Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews nobody asked for!
We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk as I take a look at some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.
What we have here today for your "I never asked for this, and where the heck did you even find it?" reading pleasure is a strange little comic book crossover of two "cult" horror television programs. . . and by "cult" I mean that generally people who were alive in the 70's might remember these shows, along with a good handful of rabid fans.
I'd be willing to take a bet that any random person born after 1990 that I might stop and ask has never seen an episode of either one, and probably won't even know either of them ever existed (In their original forms. One of the shows DID have an ill-advised reboot movie released in 2012 that came and went pretty quickly in the theaters).
The shows I'm talking about are Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Dark Shadows.
Of the two, Dark Shadows will probably ring more of a bell than Night Stalker, due to the aforementioned movie (A strange Johnny Depp/Tim Burton project which wasn't really THAT bad) and that Dark Shadows was originally on T.V. for 6 years and in pretty constant syndication throughout the 70's compared to Night Stalker's one single year of production and a few "Movie of The Week" specials.
Dark Shadows was basically a supernatural soap opera following the continuing spooky trials and tribulations of the Collins family and their Patriarch, Vampire Barnabas Collins, in and around the town of Collinsport, Maine.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker followed intrepid Chicago reporter Carl Kolchak as he investigates stories that lead him into paranormal adventures. Unfortunately, by the end of each episode, the evidence of any paranormal connection has usually been destroyed. . .so he's a bit of a hard luck guy that just can't catch a break.
SO. . .
A comic crossover of two supernatural 70's "Cult" T.V. shows. This seems like one of those sort of things that's either going to be a great little hidden gem or it's going to fail and fail hard. Let's find out which one it is!
NIGHT STALKER ANNUAL #1
COVER: Doug Klauba
Let's take a look at the cover first. I like it a lot! It looks like an old-school horror movie poster. It's got some great colors and Barnabas Collins looming in center stage looks fantastic! The artist doesn't really capture the likeness of Kolchak actor Darren McGavin (a pretty prolific character actor probably most familiar today as the hilariously grumpy dad in A Christmas Story), but other than that, this is a very nicely-painted piece of Halloween fun!
Moving along, there's two stories in this double-sized issue. . .
INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE?
SCRIPT: Mark Dawidziak & Rafael Nieves
PENCILS: Don Hudson
Reporter Carl Kolchak is down on his luck. . .moving from town to town and job to job following a string of supernatural encounters that he has no hard proof ever happened. The bills are piling up and he's at his wits end.
Then he receives a mysterious letter from a stranger named Barnabas Collins on the East Coast inviting him to a meeting. The letter contains several specific details regarding one of Kolchak's more intense cases involving the Vampire/ Serial Killer Janos Skorzeny.
Kolchak is curious and doesn't have anything else going on, so he travels by train across the country to the town of Collinsport, Maine. . .
Kolchak is met in Collinsport by a strange man named Loomis, who escorts him to the huge, rambling mansion named Collinwood. He begins to suspect something is wrong when a frantic woman warns him not to go into "The Old House", which is exactly where Loomis brings him.
Based on his previous encounters with vampires, Kolchak quickly determines that the mysterious Mr. Collins is one, and he prepares himself to confront Collins. When Kolchak finally meets Barnabas Collins, he attacks him with a mirror and crucifix. . .neither of which have any affect on Collins.
Barnabas confesses to Kolchak that he WAS a vampire, but his curse has since been lifted. He reveals that he was the one who turned a woman named Marie Cosgrove into a vampire in 1795, and it was she that turned Janos Skorzeny into a vampire in 1919.
Collins tells Kolchak that he met Skorzeny at one point and could tell he was a vicious killer, and that this meeting was so that Collins could thank Kolchak for ridding the world of the creature he was responsible for creating. . .and to warn him that Marie Cosgrove was still somewhere out there.
And with the burden of confession off Barnabas' shoulders and Kolchak warned that there was yet another vampire on the loose, the reporter returns by train to begin a new job in Los Angeles.
Hmmmmmmmm. . .okay then. Not really what I was expecting.
Basically we have Kolchak travelling to Maine, thinking he's being lured into a trap, and then having a conversation with America's (former) King Vampire before heading back home. When I put it THAT way and read it, this is a VERY thin story.
THIS is a perfect example of never judging a book by its cover (especially a comic book). The cover promised a snarling Barnabas Collins menacing intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak. Instead we get the later, non-vampire, Barnabas Collins just sort of standing around talking and apologizing for the misunderstanding that Kolchak thought he was going to be killed.
The art just makes it worse. In the hands of a great artist, this extremely thin story might have been taken up a notch with some superbly-illustrated character moments. Instead, we get some very basic and workmanlike art that doesn't really capture the likeness of either character's actor and is the very definition of "Average".
Overall, I'm not sure why this story even exists beyond Moonstone at one point having the comic rights for both characters. This could have been so much more interesting. As it is, it just seems lazy and pointless. I'm not even sure rabid fans of either show would find this interesting beyond curiosity value.
Moving along. . .
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE
SCRIPT: Joe Gentile & Dave Ulanski
PENCILS: Ron Harris
Reporter Carl Kochak and his editor, Tony Vincenzo, travel into the Nevada desert to investigate the disappearance of two people in an area that has become known for mysterious disappearances. When they arrive, the reporters find the police less than helpful, so while Tony tries to pry information out of them, Kolchak investigates the surrounding area. . .
Kolchak finds several huge footprints that he follows into a natural maze of rocks, where he discovers a hidden cave entrance. Inside are tools and objects much too large for normal human use. . .
As Kolchak further explores the maze of tunnels, he finds an exit outside and an area filled with human bones. The horrified reporter is taken by surprise and thrown into a shallow pit by a gigantic human-like creature, who buries Kolchak alive!
Fortunately, Tony noticed Kolchak was missing and followed his trail up the mountain where the reporter was buried. He digs Kolchak up and the two of them make a frantic escape back through the maze of tunnels with the enraged giant pursuing them. . .
After escaping the giant's lair, Kolchak and Tony tell the police that they found the bodies of the people who have gone missing, but beyond that there's no proof of the giant that almost killed them. . .but that's something Kolchak is used to.
This story was. . .well, it was bad. There's no way to sugarcoat it. It's just bad. At least the first story had the curiosity factor of Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Barnabas Collins coming together on the comic page, as well as a few decent character moments here and there.
The best way I can describe the "badness" of this story is that it's just sort of annoying. The dialogue is grating. The situation of an actual giant in the Nevada desert is ridiculous. The art doesn't try to do anything other than simply exist, and the whole thing just feels like it was thrown together to pad out this comic's page count so that Moonstone could charge SIX DOLLARS AND FIFTY FRIGGIN' CENTAVOS for this "special" issue.
I. . .I just can't. This story sucks. That is all. Carry on.
The cover price on this comic is $6.50. That's about six bucks too much. Okay. . .I have to admit the cover is worth the dollar I paid for this, but the rest of it feels like pure money grubbin'.
The first story is a "Crossover" barely worthy of the name. The second story is practically unreadable and is basically page count padding. The whole thing reeks of minimum effort for maximum money.
Unless you are a rabid fan of Kolchak or Dark Shadows that simply MUST have everything to do with one or both properties, do yourself a favor and steer clear of this one. It's a major disappointment.
Up Next. . .
MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
Be there or be square.