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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Dark Shadows | Issue #15

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Dark Shadows | Issue #15
The Night Children
Gold Key Comics | August 1972

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Creepy kids drive Barnabas Collins to Hell in this issue, along with the requisite curses, strange monsters, and otherworldly transformations characterized by the series.

Angelique, the witch, conjures two Night Children, demonic creatures in the form of innocent youths, to seek out and destroy Barnabas Collins. Any potential victim with goodness in their heart will be trapped in their gaze, locked under their malevolent control. They show up at Collinwood under the pretense of looking for their lost dog, only to lure Barnabas out into a clearing in the woods.

Of all the children’s dark powers, the ability to lie seems strangely lacking. When Barnabas calls them out as Night Children (due to their lack of shadows), they immediately cry out in unison, “Yessssssss!” However, Barnabas is soon debilitated and laid out in repose for the morning sunrise, the rays of light fatal to his vampiric form.

The evil cherubs return to Collinwood, breaking up a dinner party where Professor Stokes, ever the pedant, bores everyone with his incessant small talk of the Black Arts. Placing the guests under their control, the Night Children attempt to create a ritual that will destroy the great estate. Suffering the effects of the full moon while locked safely away in the cellar, only Quentin escapes falling into the hands of the children. His cursed heart the only one at Collinwood that holds enough darkness to keep their powers at bay.

To its detriment, this issue seems to improvise (or, more critically, just plain make up) a significant number of consequential rules over the course of its brief page count: five victims are needed to complete a double pentagram ritual, since the supernatural fire the Night Children seek to create cannot be generated from a figure of four (four being a symbol of good); only those who “linger in both worlds” are able to see the entrance to the Black Pit, which is fortunate for Barnabas after the Night Children escape into it; unless saved by an (undisclosed) act of kindness, Barnabas will be trapped forever in the Black Pit if Angelique catches him in his human form, or if he is killed there; and, finally, there are creatures who carry fallen spirits down into the Black Pit called Zozos, that are essentially flying monkeys.

On the plus side, Barnabas fights flying monkeys.

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Dark Shadows (Issue #14)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #14
The Mystic Painting
Gold Key Comics | June 1972

While cleaning out the attic at Collinwood, Elizabeth and Barnabas discover an old family portrait. They uncover another painting hidden underneath, a landscape treatment of Collingreen, an extended family estate outside London. The painting seemingly calls out to Barnabas, issuing psychic vibrations and triggering an actual memory of a visit to his uncle, Lord Balsham, at the great house in 1743.

During his visit, Barnabas meets young painter, Owen Roberts, who hides a not-so-secret attraction to Barnabas’ cousin, Sara. Tragedy soon ensues when Sara is killed, and Owen takes the blame, and corporal punishment, for the crime from a vengeful Lord Balsham. However, Barnabas fears his own culpability since the violent attack occurred during a resurgent episode of his own vampiric curse.

The Mystic Painting fails to offer much new to the series, as Barnabas travels in time, faces a confrontational ghost, and—of course—attends a seance to end the suffering represented by the cursed painting. He ultimately discovers the true identity of the culprit behind Sara’s death, to little surprise. Continuing to make up new rules from one episode to the next (vampires cannot have their portraits painted; bat transformations are initiated by the full moon), this issue at least sends Barnabas traveling through time via the mechanics, however dubious, of a haunted painting, rather than by simply closing his eyes and magically wishing it to happen.

Ruminating on the conflicting details rising from the failed seance, Professor Stokes could have instead been reflecting upon the series canon by declaring, “Hmm…er, yes, it may have been! But then, who knows about these things?

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Dark Shadows (Issue #13)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #13
Hellfire
Gold Key Comics | April 1972

Constance Collins, yet another in a long line of previously unknown Collins family members, returns to Collinwood to announce her upcoming engagement. Barnabas Collins, again suffering from the vampire curse inflicted upon him by the witch, Angelique, nearly makes her a victim of his insatiable hunger before recognizing a family heirloom worn around her neck. Avoiding an early death at the hands (or more correctly, fangs) of a vampire, Constance’s life is further threatened by another supernatural menace at the family estate, a deadly manifestation of hellfire.

