Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 23


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 245

At the Old House, Woodard takes Willie’s sample as Barnabas plies him with liquor and rhapsodizes about the romance of sacrificing blood. Willie tries to explain what the true Barnabas asks to see the slide and swaps it out with a fake as they speak of the beauty of blood. Barnabas learns that Woodard is seeking every connection possible between Willie and Maggie. Barnabas warns him that the man who broke into his office is of dangerous strength. Woodard says it’s both a beast and a man. Barnabas mournfully describes the villain as more than a man and less than a man, and someone he loathes very deeply. Later, Barnabas reveals to Willie that he switched the slides. At the Blue Whale, Woodard reveals that Willie’s blood is normal, but Maggie’s was terrifying. There was a substance that should have been rejected. Instead, he saw and unholy union in her veins. It was as if Maggie were accepting into her blood something inhuman. The wolf continues to howl in the distance.

Today marks the first solo piece for writer Joe Caldwell. Joe had teamed up on prior scripts, but this was his solo debut. It shows, in the best way. The language is poetic and evocative. Barnabas has moments of self-loathing and ambiguity that are gorgeously, hauntingly phrased, and the same can be said for Woodard’s exploration of science and mystery. Caldwell, also a novelist, professor at Columbia University, and Rome Prize for literature winner, considered vampirism to be a metaphor for compulsive sex. “Stop me or I’ll suck more,” he said was a way of phrasing it. In an interview with Open Road Media, he said that the secret to Barnabas was to write him very straight with very real emotional challenges. In that sense, he’s picking up a cue used to great effect by writers like Shakespeare and Stan Lee when dealing with humanizing characters of tremendous abilities.

On this day in 1967, the painfully unfunny Neil Simon had a hit with the inexplicably popular film of his witless and predictable play, BAREFOOT IN THE PARK. Now considered a shorthand for the nadir of “classy” romantic comedy of the era, it remains terrible because I have still not been cast in a regional production of it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

David Selby joins JFK docudrama THE TUG OF WAR

L.A. Theatre Works' latest world premiere THE TUG OF WAR will begin May 25 at UCLA's James Bridges Theater.

Our own David Selby is among the cast of the production, which provides a snapshot of the presidency during a time of international crisis. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the play focuses on young President John F. Kennedy's decision-making process as he is provided with conflicting advice by his inner circle of advisers.

Selby plays Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The cast also includes Matthew Arkin as ambassador to the Soviet Union Llewellyn Thompson, Hugo Armstrong as Lyndon B. Johnson, Seamus Dever as Robert McNamara, James Morrison as CIA director John McCone, and John Vickery as Nikita Khruschev.

You can read an interview with the THE TUG OF WAR's author, David Rambo, at Broadway World.

THE TUG OF WAR is just the latest in a series of collaborations between Selby and the L.A. Theatre Works. Previously, he's appeared in their presentations of  DRACULAJUDGMENT AT NUREMBERGPACK OF LIES and ON THE WATERFRONT.

Performances of THE TUG OF WAR will be held May 25 through May 28. Purchase tickets for the event online HERE.

If you don't live in the Los Angeles area, fear not! L.A. Theatre Works' syndicated radio theater series broadcasts weekly on public radio stations across the U.S. (locally, in Southern California, on KPFK 90.7 FM); can be downloaded as a podcast via iTunes and Wondery.com; and can be streamed on demand at www.latw.org.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hermes Press still wants to publish the Dark Shadows strips

Hermes Press might still be interested in publishing a collected edition of Ken Bald's original DARK SHADOWS newspaper strips.

Syndicated during the waning years of the original television series, Hermes originally planned to collect these strips into a hardcover edition back in 2014. The plan was to not only collect these strips into a landscape format (to better display the art in its original dimensions), but to also publish the Sunday strips in color for the first time. Hermes did quite a bit of research into the original materials, going so far as to call on fans and collectors to help them match the colors of the original strip.

It was a wasted effort, though. DARK SHADOWS fans met the announcement with a collective shrug (which happens a lot these days.) Preorders for the book were so low that Hermes was forced to cancel it.

