First of all, I would like to state how excited I am to do this review of the Dark Shadows Barnabas vampire model. Dark Shadows has long been an obsession of mine and I jumped at the chance to build my second model. Dark Shadows, developed by Dan Curtis, was a well-loved soap opera with a 5 year run, starting in 1966. The original plot revolved around an orphan girl who came to a small New England town to serve as governess at Collinwood, a large, haunted Victorian manor. The theme included all things spooky, with many story lines borrowed from classic gothic novels of the day: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Grey, the Wolfman, Turn of the Screw, H. P. Lovecraft, and others. Jonathan Frid, a Shakespearean actor, played Barnabas Collins, the “reluctant vampire”. His addition to the cast brought the ratings through the roof, to the delight of the show’s fans. Then came the merchandising – everything from board games through bubble gum cards to, finally, model kits.
MPC released the original Dark Shadows Barnabas figure in 1968, and it can sell today for $200 to 300, un-built. It shows Barnabas sporting his famous suit and Inverness coat, brandishing the wolveshead cane and onyx signet ring, and baring his fangs. The fun likeness to Jonathan Frid is menacing enough for any Dark Shadows fan. This model was sculpted from plastic, which makes the likeness even more amazing. The original model came with posable soft PVC arms and optional glow-in-the-dark parts, including the head, hands, cane, spider, rats, and a flying bat to add atmosphere.
Round 2 Models has done a marvelous job of bringing this kit back from the original MPC tooling, including the original packaging artwork. Round 2 wanted to stay true to the content of the original kits, but also wanted to provide modelers with a superior product. The flexibility of the arms was limited and took away from the finished, finely tuned product, so a second set of arms made of hard styrene plastic was included. Apparently, the only change to the original was to add positioning pins, close some gaps, and create a tighter fit.
Step 1: Put Dark Shadows DVD #13 in the DVD and put a log on the fire to get the juices flowing.
Step 2: Read the directions.
This kit comes molded in black styrene with optional fluorescent pieces as stated above. There are 22 pieces to the kit, 23 if you include the jig fixture used to bend the wires for the optional semi-posable arms. The mold appeared to fit well, with the exception of the arms. The locater pins had to be cut, being too long. I did have to putty around the arms where they met the body. Other than that, it was a very tight fit. I did have to scrape away some excess plastic around the ears, but was able to cover it eventually with the hair paint. A more seasoned modeler probably could have tackled that with no problem. The cape is removable, adding choices in ways to display the finished piece.
I did like the way the seams of the pants and jacket, including the arms, appeared to be on the natural creases on the clothing, making for an easy clean up and a crisp look. The directions are a two-sided 8 ½” by 11” sheet. The instructions are very easy to follow. I decided against the soft PVC arms, keeping with the clean look of the hard plastic. I did have fun playing with the PVC arms, though.
Step 3: The painting.
Some people like to paint first, and then put the pieces together. I decided to put the body together, paint the body, the head, then the stand.
I used a wet pallet to help keep my paints moist, since I work a little slow. I use water-based acrylic Vallejo paints. It helps me to blend my colors. I decided to use what paints I had on hand.
For the shoes, I used black. For the pants, I used German grey, low lighting with some added black and highlighting with dark grey. I wanted a different look to my Barnabas’s suit, more of a sheen instead of a dull wool finish. I used gun metal grey as the base of the coat and cape, adding colors to give highlights and shadows. I used a combination of dry brush and layering techniques to get the best blending effect. I am still learning about skin tone, and so used many different colors to try and get the effect. I ended up with what looked like a surfer dude Barnabas with a tan and blonde hair, so back to the drawing board. I tried to lighten up the skin tones a little, and darken the hair. All in all, I think I did a pretty good job. I expect to improve as I build more models. I did use a dull over-coat to cut down on some of the sheen a bit, which really brought out the blending and brought the whole thing together.
I still have to paint the little creatures to put on the base, which I painted to look like the old stone floors of Collinwood. I will have fun using the glow-in-the-dark critters in other models. They will look great in my dungeon! I feel like I got an extra bonus along with the model!
So who’s aFRID of Barnabas? I highly recommend this model to all modelers. This was a challenge for me, with it being only my second model. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much, I sent one to my good friend, a fellow Dark Shadows fan in California. I dared her to paint it on a cold stormy night while watching Dark Shadows flicker away on her big screen television. It’s fun to critique our techniques on how to build and paint our favorite heartthrob of all time. The ever-dedicated Dark Shadows fan base is excited to see the release of the Dark Shadows models, just in time for the premiere of the new Tim Burton Dark Shadows movie, starring Jonny Depp. Maybe I’ll see you at the premiere!
I want to send a special thank you to IPMS/USA and Round 2 Models for making this such a pleasurable experience, and for reminding me that just like the ghosts that walk Collinwood, Barnabas will live forever!
Editor’s Note: April won first prize with her figure of Barnabas in the Novice class in the monthly contest at the February IPMS Phoenix/Craig Hewitt club meeting. Congratulations!