16 December 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Houses of Mystery and Secrets, Part VII: Showcase Presents Secrets of Sinister House

Comic hardcover, 496 pages
Published 2010 (contents: 1971-74)
Borrowed from the library
Read October 2013
Showcase Presents Secrets of Sinister House

Written by Joe Orlando, Len Wein, Frank Robbins, Mary Dezuniga, Mike Fleisher, Lynn Marron, Sheldon Mayer, John Albano, Robert Kanigher, Sergio Aragonés, Lore Shoberg, Maxene Fabe, E. Nelson Bridwell, Jack Oleck, Steve Skeates, John Jacobson, W. F. Harvey, Ambrose Bierce, Fred Wolfe, George Kashdan, Dave Wood, Leo Dorfman
Art by Don Heck, Tony Dezuniga, Alex Toth, Frank Giacoia, Mike Sekowsky, Dick Giordano, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Alfredo Alcala, Ed Ramos, Mar Amongo, Bill Draut, Nestor Redondo, Sergio Aragonés, June Lofamia, Sam Glanzman, Lore Shoberg, Ruben Yandoc, Alex Niño, Abe Ocampo, Rico Rival, Gerry Talaoc, Larry Hama, Neal Adams, Rick Buckler, Jess Jodloman, Jack Sparling, Romy Gamboa, Don Perlin, Vicente Alcazar, Ernie Chan, Ramona Fradon, Howard Chaykin, Win Mortimer, Sy Barry, John Calnan, Murphy Anderson, Angel B. Luna, Jerry Grandenetti, Gil Kane, Bernard Sachs

Secrets of Sinister House has a more distinct identity than some of DC's other horror titles; it actually starts off as The Secret House of Sinister Love and features issue-length stories, as opposed to The House of Mystery, The House of Secrets, and The Witching Hour!, which crammed three or so stories into each issue. In addition, the stories have a unique theme: gothic romance. Which seems to mean young ladies being lured into strange houses on strange pretenses to be manipulated into marriages. So kinda weird, but strangely enjoyable-- how many variations on that theme can be devised?

Not a ton, as with issue #6, the series switches to the more traditional collections of stories, but in the interim there's some strangely enjoyable stuff; the full-length stories mean these stories have much more of an impact than some of their contemporaries. Particularly there's some lavish artwork from some of DC's best, like Alex Toth in "Bride of the Falcon" (a young woman in Venice), or Tony Dezuniga in "Kiss of the Serpent" (a young woman in India).

The later issues lose this gimmick, but it still seems more cohesive than in some series. I did enjoy the creativity of "The Hag's Curse" and "The Hamptons' Revenge" (written by Sheldon Mayer, art by Sam Glanzman), two stories of different time periods that literally run in parallel to each other-- take that indie comics innovators of the 2000s.  We even get a story that seems rooted in DC's "Great Disaster," with "When Is Tomorrow Yesterday?" (written by Sheldon Mayer, art by Alfredo Alcala). The book does begin to get kinda dumb with its own theme by the end, though, such as issue #16, where each story is about a literal "sinister house"! Lame.

I picked this volume up because, as with its contemporaries, its host was reclaimed by Neil Gaiman as a resident of the Dreaming in The Sandman. But Eve is a virtual non-entity in these pages. The Secret House of Sinister Love actually begins as hosted by Cain, pulling out a file from the House of Mystery. Finally, with issue #6, Eve gets an amazing introduction, where Cain and Abel run away from the Sinister House because they don't want to be there when "that thousand-year-old female horror arrives!" (she's apparently been sleeping), but after that, she's just a recycled Alfredo Alcala headshot at the beginning of each story, with no personality. She does have a raven with her, though-- Matthew's predecessor? There's even an appearance in one story of three witches living in an apartment together-- Mildred, Mordred, and Cynthia of The Witching Hour! perhaps?

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