Dark Shadows, Issue #1
The Vampire’s Prey
Gold Key Comics | 1968
Using a storyline from the television series as a touchstone, the first issue of the Dark Shadows comic features two college students (Dave and Ed) arriving in Collinsport to research the mysterious disappearance of a family ancestor, the Reverend Trask. Briefly summarized in an opening panel, Trask was a self-proclaimed witch hunter whose misguided persecution sent several innocents to the gallows. His self-righteous reign of terror was ended at the hands of Barnabas Collins, who walled him up alive in the masonry of the Collinwood estate.
No sooner than landing at the town’s watering hole, The Blue Whale, Dave and Ed’s questions about Trask alert Barnabas’ servant Willie Loomis, who informs his vampire master of the potential danger. Barnabas tries to misdirect the inquiring duo with a tale of Trask being buried in Boston, but as he leaves the tavern a woman witnesses him transforming into a bat. When she tells the boys what she has seen, they become even more determined to research the history of Collinsport and the mysterious shape-shifting man.
Angelique, the witch whose curse transformed Barnabas into a vampire, intervenes to preserve her hold over him by luring Dave and Ed (who are now joined by Jane, the eyewitness) out to sea to meet their fate in an underwater trap. Meanwhile, Barnabas’ confidante, the ethically challenged Dr. Julia Hoffman, works on a serum to erase the memories of everyone involved. Angelique’s plan succeeds only in killing Ed, and is complicated when his spirit returns to Collinwood as an angry poltergeist.
The Vampire’s Prey sets up the key relationships between Barnabas, Angelique, and Julia Hoffman within a familiar narrative revolving around protecting Barnabas’s dark secret. Angelique manipulates, Julia Hoffman dispenses her pharmaceutical solutions*, and Barnabas wrestles with his curse. Trask serves only as the McGuffin, sending the bland team of Collinsport interlopers to their eventual doom.
*A drinking game based on the television series—with a shot being required for every sedative Julia Hoffman fixes from her medical bag—would only be a slightly facetious suggestion.