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  1. #1
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Default I Dare You... a DC '70s Horror Appreciation (Unexpected, HoM, HoS, Ghosts, etc.)

    With Deadman and the Mansion of Forbidden Love reviving both Deadman and the 'Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love' title, I thought it would be good time to show appreciation for DC's line of horror titles from the '70s.

    Because the Comics Code had gotten revised and now allowed most horror conventions to return, with a few restrictions, DC had a renaissance of the horror genre that began in 1968 and peaked in the mid-70s.
    Fortunately, at the time, popular horror in other media was more psychological or supernatural, which could be done in comics with no fuss.
    However, with the rise of gore in slasher films and such, the comics couldn't keep up and eventually began to look tame in comparison.
    By the early '80s, they were gone. But not without leaving a legacy.
    Swamp Thing, Phantom Stranger, Madame Xanadu and many Sandman supporting characters featured prominently or first appeared in the pages of DC's horror line.
    Indeed, virtually the entire early Vertigo line was somewhat descended from these books, as Karen Berger (the Godmother of Vertigo) got her start at DC as an editor on House of Mystery in 1981.

    The core titles were:

    The Unexpected (renamed from Tales of... with #105) - Feb/Mar 1968-May 1982
    House of Mystery (rebranded as a horror anthology with #174) - May/June 1968-Oct 1983
    The Witching Hour - Feb/Mar 1969-Oct 1978
    The Phantom Stranger - May/June 1969-Feb/Mar 1976
    House of Secrets (relaunched as a horror anthology with #81) - Aug/Sept 1969-Oct/Nov 1978
    Ghosts - Sept/Oct 1971-May 1982
    -For a time from the end of 1970 until late 1972, these titles also carried a bat-symbol on their covers to designate they were part of DC's horror line.

    Swamp Thing -Oct/Nov 1972-Aug/Sept 1976 (to be revived in 1982 at the end of the 70s horror wave and find even better success under Alan Moore, leading to the 'British Invasion' and '90s Vertigo horror resurgence).
    Secrets of Haunted House -Apr/May 1975-Mar 1982 (with a year break in 1976)
    Doorway to Nightmare (arrived in 1978 and was cut short by the DC Implosion (which also took Witching Hour and House of Secrets) - Jan/Feb 1978-Sept/Oct 1978

    Fringe titles included:

    Weird War Tales
    Weird Western Tales
    Weird Mystery Tales

    -these weren't under the horror umbrella but rather a mini-line unto themselves.

    Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love (later renamed Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion)
    Sinister House of Secret Love (later renamed Secrets of Sinister House)
    -likewise, they were a sub-imprint that mixed the horror stuff with DC's romance stuff at the time. The first few issues of each (before the title changes) also had very striking gothic novel style covers. Similarly, while the horror titles briefly carried the bat symbol on their covers, the romance comics carried a heart symbol and these two had a silhouette of a house or manor (a staple of gothic fiction).

    And other titles include:
    Tales of Ghost Castle (a three issue series from 1975)

    Further reading:
    DC Comics' Horror Titles of the Seventies
    Follow Me into Weird Worlds: DC’s Horror and Supernatural Comics
    Last edited by Lee Stone; 12-12-2016 at 09:05 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Great thread. Let's keep it alive.
    Love early-Vertigo Dc Horror series.
    The Phantom Stranger was under Len Wein/Jim Aparo team was such joy.
    The House of Mystery was always fun. Full of little flawless stories and great art. Very European.
    The Witching Hour is the highlight for me.

    Did anyone read the Unexpected? I love the covers but never read them.
    Michael Kaluta's Madame Xanadu.. One of the best art from the Bronze Age.

    There are some upcoming trades from Dc Horror line. I hope they sell well and we get more trades. Wouldn't be nice to collect them all like Dark Horse's horror reprints?

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/14...=ATVPDKIKX0DER
    https://www.amazon.com/DC-Horror-Hou...P72SAF58XWFFBE
    Last edited by madmodpoetgod; 12-12-2016 at 04:19 PM.

  3. #3
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info on the trades.
    I didn't know they were coming.

