Episode 1232: My Coffin World

“Absurd! Ha ha ha! Children’s chatter!”

Thanks to the flashback in yesterday’s episode, the Collins family of 1841 Parallel Time now knows that the terrible curse under which they live was invented by their terrible ancestor Brutus, who was mad at his wife and a guy that he worked with, who he killed and then was still pretty mad at.

Question: How does this information help the story progress forward? Answer: It does not do that at all.

I feel like that flashback was pretty much the last straw for late-stage Dark Shadows, demonstrating that the show’s most outrageous, innovative trick — going back in time to see Collins ancestors played by current cast members — has become worn-out and pointless. Yes, we got some new set dressing and costumes for a day, and there was a worthwhile Louis Edmonds character acting villainous and unhinged, but it didn’t tell us anything that we couldn’t already guess, and there was no real visual surprise, which is supposed to be Dark Shadows‘ core competency.

The best visual that the show has come up with lately was Morgan digging up the basement in the cottage and unearthing a skeleton with a wig, so you’d think they’d try to connect with that somehow, but they forgot all about it and just showed us Brutus strangling some people, which is not interesting or fun to watch.

So screw it, how about we go and read some comics instead? They may have run out of ideas at ABC Studio 16, but at Gold Key Collinwood, it’s just one crazy disaster after another.

Today, I’d like to look at issue #26, “The Witch Dolls”, which was published in June 1974. This is well past the end of the television show, so there are no new ideas coming from that direction, and the premise of the comic is pretty much settled: Barnabas and Quentin are heroic, cursed creatures who try to solve other people’s problems, while managing the everpresent threat of exposure and destruction.

Every issue ends where it began, so actual story progression is impossible, and the only way to give kids a reason to drop 20 cents on the next issue is to just be as bonkers as they possibly can. “The Witch Dolls” is the high point for that aesthetic, going beyond bonkers into the absolutely incoherent. This story may have been written entirely in the dark.

The story opens with Quentin, Elizabeth and a young blonde girl named Lenore who is apparently Liz’s niece somehow, visiting from Denver. Quentin has taken them out for a speedboat ride on a sunny day, and the caption says: “New England… summer… a day when sun and sea have conspired to deny the existence of evil…”

But no matter what the sun and the sea have to say about it, evil does still exist, probably, and Quentin is brooding upon it.

“Sorry, Elizabeth!” he says. “My mind’s on other things! Sybil Lennon is missing! Her dad owns the cannery at South Collinsport!”

“I know her!” Elizabeth chirps. “She won the national debating medal last year! Pretty thing, too!”

Quentin agrees, “My bet is Sybil’s gone off to New York or Hollywood to become an actress!” which if that’s the case then I don’t know why he’s upset about it. Personally, I didn’t realize that a national debating medal was the springboard to a sudden film career, but when somebody goes missing, it’s usually because they’ve gone to Hollywood. All of this exposition is going to matter later on, so try to absorb it as best you can.

On the way back to Collinwood, while still discussing the mysterious disappearance of a debating champion, the trio gets sidetracked by the mysterious appearance of a quaint storybook shack that calls itself Granny Bumpers’ Doll House, which is pure catnip for the young set.

It’s nice that the comic book is still acknowledging the existence of children, all the way out here on the outer rim of Dark Shadows, because the television show has utterly abandoned them. The kids running home from school used to be a major driver of the show’s success, but there’s honestly nothing on Dark Shadows these days that could be of the slightest interest to children. No vampires, no witches, no magic spells; it’s just sad people talking about how worried they are. If anybody’s running home from school at this point, that says more about school than anything else.

The Doll House is packed to the rafters with a wide variety of play people, all constructed by the twinkling Granny Bumpers, an eccentric old broad with an unstable business model. There can’t be that many hopelessly square kids in upstate Maine who want to collect wooden hand-painted firefighter dolls in this day and age, without being forced into it at gunpoint.

But Granny Bumpers knows how to keep the customers happy, apparently, by putting on personalized puppet shows about Roberto and Consuela arguing about centipedes. “Don’t move, Consuela!” the boy puppet says. “There’s a fly on your head — got it!” And then he hits her over the head with a baseball bat. This is good old-fashioned entertainment that even playboy popstar werewolves can enjoy.

Lenore is enchanted, naturally, by which I mean that she must be under an enchantment that makes her particularly susceptible to quirky local-access children’s show hosts. She’s got an inexplicable craving for Roberto and Consuela, even though it’s 1974 and Sesame Street has spent the last five years raising America’s expectations around quality puppet comedy. I could see Granny Bumpers making some coin on bootleg Ernie and Bert knockoffs, but Roberto and Consuela are clearly box office poison.

