|Secrets of House Sinister #6|
cover by Mike Kaluta
I’m fortunate enough to have a comics collection that is widely varied in its tenor and genre, and when I dig through it, I’ve always got a great chance to find something that is both a lot of fun and something that I haven’t read in a while. Last night, while I was trying to reorganize some things, I came across Secrets of House Sinister #6. It’s a recent acquisition, and I had not had a chance to read it up to that point, but I dug into it this morning and had a lot of fun with it.
There’s something wonderful about horror comics, particularly those of a certain era. Naturally, there are those wonderful pre-code horror comics from EC, Charlton, and the like. But there’s another era that is of equal greatness, if not of equal importance, that era is the one that was given it’s vigor in the 1960s by
publishing and its Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, and other magazines. Regardless of precise publication date, it’s the braveness of Warren, in my opinion, that made horror comics once again welcomed in the mainstream market place again and helped reinvigorate Charlton’s horror line and allowed for DC’s House of Mystery, House of Secrets, The Witching Hour, a whole host of other titles from DC and Marvel, and, in particular, the subject of this review: Secrets of House Sinister. Warren
For the uninitiated, Secrets of House Sinister is a sibling book to DC’s House of Mystery and House of Secrets. Like it’s predecessors at DC’s other houses—and, indeed, it’s inspiration at EC, Charlton, and Warren—Sinster is an anthology that is hosted by an unsettling looking individual of mysterious and possibly supernatural origin. In this case it is the matron of House Sinister, a witch named Eve; a creature so ghastly that even her contemporaries, and cousins, Abel and Cain (the hosts of House of Mystery and House of Secrets, respectively) are disturbed by her. Terrifying, no?
Previously called The Sinister House of Secret Love issues #1-4, it’s difficult to argue that Sinister House is on par with its predecessors, or even many of its contemporaries, but it certainly has its moments and had the participation of some terrific talents…many of whom were a part of comics’ Philippine Invasion of the 1970s. Some of the more note worthy creators who participated in the series were Neal Adams, Alex Niño, Michael Kaluta, Robert Kanigher, and Alfredo Alcala. The series was bi-monthly and relatively short-lived; it only lasted through issue #18.
Issue #6 features a terrific cover by Mike Kaluta, and stories written by Sheldon Mayer, John Albano, and Robert Kanigher; with art by Alfredo Alcala, Ed Ramos & Mar Amingo, and Bill Draut, respectively.
The issue’s first story, “When is Tomorrow Yesterday?”, features the team of Sheldon Mayer and Alfredo Alcala. The story itself is well-written, but is very much carried by Alcala’s superior artwork. The tale is one of a time of princesses, paupers, wizards, and plagues. After an unnecessary bloodletting orchestrated by a jealous relative, a young princess is tossed onto a death cart to be dumped in anonymous mass grave.
|Words: Mayer |
The not-quite-dead princess is rescued by a prince, that we later discover is her lover and fiancée, and is rushed to a mysterious wizard who has attained special knowledge, from what he believes is the future, on how to heal certain diseases. He opens a portal into the wonderous world of 1972, where the rescuer takes the princess so that she may receive the plasma transfusion that will save her life.
The princess is saved, but the wizard’s secret time travel spell is discovered by the princess’s enemies, who also travel to 1972 where they believe they will be rich and live forever…it’s not certain why they think they will live forever, but they do have a bag of jewels.
The tale concludes with the reader wondering what really is the past and what is the future, and carries some ominous, if not clichéd, warnings about the coming of World War
It’s really Alacala’s artwork that makes this a standout. In the hands of a less capable artist, this story would just be okay and probably pretty forgettable. Alaca’s pen really elevates it to something that is worth tracking down. I’m not quite certain if it’s just the costumes or if it’s some kind of homage, but Alcala’s work here has a very Hal Foster-esque vibe to it that really sells the story and makes standard-twist ending much more interesting.
Skipping the middle story, the third story in this issue is called “The Man Hater” was written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Bill Draut. First, I have to confess that Bob Kanigher is one of my favorite Bronze Age writers so I went into this story assuming that I would enjoy it, and I did. Bill Draut’s artwork is well done.
The story is about a young woman named Valla. As a young girl, Valla was spurned by her father. Because her father refused to love and accept her, she decided to murder him and she spent the rest of her days as a black widow—murdering any man who was foolish enough to show her affection and marry her.
For reasons unknown, after the murder of her first husband, Valla visits a guru in
(no, we don’t know what kind of guru, he’s just a generic guru). The guru tells her that, in a past life, Valla was once a princess and that she would be visiting the guru again in the near future. New York
After the murder of her third husband, Valla visits the guru once more…this time she’s on the run from what we assume are detectives that have grown suspicious of her. The guru agrees to accommodate her and secrets her away by tying her to a chair with magical ropes that transported her back to her previous life as a princess. But will the guru’s magic allow her to escape the justice that she deserves?
I really liked this story quite a bit. It wasn’t the best thing that Kanigher’s ever written by any stretch of the imagination, but it was good. It hit the right beats and offered readers the kind of ending that they both expect and want from this type of story in this type of comic. Draut’s work served the story well; although it was not particularly innovative or exciting, it certainly fit within the standards of the day and was very well rendered.
I really liked this issue of Secrets of House Sinister, much more than I thought I would. Although I don’t think that the issue lives up to the high bar set by its predecessors and cousins, it’s certainly more than worth tracking down, and should be inexpensively obtainable. Really, it’s worth tracking down for the contributions of Alcala and Kannigher alone. If horror comics neophytes encounter this book, they should use it as an excuse to go back and seek out its contemporaries at DC and Warren to see what the this era of the genre really has to offer.
Secrets of House Sinister #6