“No one will find me, including the thing in that room!”
It’s difficult to build up an audience for a daytime soap opera; you have to catch lightning in a bottle just to get people’s attention in the first place. You need to create likeable characters that people can relate to, and put them in interesting and dramatic situations. You have to write dialogue that speaks to the audience, and touches on their concerns. You have to create an intimacy, a real connection, that makes the audience want to tune in every single day.
I mean, unless it’s the last two months of Dark Shadows, in which case don’t bother. Who even cares?
Continue reading Episode 1200: The Woman in What?
“But actually, I did not come here to discuss the dead.”
It’s another one of those mysterious messages that Quentin’s been finding lately, scattered around his mansion. They’re cryptic little postcards from beyond the veil, signed by an old, extinguished flame, and they’re starting to get to him. They say things like “Joanna is dead and you are responsible,” which is upsetting, and they have these impenetrable adamantium wax seals that can only be opened by experts.
This time, the wax seal is even more troublesome than usual, and he’s really struggling with it. Quentin’s been opening his own mail for years now, it shouldn’t be this big of a deal, but the paper is determined to resist his advances. It must be some kind of trick judo paper that uses the attacker’s strength against him; the seconds are ticking by, and he’s still wrestling with it. He lunges at the seal one last time, and still it eludes him, and that’s when David Selby mutters “Oh, shit,” on network television.
Continue reading Episode 1133: Low Clearance
“Well, at least there’ll be no more murders.”
Angelique returned from the dead to destroy her ex-husband Quentin, and between you and me, she’s done a kick-ass job. Quentin’s on the run from the law, accused of several murders that he’s only partially responsible for, all of his friends are dead, and a minute from now, either he’s going to murder his second wife or she’s going to murder him. This is about as destroyed as a person needs to be.
We’re down to the last week of the Parallel Time storyline; there’s just a few more people to kill, and then Barnabas and Julia can go back to their own dimension, satisfied with a job well done. Everything Must Go, says the sign in the front window, and here it is: everything. Let’s see how it goes.
Angelique herself is only seconds from destruction — her vitality depends on sucking the life force out of a woman named Roxanne, and if the mysterious Claude North can get Roxanne to speak, then it’s lights out for Angelique.
But Barnabas offers the witch one last shot at redemption, handing her a confession to sign that would clear Quentin’s name. She won’t even touch it. Screw you, she says, if you people don’t appreciate me, then I’ll go down, and I’ll take the whole goddamn show down with me.
Then Roxanne speaks — and Angelique dies with a curse on her lips, as Angeliques should. Really, at the core, she’s saying: I don’t want to live in a world where Roxanne has dialogue. You’ve got to admit she has a point.
Continue reading Episode 1056: The Parallel Sky
“I tried slapping her, and telling her there was no such person as Alvah.”
And so, as Sabrina sinks slowly in the west, we wonder: is there any other version of this story we could pay attention to instead?
I mean, the current storyline on Dark Shadows basically entails Barnabas struggling to save fake Maggie from fake Angelique, as they fight over an imitation Quentin made of straw and food coloring. Sabrina is gone and Julia is on the ascendant, but still, it’s Parallel Time and there’s only so much I can deal with. So how about today we turn to an equally ersatz band of time, and see what’s happening over at the Paperback Library?
Dan “Marilyn” Ross is currently pumping out Dark Shadows novels at the rate of 159 pages a month, and honestly they’re just as canon as anything else, so we ought to keep an eye on them just to make sure they’re not hurting anybody. The current installment as of May 1970 is #17 in the PBL Gothic series: Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging Ghost, the second book to use the “Barnabas, Quentin and…” construction.
The cover blurb says “Barnabas and Quentin join forces against Collinwood’s ghostly killer,” which isn’t strictly accurate, in that they don’t join forces, it’s not necessarily Quentin, there isn’t a ghost, and nobody gets killed. Besides that, it’s fine.
Continue reading Episode 1034: Mistakes in Justice
“As each moment goes by, you have less and less existence!”
Here’s newlywed Jeb Hawkes, the world-crushing god-emperor and inspiration for a thousand terrible RPG modules, tiptoeing gingerly into his hotel room. He sets down the suitcases, looks left, right, and left again, and finally summons up the nerve to turn the lights on.
This is how far he’s fallen — the mighty murderous man-thing, triumphant at last, shaking off the shackles of his Elder Things upbringing, and running away with the girl he loves… but feeling no joy. Instead, we see a timid man, afraid of his own shadow. Not the shadow he casts, naturally, nobody fears that except groundhogs. Jeb is afraid of the shadow that’s been assigned to him.
Continue reading Episode 973: Groundhog Day
“Be cautious with it! We don’t want a string of strange deaths in our group.”
But it’s the age old story, isn’t it? Man comes into contact with something other — something beyond our grasp, beyond understanding, beyond words — and it changes us, occasionally for the better. And we take that encounter, and we turn it into story.
I mean, not this story, obviously. This story is insane. You know how Joseph Campbell and the Mythkateers say that all mythic narratives are just variations on a single great story? Yeah. This is one of the exceptions.
But even the strangest sound has an echo, and here, in the midst of the ragged and unruly Leviathan tale clattering across our screens in double-time, we can reach out and grab hold of another story that’s following a similarly erratic track.
There is another story where Barnabas very gradually fights an otherworldly menace, where Quentin appears and disappears with little consequence, where Maggie experiences carefully controlled doses of mild peril, and where an upsetting reptile pulls the strings, and makes the puppets dance.
This is a story that our people tell. We call it Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse.
Continue reading Episode 946: Universal Monsters
“I wonder if you are myself.”
“Do you enjoy your new life, mon cher?” says the pteranodon, hovering prehistorically in the foyer. “An eternity of darkness, feeding like a beast in ze night on human blood alone!”
She doesn’t say this with her mouth, of course. That is not the pteranodon method. She speaks only in the language of the eyes, and aviation.
Continue reading Time Travel, part 10: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
“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
“I know your feeling. Everyone I love must die, too.”
“How dark it is!” says the unresting spirit of Julianka. “I do not like death at all!” She was only killed a few hours ago, so she hasn’t had a lot of time to get used to it, but here she is, already submitting her post-mortem Yelp review. I guess even dead people get impatient sometimes. That’s kind of comforting, in a way.
Continue reading Episode 798: Everyone You Love Must Die
“I’m merely wondering if there’s something in you that reaches out towards unnatural creatures.”
The time is out of joint — O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Continue reading Episode 790: A Tale Told