And then Granny actually gives away merchandise for free, which is the most unrealistic thing in this story. I can get on board with vampires and werewolves, but people who put on marionette shows need to keep a sharp eye on expenses.

Elizabeth says they need to hurry home: “Look at the time! Almost sundown! Barnabas will be done with his work and hungry as a bear!” This is an innovation in gothic fiction, a vampire who gets up from his coffin with a desperate urge for tuna casserole.

On cue, we cut to the basement vault at Collinwood, where eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins rises from his coffin with yet another mandatory woe-is-me monologue.

“I feel your flaming presence fading, mine enemy, the sun!” he emotes. “And the night that brings you death gives me life!” Gold Key Barnabas does this continually, it’s just one long litany of complaints. “It is centuries past my own grave-time,” he goes on, “yet the curse of Angelique denies me eternal rest!” Wait till he hears about the lamb chops.

Because that’s where we go next, for some reason, a full page of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard stopping off at the butcher’s shop, trying to score something tasty for dinner. We’re going to have to go into this in some depth, because it doesn’t make a lick of sense, and anyway I like commedia dell’arte butchers.

Mr. Mancuso:  Lamb chops? Where I’m gonna get lamb chops, Signorina Collins? My Carlo, he don’ go to the wholesaler this morning! He don’ even come home las’ night! Tha’s a fact!

Elizabeth:  Gone? But do you know where?

Mr. Mancuso:  Shu’ I know! He’s gone off on his Japanese vroom-vroom! Every night up and down the hills on vroom-vroom! Morning, he’s too tired to lift a quarter-steer!

Elizabeth:  Your son — is he a close friend of Sybil Lennon?

Mr. Mancuso:  Ha-ha-ha-ha! You think he’s with Lennon girl?

Mr. Mancuso:  You know who won — stole — national speech contest?… Lennon girl! Rich daddy gone to New York and buy her a speech! Tha’s a fact!

Elizabeth:  Can you prove —

Mr. Mancuso:  I don’ gotta prove! I know! Anyway — I don’ wan’ no speech maker! I wan’ my son — the butcher! You know what I do when he show up? First I kiss him… then I knock his dumb head off!

Elizabeth, in the car:  But why would they be together if he hated her, Quentin?

Quentin:  I don’t know! But the coincidence is far too strong!

So that’s… wait, what?  Try and go back and make any sense of that conversation. Carlo’s off on his Japanese vroom-vroom, so Liz can’t score any lamb chops. Mr. Mancuso is furious that Sybil Lennon stole the national debating medal because her rich father bought her a fancy New York speech, in a competition where Carlo was also a competitor, which is quite a coincidence for a national contest, especially given that Carlo is a teenage butcher who’s expected to stay at home and lift quarter-steers.

And then Elizabeth comes out of that flurry of dialect with the idea that Sybil and Carlo hated each other, which they didn’t, and the butcher never said that they did. Tha’s a fact!

But the real point of that scene is to establish that the two-hundred-year-old vampire won’t be eating any lamb chops tonight. For all of his undead curse-lamenting, Barnabas appears to be a happy member of this weird family, delighted by the antics of little Lenore, who’s messing around with her terrible witch puppet at the dinner table.

Everyone is extremely jolly in this story, especially Barnabas, which offers quite a contrast to the way he was portrayed earlier in the comic book series.

Back in 1969, Gold Key Barnabas would spend the entire story trying to murder every other character.

And this is the 1974 version, uttering the immortal line: “Ha-ha-ha! Very good, Lenore! But you must practice without moving your lips! … Ahhh! The tuna casserole!”

When the television show is over, when the comic strip sputters to an end, when the Paperback Library moves on to other governesses, this is what will remain: Barnabas Collins eating tuna casserole with his young niece. I don’t believe that we requested specifically this, but sometimes life works out that way.

There’s a knock at the door, and a messenger brings a package with two dolls from that Bumpers dame, a contemporary teenage boy and girl on strings which a) is not what they ordered, and b) has not been paid for in any way. This is what I’m telling you about the problem with Granny Bumpers’ business model; it can’t all be loss leaders. Every once in a while, you need to charge people.

Once Lenore’s in bed and the avuncular portion of the evening draws to a close, Barnabas and Quentin confer about the disappearance of Sybil and Carlo, which they keep coming back to despite the fact that it’s none of their business. But in this reframe of the Dark Shadows premise, Barnabas and Quentin are essentially supernatural buddy cops, sworn to investigate curious mysteries that come their way.

“When you or I have such a feeling, we must sniff it to its root!” Barnabas declares, upsettingly. “For we are… different!” You can say that again.

Meanwhile, in the upstairs bedroom where I bet you didn’t think we would be spending a lot of time, Lenore falls asleep with the witch puppet on her hand like a sap; this may be the first toy she’s ever been given in her lonely life. But it turns out that the witch puppet is itself a witch, and it calls forth the marionettes from their boxes to perform their dark deeds.