A coldly burning explosive fire that does not consume surrounding fuel in the natural manner, hellfire—as immediately recognized by Professor Stokes—occurs in places of great evil, transporting the innocents who unwittingly gaze into its cold flames directly to hell itself. Passing off an inexplicable fireball in the halls of Collinwood as a mere candle reflection, Barnabas sends Constance to bed, wondering if his cursed presence has summoned the hellfire. Naturally, Constance awakens in the night to a fiery glow, and cannot help but to stare into the hypnotizing flames. Seeing his cousin vanish into the pyre, Barnabas jumps in himself, vowing to pull her back from the black pits into which she has disappeared.

Given the epic nature of his task—journeying to hell and battling Satan for Constance’s soul—Barnabas has a rather easy time in this outing. It seems the devil is running a crooked three-card monte hustle in hell, and Barnabas need only break up his grift to release their souls. Never has defeating great Evil been as simple as knocking over a card table.

A half-expected twist, that Constance’s fiancée is the true source of evil calling up the hellfire, never develops. Disappointingly, he just turns out to be something of a mute Ken doll—a Ken doll with blank, malevolent eyes.

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Dark Shadows (Issue #12)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #12
The Glove
Gold Key Comics | February 1972

This issue initially flirts with the “killer disembodied hand” genre, as it opens with a ghostly appendage attacking Elizabeth Collins in the library at Collinwood. Barnabas responds to her screams, and his quick intervention (with rapid blows from his cane) saves her life. To calm Elizabeth’s shattered nerves, Barnabas dismisses the attack as an inexplicable freak occurrence, but recognizes the murderous glove and the volume whence it emerged.

Barnabas remembers the glove belonging to Cheshire Collins, yet another cursed ancestor of the Collins family. Dead for over 200 years, Cheshire was executed for murdering a romantic rival in the town square in the city of Leeds. In his original mortal form, Barnabas recalls visiting the city on his cousin Cheshire’s behalf (in a canon-be-damned flashback), but was unable to prevent the execution. Realizing that soothing Cheshire’s troubled spirit is the only recourse in preventing further attacks, Barnabas travels back in time to uncover the truth surrounding the murder.

Barnabas battling a killer glove is easily the early highlight, with the story quickly shifting to the drama of an earlier time. This series no longer even makes the slightest attempt at explaining the time travel mechanism, with Barnabas simply entering his coffin and somehow willing himself into the correct time.

Rules are also fast and loose regarding what form Barnabas takes in his travels, and what changes he can and cannot affect. Here he inhabits the body of a bystander and witness to the murderous events, when at other times he incarnates as himself. Although Barnabas is prevented in saving Cheshire’s life due to the laws governing time travel his actions seem able to easily cause the death of another character.

Visiting Cheshire in his cell, Barnabas ultimately discovers that his cousin fails one inexorable, governing law.

If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

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Dark Shadows (Issue #11)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #11
The Thirteenth Star
Gold Key Comics | November 1971

After Quentin Collins is attacked outside Collinwood by a strange creature, Barnabas Collins must battle against a curse handed down centuries ago by an ancestor weary of his family’s predilection towards the dark arts, in an issue that features a guest monster-of-the-week appearance by a Golem.

Even by the obscure standards of multigenerational curses, the one delivered by Mordecai Collins six-hundred years ago is exceptionally nonsensical. To exact payback against the ills he has suffered by the black-magic actions of his own family, Mordecai instructs a priest to form an unlikely vehicle for his revenge. Upon his death, Mordecai’s ashes are sealed inside a gargoyle-like figure made of clay. This Golem, marked with astronomical signs of the Thirteenth Constellation, will come to life upon the once-in-a-one-hundred-year visit of the Collins Comet in the night sky, and destroy any Collins family member with evil dwelling in his heart.

