Dark Shadows, Issue #9
Creatures in Torment
Gold Key Comics | May 1971
Hans Silber, hunter of supernatural beasts, follows the rumors of mysterious happenings to Collinwood, where he vows to flush out and destroy any unnatural creatures with his pistol loaded with silver bullets. Accompanying him is his companion, Desdemona, a deceased young woman trapped between life and death in her still animated, undead body, desperately wishing for her own spirit to be released. Posing as a princess recently moved to Collinsport, Desdemona acts as Silber’s divining rod, pointing out the potential targets for his self-appointed mission of cleansing those not belonging to the mortal world.
Deflected in her suspicions of Barnabas Collins (who bluffs an offer to show her the village church), Desdemona instead happens upon Quention Collins transforming into his wolfen state under the light of the full moon. Recognizing a kindred cursed spirit, she immediately falls in love with Quentin, vowing to protect him from Silber’s murderous intentions. Although thinking him innocent, Desdemona nonetheless fingers Barnabas as the targeted creature of the night to Silber, who puts a deadly trap into motion.
Quickly developing into a doomed love triangle of sorts between Quentin, Desdemona, and Silber, this issue puts Barnabas more into the role of observer—with Julia Hoffman trailing behind in her perpetual state of worry. The canon of werewolf lore is probably violated here, with the freshly bitten victim transforming immediately into a newly created werewolf, allowing the conclusion’s attempt at poetic justice.
Rather than establishing any sort of elaborate guise, seekers of the supernatural in Collinsport need only to stand watch outside The Blue Whale, where any number of victims have stumbled out the doors into the waiting arms of monsters.
Dark Shadows, Issue #8
The Vampire Trap
Gold Key Comics | February 1971
Barnabas Collins’ inexplicably on-again-off-again curse is back “ON” at the start of issue eight, The Vampire Trap. His blood thirst is thwarted when his intended victim drives him away with a concealed crucifix. Meanwhile, another member of the Collins family grapples with a supernatural affliction, as Quentin Collins locks himself away in a basement cell at Collinwood. In order to keep the residents of the village safe, his only recourse during the full moon—and his inevitable transformation into a wolf—is to imprison himself until the safety of the morning light.
Complicating the struggles of the afflicted Collins family members is the appearance of a mysterious guest at the great house. At the behest of Elizabeth Collins, self-processed student of the occult Ambrose Tybalt arrives at Collinwood to study the family history. Although Julia Hoffman fears that he intends to uncover Barnabas’ terrible secret, Tybalt may have a more sinister motivation at hand.
Although the victims of the failed vampire attack ultimately wrap up the story by resolving the danger presented by Tybalt, the strength of this issue derives not from the supporting characters, but from Barnabas and Quentin grappling with the burden of their respective curses.
Brooding questions of morality aside, the cover dispenses with the photo stills from the television series to deliver a cool image of Barnabas rising from his coffin, and the story panels feature a number of action-packed scenes, as indicated:
Physical Altercations: 3
Vampire attacks: 2
Dark Shadows, Issue #6
Awake to Evil
Gold Key Comics | August 1970
Following a series of brutal attacks in Collinsport, Barnabas suspects that Quentin has once again fallen victim to the curse that transforms him into a werewolf under the light of the full moon. While the angry townspeople turn their suspicion toward Collinwood, Barnabas moves to protect Quentin, and discovers an empty crypt in the mausoleum—leading him to the true source of the evil plaguing the town. The danger is closer than Barnabas realizes, however, as a dark magician arrives at the estate and preys upon Elizabeth.
The dark pall of Collins family history once again reaches into the present, nearly destroying the lives of the present occupants of Collinwood. This time, the nineteenth-century tomb plundering exploits of Captain Nathaniel Collins in Egypt has set in motion a chain of events that reaches across time—oh, never mind the details, Barnabas fights a mummy!
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.