And then, get this. The dolls aren’t dolls at all; they’re tiny people in wooden doll shells, who can burst through their carapaces and roam free in the world.

It turns out, to no one’s surprise, that Granny Bumpers is actually a devious enchantress, who is posing as an elderly doll constructor in order to commit a crime that would have been much, much easier to accomplish in almost any other way.

I mean, imagine that you wanted to get a couple confederates inside someone else’s house, to work mischief of one kind or another, so your first move is to build dozens of little dolls, including a chef, a doctor, a bride, a fire fighter, a baseball player and a Buckingham Palace guard. Then you have to kidnap two teens and shrink them down to doll size and then build breakable wooden shells around them, and after all that, you’re still like, damn, I forgot to write the centipede jokes for Roberto and Consuela. There’s got to be an easier way to accomplish whatever the fuck you’re trying to do.

And now the witch puppet tells the kids to climb down the dresser to find equipment to drive a sharp point into vampire flesh, because if you’re battling a dangerous supernatural serial killer, you think, time to raid the toy shelf.

But once you’ve turned the vampire into a friendly root-sniffing uncle who eats tuna casserole and wears caution like a second skin, what other tools are available to you? It doesn’t seem like a chainsaw type situation anymore. This is clearly playtime.

Meanwhile, Barnabas’ investigation into the missing-teens case brings him to the father of Sybil Lennon, who’s just as angry with Mr. Mancuso as the butcher is with him. It’s the classic Montague-Capulet story, but with a financier and a butcher, plus the star-crossed lovers are turned into dolls so that a witch puppet can kill a vampire.

“Of course, she’s off with that Carlo Mancuso!” Mr. Lennon cries. “I’ll break him with my own two hands when—” and it’s good that there’s no such thing as the rule of law in Collinsport, because if this was a real civilization, you might not want to stand around shouting violent threats about a missing child.

“Then it would seem that we only have an elopement to be concerned with… not some strange mystery!” Barnabas deduces. “A mere family problem!”

This gets Mr. Lennon even hotter under the collar. “Mere?” he shouts. “there is nothing mere about the daughter of Peter Lennon! I’ll kill that boy — see if I don’t!” Dude, try to keep a lid on your overwhelming desire to murder a teenager.

Also meanwhile, Barnabas’ partner Quentin tries another angle on the investigation, heading down to the waterfront to case out the local hobby shops. “Barnabas is right,” he considers. “We must act upon our instinct for detecting strangeness!… and I felt it today in that doll shop!” I’m not sure whether that was before or after he watched the Roberto and Consuela show.

When he arrives on the scene, good old Granny Bumpers invites him in for some tea, which he drinks, like a chump, and guess what happens.

So if you’re the kind of person who wakes up in the morning and thinks, I wish I could read a comic book in which debonair werewolf Quentin Collins drinks sassafras tea that shrinks him down to the size of a Smurf and gets put into a birdcage and menaced by a hungry cartoon cat, then have I got good news for you.

You know, as I’m writing this post, I keep thinking, okay, I can probably skip ahead a few panels and move a little quicker, and then I look at the page again, and I say, no. This is important. People need to understand what this is like.

So if anybody ever says to you that the Gold Key comic is not part of the Dark Shadows canon, then you need to ask yourself if that person should really be a part of your life.

Because, like all worthwhile Dark Shadows narrative, this comic challenges its readers to ask: Is it really that important if a story makes sense? Couldn’t there be more to life than that?

Now, as we have discussed before on several occasions, there is something terribly wrong with the moon in the Gold Key universe, which impacts the story’s supernatural creatures in unpredictable ways. We’ve seen evenings where Quentin becomes a werewolf for part of the night, and then the moon goes down and he turns back into a human, but Barnabas still has several hours before the sun comes up.

Tonight, the reverse happens: the moon goes down and Barnabas goes to bed, but Quentin still has plenty of time to run around and be a werewolf. “Back I must go,” Barnabas laments, “back to my coffin world, this eternal closet that acknowledges neither time nor hope!” Eternal closets can be like that, sometimes.

If you’ve been wondering what’s happening with the tiny teens of terror, the answer is that they’re using a pencil sharpener very carefully, so they can get a sharp point on a pencil without waking up the sleeping little girl. This is what’s happened to American storytelling.

The idea here is that they’re going to use the little toy hammer from the building set to drive this pencil into Barnabas’ heart. “The size of the stake is of no consequence,” says the witch puppet, “just so long as it is driven straight into the vampire heart!”

This is the moment where I have to break with my colleague, the witch puppet. I believe that the size of the stake is of some consequence. To my knowledge, I have never seen a vampire destroyed by school supplies, although I should probably binge a couple seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer before I make any definitive statements on the matter.

