“Was she so hysterical as to mistake a snake for a cat?”
We’re spending two weeks reading the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip, and I know, I’m just as sick of it as you are. The thing just runs and runs, and never really gets anywhere, because the show’s been boiled all the way down to a simple, repeatable formula.
Barnabas is a vampire, Elizabeth and Carolyn are rich clueless women living in a huge mansion, and then an interloper appears — a ghost, a goddess, a werewolf, a warlock, whatever you have lying around. The newcomer puts someone in danger. Barnabas tries to fight it, and fails. Then he talks to someone, or travels somewhere, and figures out the villain’s secret weakness. Barnabas sets a trap for the baddie, waves his magic wand, and then everything is fine.
It’s an added bonus if you can connect the monster of the month to Barnabas’ past, but honestly, it could be anything. I mean, you could even do a woman who turns into a cat with snake venom on her claws. Oh wait, they already did.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 8: The Ballad of Big Boy
“Am I doing the right thing? Would anyone else free this most evil of all beings?”
The twisted Mr. Sinestra, leader of a secret sect of underground Satan-whisperers, has decided that the de rigeur must-have soul of the season is Barnabas Collins, for no particular reason other than he’s the star of the show.
We’re spending a couple weeks reading the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip, because it seemed like a good idea at the time, although by now it’s turned into a grim look at the End of All Things, and what lies beyond the portal of April Third. The newspaper strip — which outlasted the parent TV show by forty-nine weeks — is trying to grind the show’s narrative into powder, grabbing handfuls of history and scattering them to the winds. It’s possible that I’m overthinking this.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 7: Swipe Left
“Are you trying to make us doubt our senses? We saw you fling a man over the sea cliffs!”
So that’s where we find ourselves, halfway through this special feature on the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip — on the knife edge of a story untelling itself. Starting just a few weeks before the television show jumped into a gypsy caravan and drove off into the night, the daily comic strip stayed behind, performing a dark ritual of — well, what’s the opposite of summoning? Cause that’s what the comic strip is doing.
Distilled down to three characters and a house, the Dark Shadows comic strip was the remains of a party, after most of the guests have gone home. Gee, look at the time, they all said, glancing at the calendar. See you all next week, on Ryan’s Hope. Then they were gone, chased off by the dreadful chimes of the church bell tolling April Third, April Third.
Now, only Barnabas is left, accompanied by the pale shadows of Elizabeth and Carolyn, performing his dark ritual of dispersing.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 6: The Thousand-Year War
“All my instincts tell me… it wasn’t a wolf! No… It was another kind of creature!”
So here’s the question: Is Dark Shadows cursed?
Over the last couple years on this blog, I’ve watched and read and listened to a growing number of Dark Shadows spinoff products — the 1991 revival series, the Gold Key comics, the Paperback Library novels, the trading cards, and the Big Finish audio dramas — and they all have one thing in common, namely: They don’t make any goddamn sense. And we haven’t even gotten to Night of Dark Shadows yet, one of the outstanding leaders in the field.
It seems like people are unable to write Dark Shadows stories that hang together in a coherent way, up to and including the writers of Dark Shadows. So what kind of chance does the Dark Shadows comic strip have? For these two weeks, while I’m out traveling, we’ve been reading this 1971 strip, and so far, it looks like the curse of not making sense is in full effect. So as we go along today, I’m going to periodically check in with the ABC7 AccuWeather Sense Tracker, to see if we can figure out what’s wrong with the structure of Dark Shadows stories.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 5: Try to Forget
“How strange! At first, I too wished your final death!”
The story so far: Turns out eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins is the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris. This comes as a surprise to you, me, him and the ancient Egyptians, but Isis — the mythical wife of the mythical Osiris — has shown up at Collinwood pretending to be a doctor, and she’s got a magic amulet that helps you tell the difference between people who are ancient Egyptian gods and people who aren’t.
Convinced that Barnabas has the soul of her lost love, Isis uses the amulet to hypnotize him into remembering his previous incarnations. “Gaze into the past!” she urges, as if Barnabas ever does anything else.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 4: Ptainted Love
“At last, after thousands of years, I shall be in the presence of the soul of my beloved!”
