Current Reviews


Kolchak Tales of the Nightstalker Annual #1

Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009
By: Ray Tate

"Interview with a Vampire?"

Writers: Mark Dawidziak and Rafael Nieves
Artists: Don Huson with Jason Jenson (colors)

"One Foot in the Grave"

Writers: Joe Gentile and Dave Ulanski
Artists: Ron Harris (p), Keith Williams (i), and Ian Sokoliwski(c)

I once wrote a short story, just for fun and as a catharsis, pitting one Rocket J. Squirrel and one Bullwinkle J. Moose against Barnabas Collins, from Dark Shadows. Because, not a fan. When somebody mentioned Dark Shadows, I sometimes voiced and sometimes merely thought that Kolchak--for at the time there was no Buffy Summers, Mulder or Scully--would have staked Barnabas Collins on the spot.

Dark Shadows irritated me. Nobody on that show was smart. The doctor treating Maggie, the debut victim of Barnabas Collins, was suffering from anemia, inflicted with strange dreams and had I kid you not twin puncture marks on her neck. The only thing the learned doctor would say again and again is: "It's like some animal bit her!" Moron. Then, nobody connects the arrival of Barnabas Collins who is ancestor-identical right down to the jewelry and accoutrements he should have been buried with to Maggie's strange affliction and "some animal bit her!" Cretins. I tuned in months later, and nothing changed. No hero emerged. Nobody discovered that Barnabas was a vampire. People this stupid haven't a right to live.

You see, I chose Rocky and Bullwinkle because I needed characters that weren't the sharpest knives in the drawer yet still heroic. Rocky although smarter than Bullwinkle still was always fooled by Boris' and Natasha's transparent disguises. Both characters however would come through in the end once the dawn came. I would have wagered five million Quatloos that no writer could sustain more than one page of a story that depicted Kolchak meeting Barnabas Collins without boring me to death or belittling the character. If you look at "Vampire," the sequel to the original pilot, Carl Kolchak knows what's going on. He's not playing catch up. He knows that Janos Skorzeny's vampirized victim is killing people. The plot consists of his racing to find her and stake her, not relearning what a vampire is. So, as far as I was concerned, the plot to Kolchak versus Barnabas takes up an index card. Mark Dawidziak and Rafael Nieves prove me wrong.

The writers pay homage to a granddaddy of vampire literature. Kolchak becomes Barnabas' rather than Dracula's guest, and he encounters a Barnabas Collins that saw his fanged story end; continuity of which I was unaware since I had given up on Dark Shadows. The writers also cheat. Kolchak spends more time in Collinswood waiting for Barnabas Collins. It's during that wait that the ever personable Willie Loomis, Barnabas' ghoulish thrall, ingratiates himself on Kolchak and Carl adds up all the little breadcrumbs left at his doorstep.

After Kolchak learns of Barnabas, there's not much really left to do but stake him, is there? This is where the writers earn my respect. They take a simple concept that's borne of fan-fiction and write something better than fan-fiction. They address a connection between Janos Skorzeny and Barnabas and the differences between their temperaments. Now I have little use for angst-ridden vampires that claim they're merely misunderstood. Make no mistake Barnabas Collins basically put some hot sauce on peoples' necks and dug in. He was a murderer, but he wasn't a murderer like Janos Skorzeny. Skorzeny was a masterpiece of fear. In addition to these admirable qualities, the writers tie in Barnabas' wealth with Kolchak's future in a metafictional nuance. Hudson and Jenson imbue a sense of eerie foreboding through the story, and their likenesses for Darren McGavin, Jonathan Frid and the chap who portrayed Loomis are all reasonable facsimiles.

The second story in the Kolchak Annual pits Carl against Eeegah! Eeegah! as any Mystery Science Theater 3000 aficionado will attest is one of the worst films ever made. Richard Kiel, who had a respectable career even before transforming into the steel-jawed killer Jaws, portrayed a missing link living in the desert. Eeegah is discovered by astoundingly bad actors. Mike and the Bots referred to Arch Hall Jr. as "a cyst with teeth and hair." All well in good, but perhaps the most perverted thing about the movie is that the father tries to pimp out his daughter to the cave man all in the name of science. In many ways the Professor of this dastardly piece anticipated the senior Boleyn from The Tudors, only at Z-Level.

The eponymous monster in Eeegah! is mostly a benevolent creature who just wanted to be left alone. Gentile and Ulanski portray their desert giant as a predator primed to be Kolchak's next encounter. Comedy doesn't arise from the premise or the bad acting. Rather, it originates from Carl's interplay with Tony Vincenzo who has been bamboozled into accompanying Kolchak on this journey into the unknown. As well, Gentile and Ulanski pave the plausibility of the giant by juxtaposing him against a modern ancestor, left in plain sight. Harris and Williams milk the terror by keeping the giant to the shadows and evoking its presence to generate suspense. The creative team combine to make this a straightforward horror tale, albeit with the cynical humor of the typical Kolchak story, but you'll thankful find no cringing moments of the perverse.

The two stories in The Kolchak Annual will satisfy any fan of the Night Stalker, and the student of the horror genre will find the tales even more rewarding.

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