    Meanwhile, they also released volumes of Showcase Presents for many of them.

    House of Mystery -three volumes, covering #174-226.
    The Witching Hour -one volume, covering #1-21
    The Phantom Stranger -two volumes, covering #1-41 and a few appearances.
    House of Secrets -two volumes, covering #81-119
    Ghosts -one volume, covering #1-18

    Also, there's Showcase volumes for:
    Secrets of Sinister House
    Weird War Tales
    Tales of the Unexpected (before it was rebranded)

    Btw, my library uses Hoopla and most of the Creepy and Eerie Archives are available (as well as the Conan Saga Archives).
    And Digital Comics Museum carries a bulk of the Golden Age pre-Code stuff that's in public domain.
    However, I'm actually more of a Hitchcock/Stephen King horror enthusiast and prefer psychological or supernatural/gothic horror over graphic horror.
    So the horror during the Comics Code would be more to my tastes as they were forced to be more restrained and/or creative.
    Last edited by Lee Stone; 12-12-2016 at 04:37 PM.
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  4. #4
    Ultimate Member t hedge coke's Avatar
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    Elvira's House of Mystery was 80s, but deserves a special mention, I think, for the quality and the diversity of art, tone, writing, etc that went in. That's a good twelve issues that are unlikely to be reprinted anywhere, for likeness rights; and the interleaved story of the House prodding Elvira to find Cain, while she desperately avoids finding Cain is good stuff.

    Phantom Stranger is pretty golden throughout that volume. I remember people writing and asking them to make Dr Thirteen less of a jerk or less annoyed with the Stranger, let them team up as equals, but no, I don't wanna see that. I like that he's great when he's on top, but just pissy when he's not.

    BTW, not DC, but there's been talk of Misty getting an omnibus down the road. That news and Vampirella's Fearytales coming out made me quite happy. Looking forward to the DC collections, because I know there's a lot of material I've missed or don't own anymore.
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    SWAMP THING should be included there. ADVENTURE COMICS (when Joe Orlando was the editor) went though a mystery phase, featuring characters like Black Orchid and the Spectre, and the word "Weird" was added to the cover title (but never included in the indicia). Another "Weird' title was WEIRD WORLDS, but not really a mystery title--more science fantasy--as it started out featuring adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs and then went on, very briefly, to original creations--namely Iron Wolf.

    Deadman started out in STRANGE ADVENTURES, which by that point was more of a horror-fantasy comic than a science-fiction anthology. But when Deadman left, it reprinted the catalogue of science fiction stories (becoming "Adam Strange Adventures" on the cover).

    Jack Kirby tried to get in the DC horror game with SPIRIT WORLD--a magazine size comic that only got one published issue (DC had decided that doing these kind of magazines was not part of their brand). Kirby then did THE DEMON--which seems to be a horror comic. And he also put a lot of horror elements into his other DC books around that time.

    And PLOP! might have been a humour comic, but it grew out of the fact that Sergio Aragones was contributing humour gag pages to the Orlando mystery anthologies. So Infantino and Orlando decided to create a humour anthology. Which was initially hosted by Cain, Abel and Eve.

    Also on the humour front, a lot of the staff at DC were contributing to NATIONAL LAMPOON--which was housed in the same building (as was MAD)--and sometimes did parodies of horror material.

  6. #6
    Ultimate Member t hedge coke's Avatar
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    Spirit World has some of the coolest Kirby collages in it.
    Patsy Walker on TV! Patsy Walker in new comics! Patsy Walker in your brain! And Jessica Jones is the new Nancy! (Oh, and read the Comics Cube.)

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    One other thing I meant to mention is that in the early '70s, in between the classic DC bullet (the one that says Superman * DC * National Comics) and the simple DC bullet (which looks a lot like the current DC bullet), DC would put some kind of image up in the left hand upper corner of the cover for each title. For most books with a regular starring character, it was easy just to put that character's image in the corner, but anthology comics didn't have a featured character. So for the horror anthologies, the image was a creepy looking bat--even THE PHANTOM STRANGER had this bat. So when I think of DC's horror-mystery comics from the '70s, this is the image that immediately comes to mind. Someone should really revive that image for the trade dress.