Trying and failing with brute force against Quentin, the Golem deploys a surprisingly clever (for a Golem) method against Barnabas. It steals the grave soil lining Barnabas’ coffin which allows him a safe place to rest during the day. Fearing that he will not have time to find the hidden soil before the rising of the sun, Barnabas calls an impromptu seance with the residents of the great estate, a seance he inexplicably uses to [suspend disbelief here] travel forward in time to the next visit of the comet and discover the location of the soil so he can travel back to the present with this newly discovered knowledge and find the soil, return it to his coffin, and save his own (undead) life.

A completely throw-away issue, The Thirteenth Star improvises the canons of vampirism, spiritualism, and time travel as it goes, propelling Barnabas Collins to the futuristic landscape of Collinsport in the year 2071. He meets his great-great nephew, Halperin Collins, who displays a groovy fashion sense more appropriate to the 1970s-era present, featuring an open-collared plaid jacket, Cream-era Eric Clapton hairdo, and matching white belt, pants, and shoes. After a brief monster rumble with the Golem that leads him to the location of the grave soil, Barnabas notices that the comet has disappeared from the night sky.

Returning to the present without the aid of either the comet or a seance, Barnabas tries to enlist Julia Hoffman’s aid, pleading for her unquestioning cooperation. She neatly sums up the whole adventure by responding, “I will…but understand…I won’t even try.”

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Dark Shadows (Issue #10)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #10
Souls in Bondage
Gold Key Comics | August 1971

Exposed to sunlight before returning to the protective confines of his coffin, on-again off-again vampire Barnabas Collins collapses into a withered heap on the lawn of the great estate of Collinwood. Discovering his crumpled form, Quentin Collins and Dr. Julia Hoffman notice a strange series of symbols that seem to have been scratched into the earth by Barnabas himself before succumbing to the sun’s rays. Depositing Barnabas’ remains safely in the family crypt, Quentin and Julia enlist the aid of Professor Timothy Stokes to unravel the meaning of the scribbled encryptions, and possibly save Barnabas from his fate.

Introducing a new twist on the established vampire lore—that direct sunlight does not lead to ultimate destruction—Stokes’ information leads Quentin and Julia on a trail to the West Indies, where they confront a waiting Termina, the self-professed Queen of Darkness. Termina, wearing garb and a headdress completely irrelevant to any local cultural tradition, makes the classic mistake of many super villains, explicitly stating the conditions of her own destruction to her enemies:

Only evil such as he possesses can destroy me! My magic protects me from mortals…but the undead can destroy me!”

Quentin’s affliction, the curse of the werewolf, conveniently provides such an opportunity for her destruction.

The West Indian setting offers a rare location away from the gloomy backdrop of Collinsport, with the cutout trappings of indigenous voodoo culture setting the stage for an all-too-brief monster rumble, as a wolfen Quentin faces off against a small army of Termina’s spell-controlled zombies. Although Angelique, the witch who placed the vampire curse on Barnabas, is revealed as Termina’s master, she does not appear in the story. Her absence, along with that of Barnabas (who only appears briefly), leaves Quentin to carry the story—and a few panels of zombie fighting are not enough.

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Dark Shadows (Issue # 9)

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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.

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Dark Shadows (Issue #8)

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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:

Transformations: 4
Physical Altercations: 3
Vampire attacks: 2
Stakings: 1
Seances: 0

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Darks Shadows (Issue #7)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #7
Wings of Fear
Gold Key Comics | November 1970

For the first several pages, Wings of Fear tantalizes us with the possibility that Barnabas Collins is again inflicted with Angelique’s vampiric curse, and has returned to prey upon the citizens on of Collinsport. A young bride-to-be is attacked, and even the town idiot understands that the source of terror comes from Collinwood. However, Barnabas carries on as usual, strangely impervious to what should be fatal to him in his cursed form—the rays of the sun.

Meanwhile, and apropos of nothing, Professor Stokes approaches Barnabas with a newly developed serum to cure vampirism. After the true source of horror is revealed, Stokes has the chance to test his experimental serum, and Barnabas again plays the hero as he becomes the willing bait in a deadly trap.

The arbitrary masquerade and the needlessly indirect plot against Barnabas don’t lessen our sympathies with his torment—and he gets to face off with a female vampire.

 

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