Another Spooky Sunday Post…
Dan Curtis kept television audiences afloat in vampiric vibes throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. The late producer/director was responsible for the TV movie (and Kolchak series progenitor) The NightStalker which brought bloodsucker Janos Skorzeny to the small screen. He cast Jack Palance as Dracula in a British television production and – most notably – introduced us to the sanguinary exploits of Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows. From 1966-1971 that show cast a daily dose of the gothic gloom across cathode ray tubes. Quick strides home from school ensured not missing a minute of the action if you could call it that; the narrative tended to be glacial. Nonetheless the introduction of Jonathan Frid as the cloaked character with the wolf’s head cane infused the series’ flagging ratings and offered fans a new pop culture obsession. By August of 1969 nearly every item that could be branded found some form of Frid’s countenance attached to it. Board games, jigsaw puzzles, Halloween costumes and trading cards all bore the mark of the vampire, while the top 10 single “Quentin’s Theme” wafted it’s waltz time roller-rink ambience out of every AM radio.
That same month Gold Key Publications began producing a quarterly Dark Shadows comic book series that ultimately continued well past the demise of the television show. A bit more obscure was the newspaper strip that ran one short year, March 1971 thru March 1972. Artist Ken Bruce Bald (signing as K. Bruce) drew the entire run. His other work includes a 22 year stint on newspaper strip Dr. Kildaire, as well as some early work for Timely Comics including a Captain America story and the first issue of Namora. The daily syndicated installments were printed in black and white in a single tier, usually presented in 3 panels. Sunday papers offered an expanded triple tier – half page – format with a full color presentation.
Hermes Press has already compiled the complete Gold Key series of 35 issues in 5 hard cover volumes and also replicated the unique digest story edition that we reported on way in the early days of this blog. Now they will complete the collectible paper trail with Dark Shadows, The Complete Newspaper Strips. Of particular interest to collectors, this archival edition will reprint the Sunday artwork in full color for the first time. The reprints will be put into historical perspective by Dark Shadows scholar Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. His essay will be accompanied by “…documentary materials, stills from the show that were used in preparation of the strip [and] …examples of original artwork.”
The 224 page hardcover is presented in 11” X 8.5” landscape mode to preserve the format of the strips, and is currently scheduled for release in July 2018. It can be pre-ordered at the Hermes website.
Dark Shadows’ meager production budget aside, it’s hard to explain to a generation besotted with all manner of monsters how exceptional it was to young genre film enthusiasts to have an actual – not comedic – gothic vampire and werewolf story offered on daily television. The bonus was when several times a year the series was followed by an Edgar Allan Poe Week on the local 4:30 Movie.