House of Mystery

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House of Mystery
Cain and Gregory move out in the final issue of The House of Mystery.
Art by Michael Kaluta.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Schedule Varied between monthly and bi-monthly
Format Ongoing series
Genre horror
fantasy
Publication date (vol. 1)
December 1951-October 1983
Elvira's House of Mystery
January 1986-January 1987
(vol. 2)
July 2008 - October 2011
Number of issues (vol. 1): 321
Elvira's: 11
(vol. 2): 42 plus 2 annuals
Main character(s) Cain
Gregory
Andrew Bennett
Elvira
Martian Manhunter
Dial H for Hero
Creative team
Writer(s) John Albano, T. Casey Brennan, J. M. DeMatteis, Scott Edelman, Steve Skeates
Penciller(s) Neal Adams, Alfredo Alcala, Jim Aparo, Sergio Aragonés, Rich Buckler, John Calnan, E.R. Cruz, Ernie Chan, Howard Chaykin, Tony DeZuniga, Leopoldo Durañona, Jerry Grandenetti, Jess Jodloman, Michael Kaluta, Gil Kane, Gray Morrow, Nestor Redondo, Marshall Rogers, Tom Sutton, Wally Wood, Bernie Wrightson
Editor(s) Joe Orlando, Len Wein, Karen Berger

The House of Mystery is the name of several horror, fantasy and mystery anthology comic book series published by DC Comics. It had a companion series, House of Secrets.

First series[edit]

Genesis[edit]

House of Mystery started out as a horror anthology, featuring tales of the supernatural as well as supernatural-themed mystery stories. With the growing backlash against horror comics in the mid-1950s, as well as the advent of the Comics Code Authority and its restrictions on horror-themed storylines (banning stories dealing with such supernatural fare as werewolves, vampires, and such), the series quietly was revamped into dealing with science-fiction type monsters and other mystery-suspense type tales that were permitted by the comic code.[1]

Super-Heroes[edit]

In the mid-1960s, the comic was revamped to include super-hero stories: From House of Mystery #143 (June 1964) through #155 (December 1966), "J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars" headlined the book, as his back-up feature from Detective Comics was moved to House of Mystery. This was followed up with the introduction of "Dial H for Hero" in issue #156 (January 1966),[2] which took over as headliner until #173 (March–April 1968). The Martian Manhunter was again relegated to back-up status during this time.

Return of Horror[edit]

With issue #174, EC Comics veteran Joe Orlando was hired by DC to take over as editor of House of Mystery.[3] As the Comics Code Authority was now being challenged by both DC and Marvel over content restrictions, the series returned to its overt horror themes. The first issue under Orlando would be a reprint issue of old horror/suspense stories, as the new direction would truly begin with #175 (July/August 1968). The issue would introduce a new figure to the series, Cain, the "able care taker" of the House of Mystery who would introduce nearly all stories that would run in the series before its cancellation.[4] Cain would also host the spin-off humor series Plop! and later become a recurring character in Blue Devil and The Sandman.

Artist Bernie Wrightson's first professional comic work was the story "The Man Who Murdered Himself" which appeared in issue #179 (March–April 1969).[5]

Under Orlando's stewardship, the series won a good deal of recognition in the comics industry, including the Shazam Award for Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic) in 1972 for "The Demon Within" in #201 by John Albano and Jim Aparo, and the Shazam Award for Best Humor Story in 1972 for "The Poster Plague" by Steve Skeates and Sergio Aragonés. The series featured stories by writers T. Casey Brennan (#260, 267, 268 and 274) and Scott Edelman (#257, 258, 260, 264, 266, 270, 272, 273). Limited Collectors' Edition #C-23 (Winter 1973) featured reprints of House of Mystery stories.[6]

The series was in the Dollar Comics format for issues #251 (March–April 1977) to #259 (July–August 1978).[7] Orlando's tenure as editor ended with #257 (March–April 1978).[3] Karen Berger became editor of the series with #292 (May 1981),[8] her first for DC Comics.[9] Under Berger, the series experimented with long-form storylines in the popular I...Vampire serial created by writer J. M. DeMatteis.[10] "I... Vampire" revolved around the heroic vampire, Andrew Bennett, who sought to defeat his nemesis and former lover Mary, the Queen of Blood. This series began in #290 (March 1981) and would last until #319 (August 1983), two issues before the title ended with #321 (October 1983).

Since 2006, DC Comics has reprinted stories from the original run: three black and white Showcase Presents volumes have been published, reprinting the series from #174-194, #195-211 and #212-226 respectively. A one shot reprint (in color), Welcome Back to the House of Mystery, featured ten of the most highly regarded stories as selected by Alisa Kwitney in a Cain wraparound by Neil Gaiman and Sergio Aragonés, under the Vertigo imprint. The first issue from 1951 was reissued, as a Millennium Edition bearing the Vertigo imprint.[11]

Elvira's House of Mystery[edit]

In 1986-87, DC comics published a new series, Elvira's House of Mystery. It lasted 11 issues plus a special. The series was a quasi-follow up towards the original series, with famed horror movie hostess Elvira tasked by the House with finding Cain, though she spent much of her time making fun of him, introducing horror stories similar to the original series. One issue of this series, #3, was released without Comics Code Approval and contained significant implied nudity, but subsequent editorial comments in later issues stated that the experiment in releasing an unapproved issue was not considered successful.

