Dark Shadows | Issue #16

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Dark Shadows | Issue #16
The Scarab
Gold Key Comics | October 1972

An ancient Egyptian mystic of the black arts recruits Barnabas Collins into his undead army in this issue of the ongoing comic series.

The unholy priest, Potiphar, possesses a strange power enabling him to control those spirits trapped between worlds, such as the cursed Barnabas. Potiphar’s army, assembled over the last four thousand years, seeks to reunite the lost treasure of the First Kingdom, a mythic cache of legendary objects that will grant its owner total dominion over the Earth.

Barnabas’ first directive under Potiphar’s control is stealing one such item, the improbably named Golden Girdle of Ibex. Aside from his ability to fly away with the stolen cloth in his bat talons, Barnabas’ specially chosen role as “First Minister” to Potiphar amounts to little more than smash-and-grab robber among confused museum guards.

Meanwhile at a Collinwood cocktail party, Professor Stokes deduces the entire plan—and Potiphar’s responsibility, in particular—from the gathered small talk surrounding the simple news of a museum robbery.

Professor Stokes is rarely wrong…but, no! The whole thing is too preposterous!

After discovering that Barnabas’ coffin is missing, Julia Hoffman convenes an emergency séance to send a message to him through the spirit plane, thus breaking Potiphar’s spell.

Ultimately, Barnabas faces off against the other creatures of darkness, and Potiphar learns the dangers of transmutation—particularly surrounding the inherent vulnerability in taking the form of a beetle.

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The Horror From the Tombs

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The Horror from the Tombs
Florence Stevenson | Charter Books | 1977 | 170 pages

Kitty Telefair, a young psychic member of a family of occultists and occasional guest star on a supernatural television talk show, is recruited by her aunt Penelope to decipher an ancient Egyptian papyrus. With a terse urgency, Penelope explains that she received a batch of artifacts from the tomb of Princess Khefra for her witchcraft museum, and that she
needs Kitty’s expertise in reading the hieroglyphics. Against the wishes of her fiance, Colly (whose protests seem to end in implied sex scenes, the buttons ripped off Kitty’s pant suit), Kitty agrees to help her aunt, but immediately experiences a sort of empathetic link with Princess Khefra.

Hearing screams as she arrives at her aunt’s estate, Kitty discovers a local kindergarten teacher unresponsive in the passenger seat of a car—apparently scared into shock—with the driver missing. Kitty’s aunt informs her that museum has been vandalized and the papyrus stolen. Aunt Penelope also introduces her to the estate’s unexpected houseguests, Professor Gridley and his wife Beryl. Gridley, an anthropologist studying the museum’s collection of occult objects, and his magnetically attractive young wife, cause Kitty to feel a strange—yet instantly familiar—sense of animosity, but she agrees to stay and help her aunt find the stolen artifact.

From the first few pages, any sense of mystery is deflated by Kitty’s visions through the eyes of Princess Khefra (“Why did they violate my—er—her tomb?”). Aside from a mild twist, the desires and motivations of the ancient characters mirror their counterparts in the present day, resulting in the flashback passages becoming something of a bore. The Gridleys, Kitty’s friend Ellen, and Ellen’s fiance Austin, all fall neatly into place, usually telegraphed by the first meeting:

You said—other name.” He frowned. “Did you have another name for me, Kitty?”
“I—I thought I knew you under another name,” I said.
“That’s odd—damned odd. I had another name for you, too.” He stared at me. “What is this?”

Kitty emerges as an engaging heroine, but the light and frothy tone sinks under the weight of the philosophical implications of the story. What appears to be just another throwaway entry in a series of adventures actually reveals all actions and relationships to be not really our own, but rather the endless replay of those already experienced in previous lives. How will Kitty ever look at Colly the same way again?

[sound of pant suit ripping]