And then the witch puppet sends the Lilliputians off to do their dastardly work, running down the hallway as swiftly as tiny legs can carry them, pitta-pitta-pitta!

This is probably a good moment to note that this is possibly the least efficient use of resources that the witch puppet could possibly make. If you’re assembling a strike force to take down your enemies, my advice is to try to use full-sized people if you can; shrinking your associates to doll size means that it takes way longer for them to clamber down the stairs all the way to the secret basement vampire vault, and by the time they get there, they’ll be exhausted. I respect the out-of-the-box thinking, but sometimes you have to be practical.

Now it’s back to Quentin in the birdcage, where we find another unusual aspect of Gold Key moonlight: even when there isn’t a full moon, half-pint Quentin can turn into a werewolf if he stays out in the moonlight for too long. This is doubtless inconvenient for his usual evening activities, but it couldn’t be more fortunate here, because it turns him into an April Fools prank that this cat will never forget.

“You want my blood, cat!” the tiny werewolf cries. “But I’ll have yours first! YAWRRRR!”

Now take a moment to think about Morgan Collins waking up in his bedroom and asking his aunt Julia if he’s survived a night in the locked room and broken the family curse, and then ask yourself: which version of Dark Shadows would you prefer, right now? This is what I’m saying.

“Don’t run, little kitty! I have more plans for you!” the midget werewolf says, and then he picks up a fork and yells, “Here, feel my sting, cat!” Never before in the history of werewolf fiction.

Once he’s taken care of the cat, Quentin somehow scales the desk using the power of Joe Certa’s inability to draw perspective correctly, and he finds Granny Bumpers’ ye olde booke of spelles and ensorcellements, which is open to the page THE ANCIENT FORMULA FOR MAKING THE DEVIL’S LITTLE PEOPLE.

“That’s it!” says the teensy, multi-talented werewolf, who may kill cats with cutlery but is also proficient at research. “She left the book open when she was making that bitter brew I drank! But where is the antidote? Where?!” It’s probably on the page marked THE ANCIENT FORMULA FOR MAKING THE DEVIL’S BIG PEOPLE.

We finally get to the big dance number, where the enchanted children open up Barnabas’ coffin using kite string and a coat hanger. This is the sequence where you really appreciate why it was crucial that Sybil was established as a national debate medal winner.

And here’s the moment where we discover, once and for all, if it’s possible to murder a vampire with a pencil —

But then with an “EYYYARR! STOP! DON’T DO IT!” Quentin the full-sized werewolf runs in just at the last moment, and saves his vampire pal from the miniature marauders.

But guess what? These little criminals have some game after all; somewhere in the afterglow, a recently-slaughtered cat chirps a sliver of a satisfied purr.

Still, it turns out that in the long run, full-sized people have the advantage. Like everyone who runs a local hobby shop, Granny Bumpers is going to have to learn to live with failure.

Naturally, once the sun comes up, everything works itself out. Quentin turns back from mostly-human to fully-human, and gives the angry witch-ridden teens some ANCIENT FORMULA ANTIDOTE, which brings them back to their former size and temperament.

And happily, Sybil and Carlo don’t remember anything of their evening’s activities, so Quentin doesn’t have to murder them after all.

So what about Granny Bumpers? Well, as the sun comes up, she realizes that her evil plan has failed; now she’s going to have to find another national speech contest winner and start all over again.

She tries to make a break for her Japanese vroom-vroom, but Quentin finds her and says, “There is only one being in Heaven or Hell who would go to any end to destroy Barnabas Collins!”

And we discover that old Granny B is actually Angelique, she who first placed the curse of the vampire upon Barnabas, and who has clearly spent far too much time on this Bumpers boondoggle.

“And so you’ve lost again,” Quentin crows, “as you will always! You cannot buy or destroy him! And even in his greatest torment, he is a victory over all you represent!” I’m not sure what she’s supposed to represent.

“Absurd! Ha ha ha! Children’s chatter!” Angelique trills, and you have to admit she has a point. “Besides, I have eternity for my plans! Au revoir, cherie! We will meet again!” Just wait until she gets home and finds out that Quentin’s killed her cat with a fork.

This weird narrative deserves a weird conclusion, so here’s Sybil and Carlo reunited with their terrible fathers, all one big happy family. The feuding dads wanted to massacre each other earlier in the story, but now the kids are home and safe, following a tea party that they can’t quite remember, and everyone is super jolly. “Ha! Ha! Ha!” says Pop Mancuso, responding to the children’s chatter.

“I’d like to have Barnabas here!” says Mr. Lennon. “Somehow I think he was responsible for bringing them back!” He’s wrong, of course; Barnabas did nothing in this story except eat tuna casserole and go to bed. Still, I’m sure Quentin will tell him all about it tomorrow night, as they drive little Lenore to Windcliff Sanitarium, and leave her there forever.