Ken Bald and his wife, Faye, served as models for the DARK SHADOWS comic strip.
But all may not be lost! While I'm still waiting on a confirmation from Hermes Press about their intentions for the book, it was recently solicited again on Amazon with a targeted release of Oct. 10 this year. This might be a meaningless date, though. Those of you who have been following the farce that is the second collected edition of Dynamite's DARK SHADOWS comic series already know that these dates can be meaningless. (Volume 2 has been consistently solicited on Amazon for several years now, with the goal post being moved farther down the line every few months.) Hermes might be doing nothing more than keeping their publishing options open.

This isn't Hermes' first foray into the world of DARK SHADOWS. The company successfully published hardback and softcover collections of the entire run of Gold Key's comics, including a "best of" collection and the 1970 "Dark Shadows Story Digest." I still hold out hope that they'll be able to publish Bald's newspaper strips. While the Pomegranate Press collection from 1996 gets an "E" for effort, a landscape edition of the original art is clearly a better format in which to present Bald's original art.

Here's where things get tricky. The first attempt to publish this book failed because the advance orders were low. If you wait too long to pull the trigger on ordering the book, you might find yourself reading yet another story here about its failure to launch. But if this new solicitation is nothing more than an opaque publishing strategy, you might be wasting your time. My advice? Wait for an official announcement from Hermes Press before placing your order. You can find the current listing at Amazon HERE.

Stay tuned!


Hermes Press has confirmed that they intend to publish the DARK SHADOWS newspaper strips in a hardcover collection this year. The company still needs access to some of the original color newspaper strips for reference, though. If you have copies of the original strips, contact the publisher at info@hermespress.com to see how you can help make this project happen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dead Men Tell Tall Tales

"To me, horror is when I see somebody lying. I mean a person I know. A friend. And he's telling me something that I accept. And then suddenly, as he or she is telling it, there's something that gives them away. They're not telling me the truth.– Jonathan Frid, 2001
Jonathan Frid cemented his place in television history 50 years ago today.

At the time, he'd been a part of the cast of DARK SHADOWS for just a month, taping his twelfth appearance on May 11, 1967 (it would air the following week on May 17.) There's very little in the way of "action" in this episode. While the word vampire was more than a hundred episodes away from first being uttered on the show, the audience already knew who — and what — was responsible for the mysterious illness of Maggie Evans.

Unfortunately, the viewers at home weren't in a place where they could be of any use to the show's characters. When resident vampire Barnabas Collins decides to pay a visit to Collinwood in this episode (in the middle of a thunderstorm and power outage, no less) there's already a sense of tension in the air. He arrives to find Victoria Winters and Carolyn Stoddard alone in the drawing room, a lit candle as their only source of light.

And then the show really begins.

Barnabas decides to entertain the ladies with a tale from Collinwood's past. While her name isn't used, the tale clearly details the death of Josette Du Pres, Collinwood's most perky spirit. The pretense is that Barnabas' tale is a product of his fascination with history. The reality is that he's relating it from personal experience, omitting his own involvement (and culpability) from the narrative.

This is Barnabas Collins is full bloom, suddenly more awkward and vulnerable than Carolyn and Victoria.Throughout much of the tale Frid positions himself between both of his audiences. The performance is as much for Victoria and Carolyn as much as it is for us, and has to work on both levels. He positions himself throughout the scene to face his two audiences, turning away from the ladies when compelled to lie, revealing to us which elements have been altered. For a few minutes he plunges Collinwood into the past. Here's a sample of his dialogue:
"There was a night such as this. A night when a young, beautiful woman was pressed to the limits. She could no longer accept what the future held for her. She knew she had to destroy herself before she became something she did not want to be. She had quarreled with her lover. She tried to send him away, but he would not be put off. He tried to put his arms around her, but she broke away from him and ran out into the stormy night. Her white dress contrasted against the darkness. He ran after her as she headed for the one place on earth that seemed to be designed for the termination of life. Rain drenched her, the winds buffeted her, blowing her long hair wildly. Her clothing was torn by the low branches. Her small white feet were bruised and mud-stained with the stony cruel pathway to the summit of the cliff. The shouts of her lover were lost in the wind as he moved swiftly after her."
The script is credited to Malcolm Marmorstein. If you're thinking Barnabas' dialogue runs a little too purple, that's entirely the point. DARK SHADOWS was originally conceived as a modern gothic romance, the sort usually showing  on their covers dark haired women fleeing old mansions. Victoria was the pulp heroine of DARK SHADOWS, a thinly sketched analog for ABC's (presumed) audience of housewives in need of mystery and adventure in their lives.

