“You may find that out in a frightening fashion.”
As we’re moving through these grim final weeks of Dark Shadows, I’ve been taking the opportunity to catch up on the spinoff media: the books and comics and audio plays and weird fan poetry that people have generated over the decades. Going into this period, I expected that I would like some of the stories and really very much not like others, but I wasn’t sure how that would play out. And now that I’m here, waist-deep in Dark Shadows apocrypha, I’m surprised to say that I’ve been looking forward to the Paperback Library posts.
I mean, Dan Ross’ Dark Shadows gothic novels are not good literature; they’re tepid, repetitive 156-page chill delivery devices with cardboard characters and nonsense plots, and there’s no good pretending that they’re anything else. They treat women as disposable objects — even the heroines, sometimes — and every character spends all of their time gossiping and complaining about everyone else.
And yet here we are, on the brink of Barnabas, Quentin and the Body Snatchers, and I am delighted. How do you account for a thing like that?
Continue reading Episode 1221: The Snatch
“I have a premonition of unpleasant happenings at the antique barn.”
And the winners, apparently, are Paperback Library and Gold Key Comics.
Dark Shadows is still filling time for a couple of months on television, but as of last week, the show is no longer an active participant as a chronicler of the Collins family that we love. Barnabas is safe at home, Quentin is only as insane as he’s supposed to be, and that is all that we shall ever know about their ongoing activities. For ABC Television, the concept of “Barnabas” is no longer their concern.
But the tie-in media continues, long after that dreadful April Third. For one thing, the ridiculous Dark Shadows comic strip starts in March, and runs for a year, coming to an unsteady stop in March 1972. The Paperback Library gothics also run until March 1972, and the Gold Key comic book line stretches all the way to February 1976. There may not be enough housewives interested in Dark Shadows to make it worth All-Temperature Cheer’s while to support a vampire show, but there are enough teenagers to satisfy Gold Key that Dark Shadows can remain more-or-less current in American pop culture for another five years.
So these are the standard-bearers for the characters from now on, the only people who still believe that there’s a market for stories about Barnabas and Quentin. As far as television is concerned, these characters are museum pieces, and as the spin-offs spin on, the question becomes: Does anyone want to buy these antiques?
Continue reading Episode 1202: The Leftovers
“Being a mental patient seems to make anything possible.”
So we might as well gently check ourselves into an asylum, is what I’m saying. It’s about time, and it doesn’t appear like anyone’s going to do it for us. I think at this point we could all do with a little rest cure at a home for the mentally unwell, if only to hang out with the rest of the Dark Shadows fanbase.
Continue reading Episode 1184: The Graham Crack-Up
“He only remained a few nights and then vanished mysteriously with his manservant.”
It’s fall 1970, and the question on everyone’s mind is: what are we supposed to do with Quentin Collins? We’ve rebooted him, and jailed him, and sent him mysterious love notes, and still he remains as moody and Byronic as before, and as far as I know, nobody requested a Byronic Quentin. Moody and Byronic people are annoying and difficult to manage; even Byron was a pain in the ass.
It’s all the weddings, I think. Just this year, Quentin has been married to Angelique, Maggie and Samantha, a mixed assortment of nuts who keep hitching and unhitching themselves to him, dragging him down and saddling him with young sons that he hardly notices. He keeps struggling to separate himself from these crazy broads any way he knows how — strangle Angelique, chase Maggie out of the house, tell Samantha that he despises her — but then they keep living in the house with him for one reason or another, piling up in untidy heaps. What he needs is a good hard divorce, and one that sticks this time, and actually gets the wife all the way out of the house.
So it’s time for Quentin to get back to his woman chasing roots, and that’s why we’re spending the day reading another goddamn Paperback Library novel.
Continue reading Episode 1159: This First Unhappy Experience
“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
“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
“Barnabas never ceases to be exciting.”
My husband opens the doors to the drawing room, and finds me deep in thought, puzzling over an old book. I’m reading carefully, and transcribing some of the more difficult passages.
As he makes his way to the drinks cabinet, he asks, “Is that for the blog?” I tell him it is, and I show him the cover. He asks why I’m writing about this now, and I say that the book just came out.
“But that looks old,” he says.
“Yeah, it just came out.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m in January 1970. This was published in December 1969.”
“Oh, I see,” he says. “You were meanwhiling.” This is why our marriage works.
Continue reading Episode 922: To My Fans, the Audience
“When you were putting Miss Balfour’s room to rights, did you find a dead snake on her dresser?”
Shadows of the night, falling silently. “Quentin’s Theme” is steadily climbing the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and pretty soon everyone’s going to be humming that tune, whether they want to or not. In this world that we know now, Quentin Collins is a bona fide Dark Shadows phenomenon, with a hit record and everything.
And this phantom melody is even starting to intrude on the hazy parallel world of the Paperback Library gothic romance novels. This peculiar line of spinoff books has been spinning its own cracked version of Dark Shadows for several years now, first chronicling the adventures of an ersatz Victoria Winters, and then tumbling head over heels for Barnabas Collins.
We last checked in with the Paperback Library four months ago to read Barnabas Collins vs the Warlock — the 11th novel in the series, and the sixth to feature Barnabas. By that point, the PBL was following clear editorial guidelines that the greatest human being who ever lived is named Barnabas Collins, and everybody else can go to hell. His only flaw is that his hands are cold, and hands are not everything.
But even the Paperback Library can’t ignore Quentin forever. They can ignore consistency and common sense and the limits of human patience, but Quentin Collins requires a response.
Continue reading Episode 782: Don’t Leave Home
“It is strange, isn’t it, how suddenly the swamp seems to be playing a leading and sinister role in the affairs of Collinwood?”
Let us speak, then, of Barnabas Collins Versus the Warlock.
It’s book #11 in Paperback Library’s long, strange line of Dark Shadows-inspired novels, and it’s the first one in a while that actually takes inspiration from the show in any meaningful way.
In this book, governess Maggie Evans has to save her young charges, David Collins and Amy Jennings, as they — more or less — fall under the influence of an evil phantom that stalks the halls of Collinwood. It’s complicated.
Continue reading Episode 692: The New Mischief
“They live in a cemetery.”
I’m away this week, because I need to spend some time standing in a cemetery and yelling at Julia to hear my voice, which is echoing through the centuries. But I don’t want to leave you with nothing to do just because I’m off time traveling, so here’s the final day of extracts from Paperback Library’s death-defying attempt to write 91 pages of vampire jokes without the use of a sense of humor.
Continue reading X5: Why Did Barnabas Sell Fangs for a Dollar?