Tomorrow: You Make Me Sick.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

It looks like the envelope that Josette is holding is addressed to “Bramwell Collins, Collingwood”, although the handwriting isn’t clear.

Morgan tells Julia, “I’d like to know my why wife isn’t here, where she belongs!”

When Bramwell says, “I do have feelings for her, very deep feelings,” there’s a glimpse of a studio light above.

Daphne says, “If you’re implying that Bramwell and Catherine have been unfaithful, I don’t believe it!” Morgan takes a moment, and a peek at the teleprompter, to reply, “You don’t, or you won’t?”

Daphne says she feels dizzy. Julia says, “Well, you’ll be better when we take you back to the Old House.” Daphne says she feels all right, and Julia says, “Well, you’ll be better off when you’re in bed.”

Morgan asks Julia how Daphne is, and Julia says she doesn’t know. Then there’s a thump in the studio, like something falling over.

Tomorrow: You Make Me Sick.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

25 thoughts on “Episode 1232: My Coffin World

  1. Brutus for the win! Brutus succeeded in sending James back to his tomb (or as it’s also known—a big embezzling desk). This means Morgan was back to his old self—the cuck of the walk. It also allowed Julia to give him, and viewers at home, a recap of all the important things that happened while he was possessed, and to disregard the trivial matters nobody remembered anyway.

    With everybody now caught up, this episode was ready to move along!

    It was nice to see Bramwell get news about the boat he’d been waiting since PT began. His ship finally came in……..he’s rich! Obviously his order for a boat load of money had been fulfilled. He didn’t have any details for Josette nor Daphne, because the writer(s) must have run out of fresh typewriter ribbons. The unseen doctor’s diagnosis of Daphne’s irremediable illness also suffered from the lack of typewriter ribbons. Evidently, Parallel Time doctors are able to speedily diagnose incurable diseases on the spot. Luckily for Daphne, it’s routine to fool terminally ill patients into thinking all they need is a few days’ bed rest. This allows her to add to Bramwell’s excitement with her somber depression in the most euphoric way she can muster. Yay!

  2. I should have guessed that Granny was Angelique. She now has a wide variety of dolls suitable for strangling. And Elizabeth now wears pants!
    I’ve warmed to Josette a bit. I liked her lecturing Bramwell about Daphne. I love her purple dress. I’ve decided that in parallel time the du Pres family were French Huguenots who settled in America, not Martinique, and Josette was born in New England. Accent problem solved and we eliminate Angelique from their lives.
    Bramwell is still conducting business at midnight like people do, apparently.
    Finally, I hate that Bramwell has suddenly decided he’s going to be a wonderful husband to Daphne just before he finds out she’s dying because we can’t have viewers hate Bramwell for being mean to Daphne, can we? Can we still hate him for all the other reasons? Unless Danny points out something I really need to rewatch, I’m done with this story.

  3. I thought the scene with the pencil sharpener was going around in circles and that they really needed to get to the point.

    1. Point taken! It was a very roundabout (some would say a very circuitous) way of doing things. It’s a good thing Granny Bumper/Bumpers telepathically gets the funny witch hand puppet to yell across the room (in a very quiet whisper so as not to wake Lenore), “SOFTLY! TURN IT SOFTLY! WE MUSTN’T WAKE THE DEAR CHILD!”

      I don’t know how much energy deadly witch dolls have, but they have to break out of their thin, wooden membranes, climb down what appears to be a dresser, climb up a desk to get a pencil, stick it in the sharpener, turn the sharpener until the pencil has a good point, climb down, look for a hammer, carry both down at least one floor, maybe two, climb up onto Barnabas’ coffin with the pencil, hammer, and hangar, open Barnabas’ coffin, and finally climb onto Barnabas’ chest with the pencil and hammer. The sad thing is there is absolutely no way the laws of physics will allow mini-Carlo to drive that pencil into Barnabas’ chest from the angle he’s trying to hit it at. Even if he was able to hit the top of the pencil, the eraser would dampen the impact somewhat. He’d have better luck driving Sybil’s head through it instead.

      Perhaps Granny could have dropped a small hammer, a handful of sharp, wooden objects, and/or at least pre-sharpened pencils, through one of the two windows of the great vault beneath the brooding mansion called Collinwood. After all, Granny tells her homunculi, “NO TIME TO WASTE!” It’s lucky Lenore has a “BUILD-O” set of tools, otherwise the little imps would have had to have made do with a slipper, drum, big ball, or lamp (whatever that striped conical thing is).

  4. This story sounds similar to Tod (Dracula ’31) Browning’s “The Devil-Doll” (1935) in which Lionel Barrymore, masquerading in drag as an old woman, miniaturizes people for revenge purposes.