What this episode also makes clear is that Barnabas was designed to be a suitor for Victoria. She was a blank slate, a character reaching into the past to find some clues to her real identity. Along comes Barnabas Collins, reaching out to Victoria from the past. And his use of language sounds if it was ripped from the very pulp novels that inspired both her character and DARK SHADOWS.

The threat is not that Barnabas is going to turn his unwanted attention toward Victoria; It's that she's going to invite this corruption into her life. Barnabas makes it clear in this scene that Josette's history will almost certainly repeat itself, if for no other reason than his own lack of self control.

''You're a clever girl" he tells Victoria at the close of the scene. "Just be careful that what happened to Miss Evans doesn't happen to you.''

Note: The quote at the top of the page appears in "Halloween Candy," a collection of interviews and essays by Thomas M. Sipos published in 2001.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jonathan Frid: "I’ve rarely had the opportunity to play myself"

Jonathan Frid steps out of the dark shadows!
Flip, April 1969

Jonathan Frid visited FLIP on a winter’s day that was cold enough to freeze a vampire’s blood!

But there is certainly no vampire lurking inside of Jonathan. He’s a gentle man who’s spent his life perfecting his art — acting — and he still can’t understand why his portrayal of Barnabas Collins on “Dark Shadows” has created such excitement all across the country. Of course, he’s not fighting it, and he even seems to be enjoying his star status.

Without his stage makeup, he’s not at all ominous looking — he’s really quite handsome — and he moves his hands expressively when he talks. This is what he had to say.
—Valerie Berger 

FLIP: Even though your role in Dark Shadows is what first brought you national attention, you’ve been an actor all your life. How did you first get interested in acting and the theatre. 

JONATHAN: It was in prep school. Every year the six boys who were academically at the top of each class had to participate in the school play. I was never at the top academically, but I was interested and I volunteered to be in the play — which was an unheard of thing to do. The teacher in charge of dramatics was delighted to have a student interested in the play. I remember I played an old man. I was sixteen years old then, but all through my teens and twenties I found myself playing these character roles, people much older than myself. Now that I’m getting older, my parts have been getting younger, till we’ve just about met in the middle. Barnabas may be 175 years old, but I play him as a man my age.

FLIP: Then you got into this pretty much on your own, without encouragement from your family. 

JONATHAN: Yes, but they didn’t discourage me, either, which was important. Especially with their strict Presbyterian background. My father was a building contractor, and he really loved his work. He had three sons and he wanted them to go into what would make them happy, too.

FLIP: You’ve done a lot of Shakespeare over the years. What was your favorite role? 

JONATHAN: Richard III. There’s really a lot of humor in the part, which a lot Of people don’t realize. Except for the fact that he’s killing people, Richard does nothing but put people on the whole first part of the play. It was a challenge, because I feel there is still a lot of work to be done with Richard, when other actors play him. But I was lucky in having a director who Saw the character as I did. He helped me tremendously.

FLIP: You were an “unknown” actor for many years, that is, a working actor without a national following. Was there ever a time when you felt you almost got a part that would have made you a star, or you just missed recognition in some other way? 

JONATHAN: No. I suppose subconsciously every actor wants to be a star, but I never consciously worked at it. I got a lot of satisfaction out of many of my roles, but I never expected any of them to bring me stardom. I certainly never expected that Barnabas would.

FLIP: You’re usually working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Dark Shadows set. What’s happening in Collinwood this week to enable you to have this time off? 

JONATHAN: Actually, the writers just forgot to write me into the script! But we’re having Some trouble now with Barnabas and the series in general, and there’s been a lot Of rewriting, So I’m not on till the end of the week.

FLIP: What sort Of trouble are you having? 

