Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Deadman casts familiar shadows in "Dark Mansion" series

UPDATE: The first issue of "Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love" is scheduled to hit stores Oct. 5.

It's arguable that DC Comics' short-lived anthology series "Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love" owed its existence to DARK SHADOWS. When the comic was launched in 1971, it certainly wallowed in the same gothic archetypes that drove much of that television series. (Even its cover art relying on the same "women running from houses" tropes used to sell DARK SHADOWS when it began in 1966.) Thanks to some frighteningly stupid regulations enforced by the Comics Code Authority, though, none of the major comics publishers could create stories featuring vampires, witches, werewolves, zombies or any of the other monsters regularly trotted out in the afternoon for ABC's gothic soap. This kept publishers from taking advantage of the show's popularity until January, 1971, when the code was revised to allow for the depiction of monsters ... as long as they stuck to traditional literary standards. (Gold Key, the publisher of the long-running DARK SHADOWS comic, was a bit of a rogue element and was not a Comics Code member. Meanwhile, the DARK SHADOWS television series was cancelled in April, 1971. Talk about terrible timing.)

The first issue of "Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love" was published in October, 1971, and was intended as a romance title (code in those days for "girls comic) ... but that tone didn't last long. After four issues, the book's title was changed to "Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion" and it became a little more traditional in its approach. It's last issue was released in March, 1974. Since then, the book(s) have become obscure curios of interest only to pop culture hipsters like myself.

Later this year, DC Comics will dust off the title as a vehicle for Boston Brand, aka Deadman. "Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love" seems to be sticking pretty closely to "literary horror" demands of the no-longer-active Comics Code (whether this is by design or coincidence is hard to say) and seems to be paying homage to both Guillermo del Toro's CRIMSON PEAK and Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS. While the former might be providing the brain for the series, it's the latter that's apparently donating the body. Artist Lan Medina is borrowing heavily from Burton's production designs for the comic. See for yourself below.

You can see additional pages from the upcoming series over at Comics Alliance HERE. (One DARK SHADOWS fan on Twitter believes the comic might also be riffing on NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, an idea I'm not entirely sold on.)

Here's the official product summary from DC Comics:

A young woman with a conflicted heart and the ability to see ghosts, Berenice lives with her boyfriend, Nathan, in a grand mansion in New England but is growing closer and closer to her best friend, Sam. As she struggles with her heart’s desire, a dark presence settles over the mansion, drawing the attention of the ghostly superhero Deadman. As Berenice and Deadman seek to free the house and its inhabitants of Adelia Whitehall (known as the Darkness) vengeful rage, more disturbing and sinister secrets emerge, leaving Berenice in grave danger.

“I’ve been reading romance novels and comics since I was kid, and it is a genre I am positively passionate about,” says writer Sarah Vaughn. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to tell a modern gothic horror story with classic DC roots.”

“After reading the synopsis of the story, I felt I was coming back to the old days of romance comics, but in an entirely new way,” says artist Lan Medina. “I was thrilled by how the Darkness character mixes with Deadman. This has absolutely taken me on a hell of a ride.”

A gothic romance comic with superhero flair, DEADMAN: DARK MANSION OF FORBIDDEN LOVE comes from the creative minds of writer Sarah Vaughn (Alex + Ada) and artist Lan Medina (Vertigo’s FABLES) with covers by Stephanie Hans. The first issue of the series will arrive in comic shops in October 2016, with subsequent issues being released every other month.

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