    Too bad Dan Curtis didn’t see “The Devil-Doll” on late night TV while DS was in production or we might have gotten a real-life miniature David Selby running around the sets courtesy of chromakey.

    And happily, Sybil and Carlo don’t remember anything of their evening’s activities, so Quentin doesn’t have to murder them after all.

    Or one of them is a quick study and when Quentin said out loud (it’s not a think balloon) he couldn’t let them go free one of them immediately whispered to the other “play dumb.”

    So if anybody ever says to you that the Gold Key comic is not part of the Dark Shadows canon,

    Canon, no (not for me, anyway). A source of morbid curiosity, yes!

    1. It appears the Collinsport sheriff’s office is just as effective in comic book land as it is on television. Also, Angelique doesn’t appear to have settled on a consistent way to spell her assumed name correctly. The sign has “Granny Bumpers’ ” and she states her name is Granny Bumpers, yet her thought balloon has “Granny Bumper’s…”.

      If only Angelique could have learned to pick a lock or use her powers to unlock the front door of Collinwood. Then she could make her way down to the vault below Collinwood to plunge a pencil through Barnabas’ heart.

      FUN FACT: The great vault that lies beneath the brooding mansion called Collinwood has a window with steel bars on it. That means it’s on the ground floor.

      ODD FACT: There are only two steel horizontal bars at the top of the vault window. Was the Collins family unable to afford four more bars to adequately secure the entire window?………or did Gold Key not pay the artist enough to complete the job?

      1. ODDER FACT: I hadn’t noticed a second window when I wrote the ODD FACT. The second window also has only two horizontal bars. However one is at the top, while the other is at the bottom. Again I have to ask, why? Was it a Collins or a Gold Key budgetary problem?

  5. Granny Bumpers looks like Jonathan Winters in his Maude Frickert character costume.

    “I know her!” Elizabeth chirps. “She won the national debating medal last year! Pretty thing, too!”

    Who cares if the national debating medal is a pretty thing or not?

  6. Yeah, Willow killed a vampire (telekinetically) with a pencil in Season 3’s “Enemies”. They make stronger pencils in Sunnydale, I’m guessing; probably in Collinsport too. “Man, I hate playing vampires towns,” as guest singer Aimee Mann famous bitched upon leaving the Bronze late one eve.

    I like that Angelique spouts some French in this issue (and only this issue) — even though her television counterpart hadn’t, by this point, been connected with Martinique since 1969 or so.

  7. On the series, didn’t Quentin have a descendant named Lenore (a name obviously borrowed from Poe) — either his daughter or granddaughter? And perhaps the Lenore in the Gold Key comic is her descendant. So while not a Collins by name, and not actually Elizabeth’s niece, she may be a distant relative who calls her adult distant cousin “Aunt.” Of course, this is attempting to rationalize something that the Gold Key comics writers probably weren’t trying to rationalize at all. 😉

  8. It’s a sign of how much you must loathe the Innovation comics that with this few slots to go before The End you’re still doing Gold Key instead. I mean, come on…the Innovation comics have everything…deleted scenes from the pilot…vampiric lab rats…Ben Cross nostril cam…Gorgons…narrative collision with Lovecraft’s “The Lurking Fear”…and to make them really fun to read, try doing it after having a Vampire Tequila Sunrise!

    What’s a “Vampire Tequila Sunrise”?

    It’s that thing? where your Renfield day-drinks tequila all afternoon? and then you black out after drinking their blood and don’t get back to your coffin before sunrise.

    Look, Stephon, most people who visit Collinsport are just looking for a quiet, artsy place to chill.

    Right, right, right, right. Collinsport’s hottest spot to hang out is Da Fuh? Located in an overflowing dumpster behind the Collinsport fish market, this trendy pop-up offshoot of the Blue Whale has everything: ineffectual policemen…a jukebox that plays exactly two songs…Dr. Hoffman dispensing sedatives…Chet from “Never Too Young”…and if you’re shorter than the girl you want to dance with, try lycanthropic elevator shoes!

    What are lycanthropic elevator shoes?

    It’s that thing? where a werewolf hugs you from behind? and then when the Moon rises and he changes into a wolfman, he gets taller.

    1. Oops, I got my Alex Stevens/Don Briscoe relative heights backwards. The wolfman is shorter. Management apologizes for any inconvenience.

  9. The comic book:
    Oh, where to begin?
    Quentin. There must have been some likeness, head shot, daugerreotype, charcoal sketch or bubble gum card that featured David Selby, for the illustrator to use when drawing Quentin.  Even the half-assed work on Barnabas occasionally manages to come close to Jonathan Frid if you close your good eye and squint with your bad eye. But Quentin in the Gold Key universe stubbornly refuses to look like David Selby.