JONATHAN: We need new ideas for the story lines. So far, Dan Curtis, the producer, has been coming up with all the ideas. It’s really funny to watch him with the show’s writers. Dan has this miniature golf course set up in his office, and he goes swinging around it, thinking, and all of a sudden he’ll stop short and say, “I’ve got a great idea!” And out will come the idea for the next story. He’s just like a little kid about it, he gets so excited. But lately he hasn’t been able to think as quickly, So instead of having scripts two or three weeks in advance of taping dates, sometimes we’re only three days ahead.

FLIP: But through all these problems, you’ve managed to give Barnabas a strong personality and even change his character from its early pure sinisterism to a more sympathetic interpretation. 

JONATHAN: On the contrary, Barnabas was much more sympathetic in the beginning, when I could portray his agony and remorse every time his need for blood compelled him to bite someone. He was “cured” of being a vampire six months ago, you know. So now he’s an ordinary mortal and not nearly so interesting or sympathetic a character as he was when he was a vampire. Now he just kind of hangs around. But in a sense, it’s interesting for me to play him as an ordinary man. I’ve done it before, too. In a flashback to the days before he was cursed, I played him as an 18th century gentleman! But, unlike most actors, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to play myself — to be a normal human being. I’ve usually played parts that were mysterious or vaguely sinister.

So it was fun for awhile, but now I wish they would decide what to do with Barnabas. Of course, Barnabas isn’t permanently cured. There’s a monster on the show, and if it dies, Barnabas will be forced to go back to being a vampire. And there are a couple of scenes each week in which the audience is given the uneasy feeling that he may be going back right then.

FLIP: But there’s no immediate danger that Barnabas will be killed off, just because they can’t think what else to do with him. 

JONATHAN: No, I don’t think so. They’re playing around with a couple of ideas. They may send Barnabas back into the past and then have the monster die. But then they’d have to send someone back after Barnabas to warn him not to come back! But nothing’s definite yet.

FLIP: What sort of research did you do for the part? Did you read up on witchcraft and the like? 

JONATHAN: No. I don’t play Barnabas as a vampire, per se. He’s a man with a hangup. He has all the human characteristics and passions but his uncontrollable need for blood, human blood, makes him a monster. He must have it or he’ll die. But I myself have no interest in the occult, and I haven’t tried to make Barnabas true to form. In fact, I’ve probably broken every rule in the book. Historically, vampires were supposed to be bloodless, passionless creatures with absolutely no interests except getting blood. Bela Lugosi played them to perfection — I saw him a couple of months ago on the late, late show at about 3 in the morning. A vampire would go after its victim with a perfectly bland expression on its face. It felt no emotion and had no conscience. That’s what made the thought of a vampire so terrifying.

FLIP: You’re evidently concerned about the show’s effect on teens, judging from the way you didn’t want FLIP’s last month’s cover, where you appeared, to be sadistic. 

JONATHAN: No, that’s not right — I thought the cover should be more sadistic. I’d have worn my
fangs, except that that’s been so overdone. I think Barnabas should be more evil—he’s a more interesting character then. And as far as kids being impressed with the evil things Barnabas does, I just don’t think that’s a problem. Kids are pretty smart. They can watch Barnabas without applying it to their lives. They know Barnabas isn’t human. He looks like a man and talks like a man and has courtly manners, but he’s really a monster. And just as you wouldn’t bring a lion in the jungle to trial for killing another animal, you can’t judge Barnabas’ actions in human terms. But it’s funny that all the magazine and newspaper publicity about Barnabas’ being a vampire has come out months after he stopped being one. And the fan mail peaked two months after he became normal.

FLIP: How much fan mail do you receive now? 

JONATHAN: About 1,500 to 2,000 letters a week.

FLIP: I know you try to answer as much as you can. How do you decide which letters require an answer? 

JONATHAN: A lot of the mail is sent to the West Coast for the fan club. Then my secretary sorts the
rest and I answer a random sampling, to ease my conscience. But I don’t mind if magazines print that
I don’t answer all the fan mail — the people who write me know that would be impossible. They’re just taking a chance that their letter will be one I do pick up.

FLIP: Do you get much chance to meet your fans? 