I’m traveling right now, so instead of writing regular episode posts, I’m doing a special two-week series on the 1971 Dark Shadows newspaper comic strip, because it’s easier to write these on planes. You might be wondering if having a book of vampire comic strips in one hand and scribbling sarcastic jokes with the other hand would excite comment among one’s fellow passengers. The answer to that question is yes.
But the interesting thing about the strip so far is that Barnabas has been a passenger too, riding shotgun on a storyline that was entirely about other people. He coasted through the magazine publisher warlock assassin story, which really could have worked itself out without him. Basically, he had one cool villain fight scene where he was temporarily enveloped in fire-retardant fire, and besides that, it was mostly thinks monologues. For Jonathan Frid, it’s hardly been worth showing up at the newspaper for work, really.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 3: The Bite of Love
“Is there nothing that can stop the power of that witch’s flaming hate?”
It’s day two of our special feature on the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip, which appeared in newspapers every day for a year, starting about three weeks before the show was cancelled. The strip stars America’s grooviest ghoul Barnabas Collins, of course, who inhabits the great estate at Collinwood with a couple women named Elizabeth and Carolyn. And that’s it for the regular cast, so they have to import characters from the outside if they want to have anybody to talk to, or — as is often the case — anybody to look at while doing a lengthy thinks monologue.
There’s a lot of thinks in this strip; for Barnabas, it’s about 50/50 between thinks and actual dialogue so far, and the scale is tipping pretty strongly in the direction of internal dialogue. If they ever filmed this story, Jonathan Frid would hardly have to remember any lines at all; he could just pre-record everything, and then stand there doing facial expressions.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 2: A Forever Death
“I thought there were only two Collinses left. That means there are three who must be destroyed!”
Now, I know that Quentin Collins is at a particularly thrilling crisis point right now — forced to wear jewelry that he doesn’t particularly care for — but I’m afraid we’re going to have to put his problems on hold for a minute, because I’ve got problems of my own. I’m leaving the country for a conference, and I won’t have time to write regular episode posts for the next two weeks. But I can’t just jump forward into the future and leave the rest of you behind, at the mercy of gypsies.
So I’ve come up with another crackpot idea for what to do over these two weeks, namely: write about the Dark Shadows comic strip, which ran for one year, starting in March 1971. These will probably take me longer to write than the regular posts would have, but I wanted a chance to cover the comic strip anyway, and you only live once, probably.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 1: The Tortured Undead
“Listen, and you shall hear the rustling of the leaves in a thousand trees!”
Count Petofi is tired of his lifestyle, and who wouldn’t be? He lives in a murder dungeon in the basement of the old mill. He spends all his time talking to upstart lackeys. And every nine days, another gypsy receives the power of the golden scimitar and comes after his magical hand, and you can imagine how tedious that must be.
So he’s constructed a mysterious master plan, and all we have to do is wait for this week to be over, so somebody can explain to us what it is. For weeks now, Petofi has been slowly advancing on our heartthrob hero, Quentin Collins, rubbing his hands together and going mwah hah haaah, and it looks like he’s finally ready to pull the trigger.
So here’s Quentin, outmaneuvered by accessories. Petofi liked it; he put a ring on it. Now Quentin can’t get it off.
Continue reading Episode 855: The Ring
“I tried to get it off my finger, but I can’t!”
In a way, Quentin’s having a tough week. He’s scheduled to marry a psychotic sorceress in a week’s time, the girl that he was planning to elope with went and eloped without him, his enchanted portrait was pinched from his bedroom, and now a wicked wizard is casting some kind of mysterious hoodoo on him that will almost certainly lead to ruin, desolation and despair, in that order.
But in another and much more important way, Quentin is having the time of his life. He’s currently in a streak of 14 straight episodes, and over the next six weeks, he appears on 26 days out of 30. He’s booked solid from Monday to Friday, and now they’re even sending him out on weekend excursions to wave at people.
Continue reading Episode 854: Positively Like a Beatle