    The story:
    As always, this reads like something written by a fourth grade class, where each child wrote one sentence and passed the paper to the next desk.

    Random nitpicking:
    1. WHY is Quentin so concerned about Sybil’s disappearance? LOCAL GIRL MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARS. Every other headline in Collinsport!
    2. Why does nobody question that Granny Bupkiss’ gingerbread cottage wasn’t there before this afternoon? And why are Elizabeth and Lenore out of the car and halfway up the walk to the entrance when Lenore asks if they can go in?
    3. Even if Granny didn’t have Sybil and Carlo prepped as Roberto and Consuela, so she could give them to Lenore, why not dress up Sybil and Carlo in clown outfits? They just shed the doll disguise a few panels later anyway.
    4. I’m a not even-a-go into the cultural stereotypa wit’ de butcha’. Whassamatta you?
    5. Lamb chops or tuna casserole? Those are the ONLY menu choices?  Was there no rotisserie chicken or lobster bisque at the supermarket? You’re living in a fishing town, get some halibut!
    6. That witch puppet is facing in the completely opposite direction to the sleeping girl’s hand. Kid’s wrist is going to be so sore tomorrow.
    7. The tiny Carlo opens the top drawer of the dresser (Screee!). In the next panel, the top drawer seems to be shut and the other two drawers are open.  How did Carlo manage it?
    8. Lenore is here for a visit.  Where did all the toys come from?  Drum, top, ball, Build-O?
    9. Granny Bumpercar TELLS the witch puppet that she’s working to “…tell your sister that the little people must leave…”; then she says “Listen, my little people…” Why is Granny telling the puppet what to say when Granny is voicing the puppet?
    10. That fork that Quentin kills the cat with had better be silver; since he bit the cat, shouldn’t it become a werewolf cat?
    11. When the National Speech competitors went pitta-pitta to Barnabas’ coffin, they had a pencil and a hammer. Now they have a spool of twine and a coat hanger. And the handle on the hammer is thinner than the pencil. It’s almost the thickness of a toothpick, and couldn’t possibly function as a hammer, even a child sized one, without breaking.
    12. Quentin picks up the tiny people, and they’re clearly twice as big as his hands; when Sybil stabs Quentin with the pencil, she’s dwindled to less than half the size of his hand, as has the pencil. Honestly, this comic book and perspective.
    13. As Sybil returns to life size, Quentin is standing at the RIGHT SIDE of the frame. Why is the word balloon “It’s working!” coming from the left of the frame? Can’t be Barnabas, since we can see from the window behind Quentin that the sun is up. Is Quentin a ventriloquist?
    14. And just before the end, hoorah, Quentin finally is drawn decently! He looks like Elvis, but it’s better than he’s been so far.

    The revelation near the end that this was Angelique’s doing is particularly idiotic (except that she’s the resident witch – – I’m guessing they have a very strong union), since even for her this nefarious plot is needlessly complicated. And to what end? To drive a stake in Barnabas? Isn’t her schtick endlessly tormenting him? Killing him doesn’t accomplish that, in fact it cancels his eternal punishment.
    Mais, maintenant Angélique parle Français! Tout est pardonné. (Je plaisante bien sûr. C’était une perte de temps. Déchets. Des ordures. Un gaspillage de vingt cents.)

    The episode:

    So, technically the seance DID succeed in getting James Forsyth out of Morgan. It opened the portal and let Brutus in, and he did the rest. I’m just confused about what constitutes an “unquiet spirit”. Was Brutus confining the shades of his victims down in his auditing annex? Going off to spend the night gloating over the moldering corpses while the restless ghosts moaned about needing to rest? And talking about “going off’, the smell in that bedroom must have been awful.  No wonder the family didn’t use that wing of the house. (But then, Brutus could have had some taxidermy skills and had everyone stuffed, just for fun. Then he could go and play with his life-sized dolls… now that’s some good creepy!)

    So Morgan’s back to his old self, bellicose and bawling about Bramwell; and since he’s a Collins of the male persuasion his go-to is to start fondling the firearms.

    Josette tries to draw out Bramwell as to his feelings about Daphne, and he claims that “something” is keeping him from showing his feelings for his wife.
    Never has subtext been used so well.

    And then the next crisis looms as Daphne suddenly contracts Nonspecific Soap Opera Illness, which I understand is generally fatal. My medical opinion is she’s got four more episodes to live.
    I don’t need to read ahead in the DS Wiki to know how this is going to work out – – all that’s necessary now is to get Morgan to Widows Hill so Bramwerine (Cathwell?) get a happy ending.
    Which doesn’t set very well with me, since both of them spent this whole story making bad decisions and being unfaithful to their respective spouses, justifying it to themselves as “true love”. Worse still, everyone else, Julia, Flora and Josette, will be fine with the outcome, won’t they?
    And I know, we’re supposed to be rooting for Barnabas and Angelique to get their “happily ever after”, but this IS NOT THEM! Bramwell and Catherine deserve to have her die in his arms. The kind of tragic ending that almost every couple in Dark Shadows got.