JONATHAN: Oh, yes. There’s always a crowd outside the studio, and when come out I spend a few minutes talking to them and signing autographs. Then when I have to leave, I say, “Okay, thank you," and I walk away quickly. But one night I was really in a hurry, so I sent one of the stagehands downstairs to ask the guard to let me out the back way. So I heard the guy say in a very loud voice, “Barnabas wants to leave through the back. Will you open the door?” I thought, oh, no, everyone outside heard! But then I thought, well, they’ll all go around to the back and I can get out the front. It would have worked, too, except there was one lady still standing there. Her daughter had gone
around to the back, and when she saw me, boy did she bawl me out. She and her daughter had come all the way from Pittsburgh, or something, to see me, and here I was sneaking out. She was right, too.

FLIP: Sometimes fame can be an inconvenience! 

JONATHAN: Yes, but I enjoy the recognition much more than I dislike the inconvenience. To give you an example: One afternoon when I wasn’t taping I was downtown doing some errands. I was due at the studio at 4 o’clock to block for the next day’s taping and I was late. So I grabbed a taxi and as we raced toward the studio I was thinking, here I am late, and I’ll still have to get through the crowd outside before I can get into the studio. Well, I arrived and there were only two girls standing outside and, boy, was I mad!

FLIP: When you talk to fans, what do they ask you about most? 

JONATHAN: Mostly questions about the story line, what’s going to happen next. And then, who’s still upstairs in the studio. And my birthday was last week, so I’ve been getting a lot of questions about that. I don’t mind people knowing how old I am, but I don’t tell my birthday. But somehow they find it out, and my unlisted telephone number, as well. Kids are great detectives. But it’s the questions on the story line that I’m not too good at. I don’t read the scripts the days I’m not on the show, and the only time I watch the show is when I’m on, to criticize my own perform, So I don’t always know what’s going on at a given moment. And I’m such a slow study—I learn my lines so slowly—that the first year I was on the show I spent every minute either memorizing or performing. I was once on a TV talk show, and the moderator was asking me about the relationships of the characters to each other. He had a blackboard and a piece of chalk and he was actually drawing the whole family tree of Collinsport. I could hardly help him at all, but the studio audience kept calling out all the answers. They knew all the characters perfectly.

FLIP: After Dark Shadows you’ve said you’d like to teach drama at a university out West. Will you then stop acting? 

JONATHAN: Lately the teaching idea isn’t as concrete as it once was. Mostly, it’s something I talk
about during interviews. But I do sometimes think about taking off two or three years from acting to
teach. I certainly have a reservoir of experience I could pass on. But in addition to acting courses, I’d
probably have to teach a textbook course on the history of drama, or something, and I was never a great student. And I’d have to teach about ten years before I was making as much money as I am right now. So that’s something to think about. But if I did teach, I wouldn’t act at the same time. Schools seem to like it if you do, but I had too many professors in school who wouldn’t show up for class half the time because they had a matinee, or something else to do.

FLIP: Is there anything else you might like to do in the future? 

JONATHAN: well, I had been thinking of a nighttime TV program. But I was once on a talk show with Barbara Parkins of PEYTON PLACE, and I found she didn’t have it much easier than I do. They shoot two or three shows a week, and because they’re in prime time, they have to be a lot more technically perfect than Dark Shadows. Then, I’ve never made a movie, and I’d like to try that. But for the time being, I just wish that Dark Shadows would settle down. It’s become such a ...

FLIP: A fad? 

JONATHAN: Yes, a fad. Some of these soap operas run for years with the same characters, but we’re so far “in” this year that by next year we could be way, way “out” of it! And I hope that doesn’t happen.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 11


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 233

Vicki watches over an ailing Maggie at the Evans cottage.  In a storm, the thunder cracks and the French doors fly open to briefly reveal the silhouette of Barnabas. He vanishes and she says, “it’s all right now.” Later, Carolyn and Vicki are at Collinwood when the power dies. By candlelight, Vicki reports seeing the phantom silhouette. Barnabas enters to check on the young women. In the light of the flames, he then tells of ancient times, storms and eventually, the death of Josette. He learns that Willie is quite probably the person responsible for alerting others to Maggie’s danger. He returns to the Old House, bellowing Willie’s name.

