Friday, October 2, 2009

House of Secrets #83

House of Secrets #83 (On Sale: September 30, 1969) has a cover by the legendary Gray Morrow. This is Gray's first work for DC comics and another great addition to the DC stable of artists courtesy of editor Dick Giordano. It will be a year before we see any more Gray Morrow work at DC and at that time we will explore the history of this amazing artist.

This issue has a wonderful framing sequence drawn by Bill Draut where Abel spends the entire issue trying to get into the House of Secrets and being thwarted at every move. It has some nice physical comedy and does a nice interplay with the stories in the issue. For example, Abel tells his imaginary friend, Goldie, that the first story was told to him by a wandering wolfman.

And the first story is "The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of" by Marv Wolfman and Alex Toth. Jim Ivey awakens to find himself in a strange land where a beautiful woman is being attacked by a hideous monster. Jim fights and defeats the monster and meets the woman, Princess Lyla, who takes Jim to see her father, King Shalla. On the way as Jim and Lyla kiss the world fades away and Jim finds himself in a hospital bed, awakening from a dream. Jim has some fatal, incurable disease and knows he is dying.

That night, as sleep takes him once again, Jim finds himself back on the strange world with Lyla, where he meets and is accepted by King Shalla. Weeks go by and every time Jim sleeps he returns to his beloved Lyla and thoughts of death disappear. But one night assassins attempt to kill King Shalla and Jim fights them off, but the assassin's blade finds Jim and he is mortally wounded. On his deathbed Jim tells Lyla, "It's going to be all right Lyla--I see, now...I'll never have to leave you again, dear--Kiss me, darling--this is--forever!' Back in the "real" world the doctors note that Jim dies with a strange smile on his lips. Reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #24.

Next is "Bigger Than a Breadbox" drawn by Mike Roy and Mike Peppe. While searching through the attic used by her departed inventor and husband, Abner, widow Elmira finds a strange box, which she puts to use as a mailbox. The next morning she finds an anonymous letter in the box, which she assumes is from the postman, Mr. Smith, whom she finds sort of cute. The letter speaks of being lonely and looking for someone to correspond with. Playing along with postman Smith's game, Elmira writes an anonymous letter back.

The weeks and many letters pass and Elmira finds herself looking forward to each new letter and the "game" she is playing with Mr. Smith. Sometimes it seems like he doesn't even put the letter in the box and yet one is there almost daily. Finally a letter comes asking Elmira if she would like to meet in person. As she is putting her response into the box postman Smith comes by and she tell him that her answer to his letter is "yes." He says he has no idea what she is talking about and that he has delivered no mail to her box in a very long time.

Crushed that he would spurn her so, she retreats to the house and begins sobbing, when she is interrupted by a knock at the door. There, holding out a bouquet of flowers to her is a scaly orange creature. Though Elmira called the box a worthless piece of tin, her departed husband Abner called it an interdimensional teleporter.

This was one of only seven stories that Mike Roy drew for DC and the next to last one. It was also the first work he had done for them since he drew all of the stories and the cover for Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners #3 in 1956. Roy studied at the High School of Industrial Art, as well as the Pratt Institute. He began his comics career in the 1940s, assisting Bill Everett, the creator of the original 'Sub-mariner' at Atlas Comics. He worked through the Funnies Inc. shop, and contributed to comic books by Holyoke Publications ('Hammerhead Hawley'), Archie Comics (funny titles) and Hillman Periodical (crime, war and western).

He also appeared in Lev Gleason titles like Crime Does Not Pay, Crime and Punishment, Daredevil and Desperado. During the first half of the 1950s, Roy produced a large amount of artwork for the romance titles of Better Publications. He later also contributed to many Dell/Western titles.

Roy also worked on newspaper strips. Between 1948 and 1951, he did the 'The Saint' daily and Sunday strip for the New York Herald Tribune. In the 1950s, he made the newspaper strips 'Ken Weston' and 'Nero Wolfe', and assisted on 'Flash Gordon'. In the 1960s followed the acclaimed Native American Sunday strip 'Akwas', and the 'Hoss Laffs' daily and the 'Indian Lore and Crafts' Sunday page. Mike Roy was active until the 1990s, working mainly on educational comics for Custom Comic Services. His final work was Screaming Eagle, a hardcover graphic novel for Discovery Comics. Mike Roy also co-founded a museum for Native American and Eskimo Art. He died in 1996.

Lastly we have "The House of Endless Years" by Gerry Conway and Bill Draut. This little gem is about two girls and their dog searching in the woods for, Neal, the brother to one of them. It is thee that they come upon a house. One believes a witch lives there, the other believes she is just an old hag, but the both know that this is where Neal may be and so they head toward it. In the basement the old woman tells Neal that he was a fool to come there, when a flock of bats tell her that the girls are coming. She tells the bats to keep them away, but Neal cries out for his sister. The two girls hear Neal's cry and enter the house.

There they are confronted by the woman who pleads with them to leave before the evil of the house takes them over as it did her many years ago. The dog thinks the woman is attacking the girls and jumps to defend them, causing the old woman to fall down the stairs. When the girls reach her, she has turned to dust. Suddenly they notice that the dog is now old and withered and then they see Neal. Neal, now an old man warning them to leave before it is too late. Neal, who collapses at their feet and turns to dust. The two young girls, now ancient woman look down at Neal, who they know is not old, but young, just like them. This has been reprinted in House of Mystery #224, DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #24, Welcome Back to the House of Mystery #1, and Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 3 TPB. It and the entire contents of this issue have been reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Secrets Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

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