really got into the comics, so I actually learned quite a bit!
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