    1. I couldn’t squint hard enough to make Barnabas look like Jonathan Frid. He bore about as much resemblance to him as the infamous Lucille Ball statue bore to Lucy. Actually, he looks more like Burke Devlin.

      1. Now I have “Les Bicyclettes De Belsize” stuck in my head. 😬
        Maybe if I play Tom Jones’ “Help Yourself” on repeat it will knock it out of there. If that doesn’t work there’s always “Delilah”.

  10. “…rooting for Barnabas and Angelique to get their ‘happily ever after’…”. Perhaps this whole final mess is Angelique’s fever dream as she hovered between life and death after Trask shot her in the final real time episode? I could almost wrap my brain around that. She imagined her and Barnabas as Bramwell and Catherine as she lay dying in Barnabas’s arms?

  11. Angelique dreams they both marry other people? It may seem possible she’d imagine boinking Morgan, but I doubt she’d want to imagine her sister boinking Angelique’s own true love Barnabas. Of course in nightmares, anything can happen.

  12. This comic seems totally uninterested in Dark Shadows. Instead they decided to riff on The Incredible Shrinking Man / Land Of The Giants / Dead Of Night / and several Twilight Zone eps with small people, puppets, and dolls sprung to life.

    But those images of Angelique, though, really reminded me of how that character was designed in the T*m B****n movie.

  13. “Now take a moment to think about Morgan Collins waking up in his bedroom and asking his aunt Julia if he’s survived a night in the locked room and broken the family curse, and then ask yourself: which version of Dark Shadows would you prefer, right now?”

    You’ve chosen the one moment of this episode I can imagine myself wanting to see again. When we get the closeup of Julia’s face at an angle, breathing heavily, looking down at the bed- that was much, much closer to “sexy” than the show has allowed Grayson Hall to be up to this point. So close that I can imagine what they may have had in mind when they considered her for the part of Mrs Robinson in THE GRADUATE.

    Then of course one sees what Keith Prentice would have been like as Benjamin. “Mrs Robinson! I think! You’re trying to!” (looks at TelePrompter) “SEDUCE ME!” The ending would have been a bit less impactful than it was with Dustin Hoffman, since Prentice would have shouted “ELAINE!!!” and made windows rattle eight or nine times already.

  14. Anyway, it was seriously disappointing to learn in #1231 that the curse was imposed on the family for no reason and operates without any reference to the personalities of the characters or the relationships among them. It reduces the main plot driver in this whole segment of the show to the status of a brute fact, like the laws of gravity. I’m sure there was no thought put into that decision- it must simply have been a case of hurried, sloppy writing. But it is so alien to good story-telling that I almost wonder if the ideas of the Anti-Novel and of Anti-Narrative that Robbe-Grillet promoted in the 1950s and 1960s weren’t somewhere in Gordon Russell’s mind.

    It is scarcely less disappointing in this episode to learn that Daphne, the only character we consistently care about, is destined to die off and dump more screen time into the dismal sink of Bramwell/Catherine scenes. Watching #1228, my wife, Mrs Acilius, turned to me and said “I hope Bramwell and Daphne get a divorce. And if they do, I hope Daphne gets custody of the audience.” I couldn’t but think of Tad and Carrie, hoping desperately that they could go away with their Daphne and escape the narrative dead end they were stuck in. Again, it’s as if the show is turning to its viewers and defying us to keep watching.

  15. Why is Quentin so concerned about a girl who has disappeared?

    He might be wondering if he needs to do a little cleanup after Barnabas went on a late night snacking binge. I don’t think Barnabas could keep his appetite in check for long subsisting on lamb chops and tuna casserole.

    … ugh, I hate tuna casserole. Even seeing the words written down. … shudder 🤮

    Not a fan of dolls either. However, because I adore cats I’m going to say that Quentin just poked it with a fork and it ran off to become a were creature. Someone should pick up that story, maybe write an X-rated version on their cell phone while they’re utilizing public transportation and when a bunch of middle-aged women make it a best-seller, never ever tell anyone where the idea came from.

  16. Gold Key Angelique is clearly a supervillain: she likes to monologue and uses overly complicated plots to try and kill the “heroes”. Of course the supervillain rules suggest that she should have made time to gloat at her victims instead of just sneaking around in disguise trying to kill them with miniature people. Ideally she should have had Barnabas dangling over a pit of sharpened stakes while taunting him with his slow but soon-to-be inevitable death.

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