Showcase Presents The House of Mystery Vol. 2

showcase_presents_house_mystery_volume_2First Published: March 2007

Contents: The House of Mystery #195 (October 1971) to #211 (February 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Orlando, Sergio Aragonés, Neal Adams, Nick Cardy, Bernie Wrightson, John Albano, E. Nelson Bridwell, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The House of Mystery Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The House of Mystery Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the House of Mystery? Much like the Hotel California – you can check out any time you want but you can never leave.

This anthology once again presents horror stories in black and white, which only adds to the creepiness of the tales. Any type of story is fair game for this format, and many of the stories are introduced by Cain, the caretaker of the House of Mystery. or issue #174, the book went back to

The earlier issues in this collection are larger issues, so you get 40+ pages of stories and features per issue. In the later issues in this collection, the page count drops down to the 20-25 pages per issue. There is no continuity between the stories, so these can be read in any order.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Read this for the art, as always. The stories vary in quality but that’s OK. I am more fascinated by the artwork page after page. So many talented artists that are given free reign to tell stories however they want to without having to abide by a style guide.

If you like this volume, try: Harrow County from Dark Horse Comics. Written by Cullen Bunn and art by Tyler Crook, this is a modern horror series that feels like it would fit right at home with the House of Mystery fans. The woods that surround Emmy’s home in Harrow County are filled with ghosts and monsters. But it’s not until Emmy’s eighteenth birthday that the ghosts and monsters introduce themselves to her, and she realizes that there is more to her life and her home than she ever realized. While the issues are being collected in trade paperbacks, some of the backup features are not included in the collections so you may want to track down the individual issues now. With a television series in development, you may want to grab up these back issues now.

Showcase Presents The House of Secrets Vol. 1

Showcase Presents The House of Secrets Vol. 1

First Published: August 2008

Contents: The House of Secrets #81 (August-September 1969) to #98 (June-July 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Sergio Aragonés, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, Alex Toth, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, Michael William Kaluta, Gray Morrow, and others

Key First Appearances: Swamp Thing

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The House of Secrets Vol. 2

Overview: Do you dare enter the House of Secrets? It’s a strange house, filled with locked rooms, dusty corridors, a musty basement, and a mysterious attic. It also inspires a lot of stories of ghosts, demons, and witches.

Not to sound like I am repeating myself here, but the origins of this title are the same as The House of Mystery. In 1968, industry veteran Joe Orlando was brought in from EC Comics to take over the editor duties of numerous books at DC, including the horror line. The content took a darker tone, as Orlando introduced the EC-story style which was pushing the boundaries of the Comics Code Authority. The House of Secrets was revived as a title to serve alongside The House of Mystery.

The comic is hosted by Abel, the caretaker of the house, who introduces a lot of the stories and talks to his imaginary friend Goldie. (Abel’s brother Cain was the host for The House of Mystery.) The stories range from 4-12 pages, so each issue has 4-5 features each month. There is no continuity between the stories, so these can be read in any order.

The highlight of this book is issue #92 (July 1971), in which the Swamp Thing makes his first appearance in comics. This Swamp Thing is Alex Olsen; the more recognizable Alec Holland Swamp Thing would debut in 1972  in Swamp Thing #1.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: For these anthology titles, it’s hard to strongly recommend or strongly downplay this collection. Given the wide variety of stories, there is probably something in this volume that a reader will really enjoy and something in this volume that will bore a reader. It’s worth a look given the incredible talents working on this book. I don’t know that this is a must-own volume, but I don’t think you will be disappointed if you do own it.

Cover Girl: The cover to The House of Secrets #92 is used for the cover of this Showcase Presents. The cover by Bernie Wrightson shows the Swamp Thing approaching a young woman. That young woman was modeled by Louise Jones, who would later become the popular Marvel writer and editor Louise Simonson.

Footnotes: The House of Secrets was not always a home just for horror tales. In the issues prior to those collected in this Showcase Presents edition, The House of Secrets was an anthology title, including a long run of Eclipso stories from issue #61 to #80 (reprinted in Showcase Presents Eclipso Vol. 1). The House of Secrets was canceled with issue #80 in 1966 but was revived three years later, keeping the same issue numbering, as a horror title.

“The Day After Doomsday…” stories from The House of Secrets #86, #95, and #97 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Great Disaster Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: researching the career of artist Alex Toth, who has some stories collected in this Showcase Presents. Toth is a legendary artist from the Golden and Silver Age of comics but is perhaps more recognized for his work done with tv animation. Toth was involved in the creation of Space Ghost, the Herculoids, Birdman, and even Super Friends. His comic career spanned multiple decades, which included stops at DC, Marvel, Dell, Gold Key, Standard, and Warren Publishing. While Toth did do some superhero stories, the bulk of his comic book resume was spent working on horror, romance, war and other genres which interested him. Although Toth passed away in 2006, his art still lives on. IDW has been publishing a series of books (Genius, Isolated in 2011; Genius, Illustrated in 2013; and Genius, Animated in 2014) showcasing the legacy of Alex Toth. 

Showcase Presents The House of Mystery Vol. 1

Showcase Presents The House of Mystery Vol. 1

First Published: February 2006

Contents: The House of Mystery #174 (May-June 1968) to #194 (September 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Orlando, Sergio Aragonés, Neal Adams, Nick Cardy, Wally Wood, Bernie Wrightson, Alex Toth, Robert Kanigher, and others

Key First Appearances: Cain

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The House of Mystery Vol. 2

Overview: Do you dare enter the House of Mystery? Take a journey into the supernatural, with stories of ghosts, demons, witches, and black magic.

For issue #174, the book went back to its true horror format (see Footnotes below). Industry veteran Joe Orlando was brought in from EC Comics to take over the editorial reigns of the book. The stories in this issue were all reprints, but new material was the focus in the following issues. The content took a darker tone, as Orlando introduced the EC-story style which was pushing the boundaries of the Comics Code Authority.

Beginning with issue #175, the comic is hosted by Cain, the caretaker of the house who introduces a lot of the stories. (Cain’s brother Abel was the host for The House of Secrets.) The stories range from 4-12 pages, so each issue has 4-5 features each month. The joke gets lost in a 500+-page trade collection, but each issue featured a comedy page by Sergio Aragonés on the dreaded Page 13.

There is no continuity between the stories, so these can be read in any order.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is an interesting read, one which impressed me more than I expected. While some of the stories are predictable, many more featured creative plots that kept me turning the pages. The art in his volume is spectacular, and the black & white format enhances these stories. Given the artistic talents in this volume, such as Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, and Sergio Aragonés, this is worthy of being showcased.

Footnotes: The House of Mystery was not always a home just for horror tales. In the issues prior to those collected in this Showcase Presents edition, The House of Mystery was a super-hero title, featuring the Martian Manhunter from issue #143 to #173 (reprinted in Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2), and Dial H for HERO from issue #156 to #173 (reprinted in Showcase Presents Dial H for HERO Vol. 1).

If you like this volume, try: the Solo 12-issue series from DC Comics from 2004. This was recently collected as a hardcover edition in 2013. Each issue spotlighted the art from a different artist, who was given the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do for an issue. With art from creators such as Tim Sale, Darwyn Cooke, and Paul Pope, this is a diverse title that gives you a sample of all aspects and eras of the DC Universe. My personal favorite came with issue #11, which featured art by Sergio Aragonés, whose first non-MAD Magazine art is collected in this Showcase Presents, Each issue was ad-free, so it was a full 32 pages of original work. This is a great volume to pick up and take to conventions to collect autographs from the artists.