“Human, yes… except for his hatred! That’s what makes him so dangerous!”
Yesterday, sporadic vampire Barnabas Collins burned down the local antiques store, because his enemies turned him into one of the living dead, and then they didn’t know where the off switch was. This should be a lesson for us all.
But this isn’t the first time that Barnabas has been revamped, and it won’t be the last, not by a long shot. He’s been bouncing back and forth between the living and the dead for a couple of years now, and every treatment is only a reprieve, not a cure. Barnabas may long to be human again, but the audience wants fangs, and we cannot be denied our simple pleasures.
So it’s no surprise that the Gold Key Dark Shadows comic books have gone through the same cycle this year. In February 1970, the same month that flappy bat reclaimed TV Barnabas, comic book Barnabas was suddenly freed from his curse with no explanation, apparently sprung on a technicality. He mentions “the day Angelique’s curse dissolved,” and then he’s human for four issues, or as close to human as Barnabas ever gets.
But a year later — issue #8, February 1971 — the bat came back. “Barnabas Collins… the VAMPIRE!” says the caption. “Caught in a web between the lust for blood and the peace of normal life, Barnabas Collins laments his fate… even as he PREPARES TO STRIKE!”
So this is an opportunity for us to look at Barnabas’ current difficulties from another angle, and since the antiques shop is still smoldering, we might as well see what’s cooking at Gold Key Collinwood.
Continue reading Episode 952: Something Evil People Are Afraid Of
“I’m always with fear, Barnabas, but we don’t have time to think about that.”
Okay, I get that it’s a rough way to wake up. It’s dusk, and Barnabas gets up out of his coffin, and the door to the secret room in the mausoleum is wide open. Someone’s been sneaking around his coffin, and obviously that’s an unpleasant surprise.
But then Quentin appears at the door, which is pretty much the best case scenario. If somebody’s going to suddenly appear in your bedroom, then it ought to be Quentin Collins, right? You can’t improve on that.
And this is how out of control things have become for Barnabas: he opens his mouth and bares his fangs. Dude, seriously. What are you planning to do? Put that back in your mouth, and try, for the first time in your long and ridiculous life, to be a grownup.
Continue reading Episode 780: The Establishment Vampire
“And there it was… a MYSTERY BODY!”
The story so far: I began writing this blog two Labor Day weekends ago, starting with Barnabas emerging from the mystery box in episode 210. Now it’s Labor Day weekend again, and by some cruel trick of time, my journey into the past has reached the halfway mark.
This is the midpoint between episode 210 and the end of this uncertain and frightening television show, and to mark the occasion, I should probably say something profound and clever about this episode that sums up what these last two years have taught us about vampires and storytelling and character development and natural selection and chromakey and why you should never give a gun to an actor, even an unloaded prop gun, because honestly, they will find a way to hurt themselves.
Unfortunately, it turns out that I don’t have very much to say about today’s episode, except that this is the one where, for one tantalizing moment, it looks like Quentin and Barnabas are about to kiss.
Continue reading Episode 720: Halfway
“Now you’re dead, and you’re going to stay dead.”
Pursued relentlessly by the muffled-tympani sound of a beating heart, black sheep and future poltergeist Quentin Collins races downstairs to the study, to check on his dead grandmother.
This is the first running of the Telltale Heart Grand Prix, and as Quentin applies the brakes and shudders to a stop, he finds Edith sitting up in her casket at the finish line, grinning at him like being dead is the most fun she’s had in years.
So there we are; it’s happened. The haunter has become the haunted.
Continue reading Episode 710: Been Caught Stealing
“Whether he’s ordinary or not is not the point. He’s a living human being, and we are responsible for him.”
It’s one of those weird nitpicks that people like to bring up in conversation — that “Frankenstein” isn’t the name of the monster; it’s the name of the doctor who created him. Then you say, okay, so what’s the monster’s name? And then everyone just stands around and looks foolish, until finally somebody says, gee, will you look at the time.
Because the creature doesn’t really have a name — he’s billed as the Monster in the Boris Karloff movie, and sometimes people will say “Frankenstein’s monster,” but those aren’t satisfying names, and everybody knows it.
The name “Frankenstein” exists in this weird middle space, suspended between creator and creation. And when you think about it, they’re kind of the same thing anyway, aren’t they? The doctor is the one who thinks; the monster is the one who acts. It’s the ego and the id. “Frankenstein’s monster” and “a Frankenstein monster” are both true, at the same time.
So, this big guy who’s currently smashing up the laboratory — is he Barnabas’ monster? Or is this a Barnabas monster?
Continue reading Episode 492: The Terrible Twos
“I should go to Collinwood, and drag her from the house, and BURN her!”
So, what do you do with a guy who just refuses to understand what kind of story he’s in?
I’m not talking about a Mulder-Scully dynamic, where the tension between belief and skepticism is the whole point of the series. I’m talking about a guy who’s standing smack in the middle of a spook show, and he can’t get his mind around the fact that there’s a witch who’s trying to kill him, even though she’s already openly attacked him using her magic powers. I’m talking about a guy who needs to have the situation explained to him over and over, plus he’s obnoxious and a terrible actor and he shouts all the time.
All right, it’s Lang. I’m talking about Dr. Eric Lang. He’s driving me crazy, and he’s got to be stopped.
Continue reading Episode 482: Witches Be Crazy
“I cannot die… because I am already dead.”
It’s another gloomy evening in the great house at Collinwood. Naomi has died from poison and plot points, and they’re going to have to reset the “3 days since last accident” sign again. It’s a good thing we’re leaving the 18th century soon; we’re pretty much down to the minimum viable family.
Continue reading Episode 459: Nathan Forbes Must Die
“I have feelings, Ben. I can hate. And I can do something about that hate.”
Henchmen. Right? It’s a complicated relationship.
Barnabas wakes up today and climbs out of his coffin, and the first thing he says is, “Good evening, Ben. Did you see Trask today?” That’s the kind of boss he is. Not a lot of small talk, just straight to business.
Continue reading Episode 439: Something About That Hate
“Why does the Devil always want to touch you?”
Yesterday, Barnabas moved back into his parents’ basement, which is a shame, because the last thing we need around here is a slacker vampire.
We’ve traveled all the way back in time to 1795, so we could witness the vampire’s backstory and give the writers some new storyline options. But now Barnabas’ girlfriend is dead in a fairly comprehensive way, and his new afterlife plan is to hide out in the cellar and hope that nobody walks downstairs.
At this point, the show needs to come up with something new. We’ve just spent three months investigating Barnabas’ past. What’s his future going to be?
Continue reading Episode 432: The Age of Kaiju
“Josette is dead! How DARE you dig her grave!”
Hey, guess what: Barnabas wakes up and gets out of his coffin, and he’s in kind of a bad mood. I know, news flash, right? I’ll give you a second to catch your breath.
To be fair, it’s been a rough week. Barnabas was planning to murder his fiancee Josette, and then somebody else came along and murdered her first, but in totally the wrong way. It’s a frustrating situation.
So he roars out of bed at a hundred miles an hour, just bouncing off the mausoleum walls and shouting, “Destruction, that’s all I want! Destruction, everywhere! Death! BLOOD!” This is how we start Dark Shadows episodes now. It ramps up from here.
Continue reading Episode 429: Destruction, Everywhere