    I just regret that I didn't buy a lot of the DC horror comics back in the day. I bought PLOP! from issue No. 1. I got SWAMP THING and PHANTOM STRANGER (except for the early issues). I bought ADVENTURE COMICS. But otherwise my horror comic reading was scatter-shot. Most of my money went toward the super-hero comics. But really--as the SHOWCASE PRESENTS volumes show--the greatest quality of work was in the horror anthologies.

  8. #8
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Something else worth noting is that Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's Night Force launched right as the 70s horror wave was ending in 1982.
    It's a shame it didn't get done ten years earlier. It may have lasted much longer than it did.
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  9. #9
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    One of my favorite artist from this period was Jerry Gradenetti.... really spooky to look at, along with early Berni Wrightson... I wish DC would bring these titles back as annual Halloween one shots. Especially Witching Hour. Had a huge crush on Cynthia The Mod Witch.

  10. #10
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    One other thing I meant to mention is that in the early '70s, in between the classic DC bullet (the one that says Superman * DC * National Comics) and the simple DC bullet (which looks a lot like the current DC bullet), DC would put some kind of image up in the left hand upper corner of the cover for each title. For most books with a regular starring character, it was easy just to put that character's image in the corner, but anthology comics didn't have a featured character. So for the horror anthologies, the image was a creepy looking bat--even THE PHANTOM STRANGER had this bat. So when I think of DC's horror-mystery comics from the '70s, this is the image that immediately comes to mind. Someone should really revive that image for the trade dress.



    I just regret that I didn't buy a lot of the DC horror comics back in the day. I bought PLOP! from issue No. 1. I got SWAMP THING and PHANTOM STRANGER (except for the early issues). I bought ADVENTURE COMICS. But otherwise my horror comic reading was scatter-shot. Most of my money went toward the super-hero comics. But really--as the SHOWCASE PRESENTS volumes show--the greatest quality of work was in the horror anthologies.
    Yeah, the core titles carried the bat logo.
    Unexplained from Feb/Mar 1971 to June 1972.
    House of Mystery from Nov/Dec 1970 to Oct 1972.
    Phantom Stranger from Nov/Dec 1970 to Sept/Oct 1972.
    Ghosts from Sept/Oct 1971 (its first issue) to May/June 1972.
    Witching Hour from Oct/Nov 1970 to June/July 1972.
    House of Secrets from Oct/Nov 1970 to Oct 1972.

    And the 'Gothic Romance' titles carried a silhouette of a house (or manor) where the horror books had the bat and the romance books had a heart.
    Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love from Sept/Oct 1971 (its first issue) to Mar/Apr 1972 (the last issue before being renamed Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion).
    Sinister House of Secret Love from Oct/Nov 1971 (its first issue, as well) to June/July 1972 (its first issue under the new title, Secrets of Sinister House).

    Btw... I overlooked a title, Secrets of Haunted House.
    Adding it to the OP.
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  11. #11
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    GHOSTS was one of DC's most successful titles. In that, unlike some of the others--HOUSE OF MYSTERY, THE UNEXPECTED, et all--it wasn't a continuation of an existing title. It started in 1971 and if you look at the DC titles around that time, any new ones had a hard time surviving. And even many old titles were getting cancelled. So, for GHOSTS to survive as long as it did was a minor miracle.

    Unlike many of the others, GHOSTS was editied by Murray Boltinoff. And Leo Dorfman was the big contributor to the title in the early days, up until his death. Dorfman was also writing for GOLD KEY--contributing to RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT (among others) and there was some crossover of material there.

    SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE is the other surprising success story--even with its time off--given there wasn't a lot to distinguish it from the other anthologies and yet it survived the DC Implosion.

    When HOUSE OF MYSTERY became a Dollar Comic with about triple the amount of material as a regular comic, that proved just how successful DC horror titles were.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by beetee View Post
    One of my favorite artist from this period was Jerry Gradenetti.... really spooky to look at, along with early Berni Wrightson... I wish DC would bring these titles back as annual Halloween one shots. Especially Witching Hour. Had a huge crush on Cynthia The Mod Witch.
    Gradenetti! His art was disturbing, even ugly but always moving and spooky. His Warren Comics works are astonishing too.