This may be one of two or three “best episodes” for Jonathan Frid. It’s a Messenger Speech, really. And that’s not easy. In advanced actor training, a major assignments is one of these, but from Greek theatre. You probably can guess, it’s done by a messenger. The messenger has usually seen something awful, and arrives to describe it with poetry and pathos. And keeping that third-person narrative emotionally invested is tough. What’s the objective? Where do you get to make a discovery or change your mind? It seems like a limited range of choices. Frid comes into Collinwood and goes to town discussing the death of Josette… or discussing around the death of Josette. Is it old fashioned poetry? Does anyone really reminisce like this? No. And that works in the episode’s favor. Real life is boring; that’s why we have art.

Thanks to the invaluable folks at http://darkshadows.wikia.com for transcribing this!

There was a night such as this. A night when a young, beautiful woman was pressed to the limits. She could no longer accept what the future held for her. She knew she had to destroy herself before she became something she did not want to be. She had quarreled with her lover. She tried to send him away, but he would not be put off. He tried to put his arms around her, but she broke away from him and ran out into the stormy night. Her white dress contrasted against the darkness. He ran after her as she headed for the one place on earth that seemed to be designed for the termination of life. Rain drenched her, the winds buffeted her, blowing her long hair wildly. Her clothing was torn by the low branches. Her small white feet were bruised and mud-stained with the stony cruel pathway to the summit of the cliff. The shouts of her lover were lost in the wind as he moved swiftly after her. Near the top, she stumbled over a large rock. Crying hysterically, she limped and crawled to the edge of the precipice. Her lover reached her, clutched at her, spinning her around to face him. Her eyes were wide with terror as the lover held her tightly, lips pressed against her throat. Soon she grew limp, and he released her. Suddenly, with a last surge of energy, she broke free and hurled herself off the cliff. Her scream, reacting and echoing, as she plunged downward. Her body... was impaled on the large craggy rocks below. Her lover descended to the bottom of Widows' Hill. He found her body broken, lifeless... bloodless. As violent as her death was, the expression on her face was one of serenity. As if this were the best possible ending to her life.

I can’t help but throw in my own version. This is, according to the semi-satirical Collins Chronicles, what actually happened that night from Barnabas’ point of view. (And is one of my favorite pieces.)

Blunder of blunders, tonight was one calamity after another. First, I went to comfort the ailing Miss Evans (soon,safely moving into my care).  Such was my enthusiasm that I took no time to scan the room and count the pulses before I barged in unannounced. I was certain she’d be thrilled by the salubrious sight of yours truly, and so I threw open the doors in the fashion befitting a Don Juan of my disposition.  No sooner did I see that she was conversing with Miss Winters when the sky cracked the deafening whip of thunder and lightning.  This scared the wits out of Miss Winters, Miss Evans, and yours truly, who beat a hasty escape. 

At the very least, the community was alleviated of the unnatural eyesore of electricity.  I thought it fitting to visit Collinwood and celebrate this ocular rarity with Miss Winters and Miss Stoddard, but the awkwardness of the eve was unabated. It aided things in no way that I waxed rhapsodically about the death of Josette. Midway through, I became aware of my soliloquy and thus veered more and more into the realm of sentiment, winning the hearts of the ladies and shoring up my side of the story in case Angelique should arrive to sway them with hers. I almost found myself in a deuce of a problem when I mentioned the bloodless body of my beloved, setting off alarms in the mind of Miss Winters, who tried to connect that to the recent population reduction. 

I gleaned more evidence that Young Loomis has been sending messages on the telephone horn to alert all about Miss Evans' "great danger."  This upsets me in every way. It distracts the youth from his opportunities for vocational advancement. He was supposed to be exploring the art of Flemish bond bricklaying, taught by me with instructions aimed at both the heart and the head. But the bricks were stacked as I had left them, untouched.  I readied my cane, for it finally seemed time to have a civil conversation with him about the matter, but I found the scamp nowhere outside. Eventually, I (and I appreciate how ludicrous this sounds) I had to let myself into MY OWN HOME with MY OWN HANDS! (Ungloved, at that!) This was after tripping into a birdbath he had misplaced — and was even lowered to raising my voice, all in an effort to pry his attention away from the Collinsport Clippers baseball match he was listening to on his radio box. 

