Notes from New York Comic Con: Dark Shadows Panel

16 Oct

I believe Saturday afternoon, I might have found my inner-geek.  And while I would not dress up as a character from the show (although all I’d have to do is put on a late 1960s dress), I found myself enjoying the panel for Dark Shadows as a (sshhh!  please don’t let anyone else hear this) f-a-n.  Ok, a fan but unfortunately also a trained academic and unimpressed person who has worked in film.  But as fanlike as I can probably ever be in my life.  To appreciate this fandom… you must travel back with me to around 1974.  Yes.  I’m that old.  I was a little girl.  I hated school.  I mean HATED school (ironic that I would end up teaching university courses for so many years) and I discovered one day in the summer when it was too hot to leave the house that there was this GREAT soap opera on (obviously re-runs) called Dark Shadows.  I became addicted.  I watched religiously.  It was on in late afternoons.  I planned on coming home from school every day to watch.  After the first day of school, I practically ran home to discover… cartoons.  WTF???  What happened to my show?  I went nuts.  I made my mother buy the TV Guide and combed through it.  I discovered the ultimate betrayal:  they switched the time to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays.  I knew what I had to do.  I snuck out of school at lunch and ran home to watch Dark Shadows and somehow managed to make it back everyday without being late.  This went on for about two months until they pulled it.  Before the end of the show.  Thanks a lot channel 26.  I wouldn’t see the rest of the show until I was an adult.  But that show stayed with me.  Poor Barnabus Collins, the misunderstood vampire.  It wasn’t that Barnabus was in any way hot, but there was just something appealing about him.  The threat of violence?  The fatality of his love?  I don’t know.  I was a child but even though I got a bit creeped out and scared, I had to watch.  What other show on the air had storylines about parrallel time, flashbacks, vampires, werewolves, witches, and ghost children?  Oh yes, and an evil doctor, Dr. Hoffman, hopelessly in love with Barnabus Collins while he lusted after someone else.  Even better, someone dead (alive somewhere though in a parallel time, probably).  I might not get excited about sword fights and trolls and otherworldly creatures whose names I can’t pronounce when I’m reading but apparently, I do like the supernatural stuff.   I guess it is time to admit it to myself and accept it.  I am a secret geek.  Or not so secret if you ask any of my friends.

What does all this have to do with the Dark Shadows panel at NYCC?  Everything really.  Because that is why the panels exist.  For fans like me.  I was actually excited to finally see Kathryn Leigh Scott who played Maggie Evans and Josette DePrés.  Since this was more about the publisher, Hermes Press, trying to exploit their newest re-issue of Dark Shadows comic books, only Kathryn Leigh Scott was making a personal appearance.  Lara Parker (the evil Angelique who was a witch who was in love with Barnabus in 1795 and started off the entire vampire thing) appeared on Skype.  What I began to find more interesting as I watched this panel was the power dynamics going on between these two women.  It is abundantly clear that Kathryn Leigh Scott has managed to exploit her roles as Maggie Evans/Josette DePrés/Lady Kitty Hampshire/Rachel Drummond, and milk them for everything they’re worth.  That is in no way a criticism.  I was impressed how well she’s done it.  Books, personal appearances, audio books, etc. I also notice Scott is far more able to keep everything on track than Parker.  Her adeptness at handling crowds made me think she might consider a second career as a politician.  Seriously.

All of this also made me think of Galaxy Quest, one of my favorite films of all time.  And if you have not seen Galaxy Quest, you are missing out on quite a ride.  It’s a comedy/science fiction/adventure film and if you don’t like it, then I think you might have to have your head examined.  But the dynamics of the stars of the old TV show in Galaxy Quest eerily reminded me of what I witnessed yesterday on the panel.  Ok, just Kathryn Leigh Scott but listening to her description of the reactions of the original actors to the new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film made me think about how some characters/roles become so much of an actor’s personality that it is difficult to let them go.  So I can understand the reluctance Kathryn Leigh Scott has at relinquishing her title as Maggie Evans/Josette DePrés.  Because after this film gets released, if it is any sort of hit, Kathryn Leigh Scott will from that point forward be known as ‘the original’ Maggie Evans/Josette DePrés and that is far different from being her (Maggie Evans and company).  Yes a few others have played the role but this time it’s different.  This time it’s a major Hollywood film and suddenly I felt very bad for Kathryn Leigh Scott who was promoting her new book about the shooting of the film that just may strip away part of her being for the rest of her existence.

If you are wondering why I’m not covering what was said, that was because nothing much was said.  The original cast went to do cameo appearances in the new film.  That’s about it.  They signed non-disclosure statements so they couldn’t talk about it.  Now, this is where I think Tim Burton and Warner Bros. made a mistake.  Uh, you have a built in fan base.  Couldn’t Tim or Johnny have made an appearance at NYCC for this film?  Them talking along with Kathryn Leigh Scott would have upped the ante significantly – a combination of old and new Dark Shadows.  I’m sure the audience would have eaten the trailer up.  I’m not entirely sure what Warner Bros. was thinking but their marketing people might want to get their heads out of their asses and exploit something that is already in place.  What a wasted opportunity.  Oh, and some promo stuff would have gone a long way.  Now that I’ve experienced a Comic Con for the first time in my life, I cannot believe how short-sighted Hollywood can be.  They aren’t exploiting enough film and television panels on the East Coast.  And just an FYI, almost every single TV panel I went to was standing room only, or close to it.  Word of mouth among geeks is worth a lot more than some wasted advertising, marketing people.  Just remember that.

As for Dark Shadows, I will be going to see it next May, it’s tentative release date, but I won’t forget Warner Bros. wasted a great opportunity.  Just for that, I’ll go at the matinee price.

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