2008 series[edit]

DC's Vertigo imprint began a new ongoing series in May 2008, written by Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham. It features at least one different story each issue, told by people trapped in a "purgatory-like house."[12][13] The series ended in October 2011 with issue #42.

The House[edit]

The House of Mystery exists as a location in the DC Universe simultaneously in Kentucky[citation needed] and in The Dreaming. The origins of the House of Mystery are unknown. In fact, very little is known about the House of Mystery in general. The architecture is indeterminate and changes periodically. The same holds true for the inside of the house: the rooms constantly shift, and one never enters the same room twice. The House of Mystery lies in the same graveyard as the House of Secrets, its companion. Whereas Abel resides in the House of Secrets, Cain makes the House of Mystery his abode.

Cain is not the only person to have resided within the House; in addition to boarders, including Mister Mxyzptlk, Elvira took shelter within the House. Her brief stay in the House of Mystery is notable for two reasons: first, the House of Mystery is established as being the same House throughout its publication history. Three distinct personalities of the House are shown: the original horror House of Mystery, a dark humor "House of Weirdness"-style which harkened back to Cain's stint in Plop!, and the current version of the House of Mystery in Kentucky. The second reason is the timing of Elvira's stay. She took up residence during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Elvira, tasked by the House of Mystery to find Cain, took over his role of host for a brief period, while Cain was relegated to being the butt of jokes during occasional cameos.

The House of Mystery possesses sentience, along with mystic powers. It has possessed someone before, and merged with the House of Secrets briefly. This ties into the constantly shifting appearance of the House of Mystery. It was torn down in the metafictional The House of Mystery #321, but its existence was restored during the Crisis.

Batman entered the house in The Brave and the Bold #93, tripped on a floorboard, and would have been shot had his pursuer's gun not jammed. He never actually met Cain, who instead narrates a story about him occurring in Scotland, which climaxes in a castle he describes as "a house of mystery" rather than "the House of Mystery."[14] Superman teamed with Cain against Mister Mxyzptlk, who was attempting to take over the House, in DC Comics Presents #53.[15]

The House of Mystery appears mainly in various Vertigo titles, especially those tied into Neil Gaiman's Sandman; it has appeared briefly in Resurrection Man. Something called the House of Mystery appeared in 52 #18, where it seems to have been used for some time as a base for a team of detectives called the Croatoan Society, which counts both Detective Chimp and Ralph Dibny as members. It is unclear if the Croatoan's House of Mystery is meant to be the same as the original House of Mystery, a post-Infinite Crisis version of the original House of Mystery, or simply a different location with the same name. Cain's name appeared on this house's mailbox, implying some sort of connection to the original House.

The House reappeared in The New 52 in the pages of Justice League Dark, being used as a base for the team. The House is shown to currently belong to John Constantine, who claims to have won the key to the house in a poker game against Doctor Occult and Father Time. John Constantine takes his time to adjust to the House of Mystery due to the changing rooms and feels that the house has to play tricks on people and the superheros that enter it.[16]

Collected editions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Irvine, Alex; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1950s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "When the Comics Code Authority was formed in 1954...House of Mystery was therefore forced to gradually re-focus itself as a suspense and science-fiction title." 
  2. ^ McAvennie, Michael "1960s" in Dolan, p. 116: "Writer Dave Wood and artist Jim Mooney put young Robby Reed in touch with the mysterious H-Dial."
  3. ^ a b Joe Orlando's run on House of Mystery at the Grand Comics Database
  4. ^ McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 130: "Editor Joe Orlando decided that The House of Mystery was in need of renovation."
  5. ^ McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 132: "'The Man Who Murdered Himself' in House of Mystery was...the first DC story illustrated by Berni Wrightson (who left the "e" off his first name to distinguish himself from a famous diver."
  6. ^ Limited Collectors' Edition #C-23 at the Grand Comics Database
  7. ^ Romero, Max (July 2012). "I'll Buy That For a Dollar! DC Comics' Dollar Comics". Back Issue (TwoMorrows Publishing) (57): 39–41. 
  8. ^ Karen Berger's run on House of Mystery at the Grand Comics Database
  9. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008), "House of Mystery", in Dougall, Alastair, The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 88, ISBN 0-7566-4122-5, OCLC 213309015 
  10. ^ Manning, Matthew K. "1980s" in Dolan, p. 193 "Writer J. M. DeMatteis unveiled vampire/vampire hunter Andrew Bennett with the help of artist Tom Sutton in The House of Mystery #290."
  11. ^ Millennium Edition: House of Mystery #1 at the Grand Comics Databse
  12. ^ Furey, Emmett (April 19, 2008). "NYCC: Vertigo - Welcome to the Edge". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on July 26, 2013. 
  13. ^ Renaud, Jeffrey (May 6, 2008). "Sturges is Big Brother of Vertigo’s House of Mystery". Comic Book resources. Archived from the original on July 26, 2013. 
  14. ^ O'Neil, Dennis (w), Adams, Neal (p), Adams, Neal (i). "Red Water Crimson Death" The Brave and the Bold 93 (December 1970-January 1971)
  15. ^ Mishkin, Dan (w), Swan, Curt (p), DeZuniga, Tony (i). "The Haunting Dooms of Halloween!" DC Comics Presents 53 (January 1983)
  16. ^ Lemire, Jeff (w), Nolan, Graham; Drujiniu, Victor (p), Drujiniu, Victor (i). "Enter The House of Mystery..." Justice League Dark 14 (January 2013)

External links[edit]