I fear that one day, I may lose my temper.  Before such an unseemly event, I need a sherry and a long sleep. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dark Shadows artist picks up second Guinness distinction

The artist of the classic DARK SHADOWS newspaper strip has been named the "oldest artist to illustrate a comic book cover" by Guinness World Records.

Ken Bald illustrated DARK SHADOWS in 1971 and 1972, while simultaneously drawing the DR. KILDARE syndicated strip. But it was his 2015 cover contribution to Marvel's CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS series that earned him his Guinness distinction. Bald, 96, illustrated a cover featuring many of Marvel's golden age heroes in battle with their 21st century counterparts.

This is Bald's second Guinness honor, having already been named "oldest comic book artist."

“At 96 years old, you’d never think you’d be setting any world records, let alone setting two," Bald said. "Both records have been a great thrill for me.”

Bald sought out the job of illustrating the DARK SHADOWS newspaper strip in 1971 after hearing that producer Dan Curtis was considering the concept.

"(Curtis) interviewed me, he saw my art and thought it would be a good idea," Bald told NJ.com in 2012. "We presented the idea and some drawings to King Features — who were happy with me — but they didn't think the 'Bible Belt' or so many other Southern cities would go for the idea of 'Dark Shadows.'"

Bald had been a comics illustrator since the gold age, contributing to such books as CAPTAIN AMERICA as early as 1943. His DARK SHADOWS newspaper strips were collected into a single volume in 1996 by Pomegranate Press.

“It’s never too late to accomplish anything in life. Just look at me," Bald said. "I can’t believe at 96 years old, I’m still doing commissioned drawings for fans and still going to comic-cons!”

Via: guinnessworldrecords.com

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 10


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 494

Willie brings a sulking Adam food, but he throws the tray aside and Willie scrams. Later, Julia says that she must continue with the experiment, and Willie is left little choice but to return to Adam’s cell. Adam seizes shiny buttons off of a garment and delights in them. To entertain him further, Willie triggers the secret door in the cell that conceals a vault of various jewels of Josette’s. Willie keeps Josette’s earrings, and slips into Maggie’s home, placing them in her purse. Upon his return, Julia chides Willie, and threatens him with a return to Windcliff should he go absent again. Maggie finds the earrings and falls into a strange reverie. As night falls, Adam grows agitated. Julia plays Adam Dr. Lang’s tape of music, unknowingly with the message… that Adam begins to memorize. Hearing Lang’s voice, Adam says his first word: Barnabas!

You’re only going to get so trusting of Willie. Still, this episode is a marvelous audition reel for Karlen. What a demonstration of his range. Willie’s resentment leads him to suicidal risks. More, it allows us to have it both ways. We feel for Willie, and then we see him bully Adam, switching our affections. In classic Frankenstein tradition, both the Creature and the Igor/Fritz character are cast into new lives by the Doctor figure. Both can benefit from the biological and social steps up, but do either of them want them? Probably not. Repeatedly, DARK SHADOWS deals with the dangers of exploiting the underclass while making think they’re eating at the big kid’s table. Usually, the upper class gets its hat handed to it. Not everyone is Vicki. On the other side of that coin is Angelique. For every Ben Stokes, there’s a Willie Loomis. A Crazy Jenny. An unhinged Beth. A Dirk Wilkins. A Gerard Stiles. It never quite works. Well, as we see with Angelique, the ultimate triumph, it can work, but it takes time. It takes care, listening, compassion, and a mix of acceptance with encouragement to be more. Out of everyone at Collinwood, Barnabas and Carolyn are the most adept at sharing the wealth.

Today is the birthday of Philip Cusak, the actor who played Abraham Howell (the third) in the 1897 storyline. Episodes 819-821. Petofi digs up his body, steals his hand for another scheme, and then his ghost haunts Aristede (until banished by the Fearsome Fop). I really love this show.
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