    Do you guys have favorite issues/stories?

  13. #13
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by madmodpoetgod View Post
    Gradenetti! His art was disturbing, even ugly but always moving and spooky. His Warren Comics works are astonishing too.

    Do you guys have favorite issues/stories?
    I haven't read them in years (and they're unfortunately not available digitally, yet) but the one story that stuck in my mind was the one with the guy being foretold that he would drown to death. He avoided travelling by boat and chose to go by train. But when the train stopped at its destination, he was found dead in his train car, apparently drowned.
    Can't remember which title it was in.
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  14. #14
    Ultimate Member t hedge coke's Avatar
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    The current Deadman mini is using Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love as its subtitle, btw. And, it's solidly good comics.
    Patsy Walker on TV! Patsy Walker in new comics! Patsy Walker in your brain! And Jessica Jones is the new Nancy! (Oh, and read the Comics Cube.)

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    Some more short-lived mystery thrillers come to mind.

    Back in the early '50s, the Simon and Kirby shop had packaged stories for various titles published by Prize, including BLACK MAGIC. DC revived BLACK MAGIC as a reprint anthology, using the stories from the original Prize run. The DC title lasted nine issues, from the October-November '73 issue to the April-May '75 issue. Joe Simon was the DC editor.

    Although most of those reprints came from the original BLACK MAGIC, there were a few stories in the last issues that were pulled from another Prize title, STRANGE WORLD OF YOUR DREAMS. I don’t know but I wonder if that content was the basis for Simon & Kirby’s new DC book, THE SANDMAN. Of course, Joe and Jack had worked on the overhauled Sandman for DC in the ‘40s, but this was a different (though similarly garbed) hero with a supernatural connection.

    The first issue of THE SANDMAN (Winter ’74) was a Simon & Kirby product. Jack was the cover and story artist (inked by Mike Royer), as well as the editor; Joe was the writer. That issue went on sale January 2nd of 1974. There was a whole year wait for the next issue, on sale January 30th of 1975. By that time Joe Simon was gone from the book and Joe Orlando was the editor. Kirby continued as cover artist and contributed the art inside a few issues--but the book came to an end with No. 6, on sale September 23rd of ’75.

    Joe Simon was the genius behind an earlier freaky DC comic edited by Joe Orlando. BROTHER POWER: THE GEEK only ran for two issues in 1968 and I’ve never read it, but the house ads suggested it was a real horror show.

    At the same time, in 1968, several talents came over to DC from Charlton Comics, including Denny O’Neil and Steve Ditko who created BEWARE THE CREEPER--with newly arrived Charlton editor, Dick Giordano, now serving the same role at DC. BEWARE THE CREEPER Nos 1 (May-June ’68) - 6 (March-April ’69) may have had a costumed crimefighter, but there was a weird vibe to the proceedings.

    DC already had THE SPECTRE--the first revival of the Ghostly Guardian before “Weird” ADVENTURE COMICS--with Gardner Fox writing the bulk of the stories and other writers pitching in. Excepting THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE, this was one of the first DC books where Neal Adams served as the regular artist. After Adams, there came Jerry Grandenetti and then Jack Sparling, among other talents. THE SPECTRE had a ten issue run. Julius Schwartz served as editor on Nos 1 (December ’67 - January ’68) - 8 (January-February ’69). For the last two issues--9 (March-April ’69) and 10 (May-June ’69)--Dick Giordano took over as editor and the book went in a horror anthology direction, with multiple short stories.

    Denny O’Neil was the editor/writer responsible for THE SHADOW Nos 1 (October-November ’73) - 12 (August-September ’75). The run is distinguished by the contributions of Michael Wm. Kaluta--for his evocative covers as well as interior art. Kaluta had been at DC for a few years by then, but this book really put him on the map. The Shadow, as a pulp and radio raconteur and mystery man, straddled the realms of gothic horror and crime thriller.


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