Friday, April 2, 2010

House of Secrets #86

House of Secrets #86 (On Sale: April 2, 1970) has a nice cover by Neal Adams.

This one has a framing sequence drawn by Bill Draut featuring Abel and of course, Goldie. After a page we are led into "Strain" drawn by George Tuska, the story of man tearing through the night, trying to put some distance between him and the life he has just destroyed. As he is car careens through the night he suddenly hears a strange musical strain, of such beauty that he stops his car to find its source. He is drawn to the house it emanates from and entering he is further drawn down dark corridors till he finally finds the source. His wife, Martha is at a piano playing. Seeing her he knows he has been saved, but the music is so compelling he can't concentrate so finally he he grabs her hands to make her stop.

Only it is no longer his wife, the one her murdered earlier tonight, it is instead an old hag, who says she is there to avenge his wife. She quickly slams the keyboard cover on his fingers and he finds himself back in his car, slamming into a tree. When the police find him the next day they note that his fingers are oddly bruised.

Next is "The Golden Tower of the Sun" by Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow. This one is not really a comic story but an illustrated text story. I have a confession to make here. I never read the text stories and still have some sort of block against doing so, so I don't know what this story is about, save what I can make out from the wonderful Gray Morrow illustrations. It appears to be the story of a rock and roll singer and some sort of spiritual or inter-dimensional travel.

Next is our cover-story, "The Ballad of Little Joe" by Gerry Conway and Bill Draut, or as he is credited here, Big Bad Bill. Jonathan Poe lives alone in his large house, just him and his puppets and his memories. His favorite puppet seems to be the pink-haired Little Joe, who is always breaking and whom Jonathan is constantly repairing. Through it all Little Joe's face is always laughing and Jonathan wonders if it is because he has made him that way or if Little Joe actually has something to laugh about.

Not nearly so funny is Jonathan's daughter, Sheila, who sees her father's obsession with his puppets as unhealthy. He tells her that since he has outlived the rest of the family, what is wrong with "My puppets! A shadow tracing of life--and for this you think me addled." The sky suddenly burst into fire and Jonathan sees it as a sign from heaven while all Sheila sees is heat lightening. She says when she returns tomorrow she will have a lawyer and a sheriff and they will deal with Jonathan.

As this is happening inside the house a portal is opening and a member of the Quaros, an alien race existing beneath the Earth's crust and out to conquer the surface steps into the room and grabs Little Joe. Jonathan returns just as the portal closes, and wonders who could have come in and stolen Little Joe. Far beneath the Earth, the Quaros work on Little Joe and using some miracle machine manage to bring him to life. They tell Little Joe that in return for his life he must betray the people of Earth and they send him back on some mission to do just that.

But when he steps through the portal and into Jonathan's workshop he wakes up the sleeping Jonathan and tells him of the Quaros's plans to conquer the Earth. Seeing this the Quaros decide to kill them both and open the portal once again, aiming a huge ray gun through it. As the gun fires Little Joe leaps in front of Jonathan, taking the full power of the blast. Seeing this Jonathan's heart gives out and he dies.

In the silence of the room, the now restored to a puppet Little Joe weeps for his maker. When Sheila returns the next day and finds her dead father she regrets how she had treated him and sees that she has a lot to make up for. She picks up Little Joe and takes him with her.

We end with a small two-page strip that made the rounds of the DC horror books for a few months. It is entitled "The Day After Doomsday" and they are all illustrated by Jack Sparling. In this one it is a week later and a solitary man pulls himself out of the rubble of the city. He walks around for a bit, the last man on Earth, when suddenly he is shot at. He ducks behind a building and sees his assailant, a beautiful blond woman. He implores her to put down the gun for the sake of humanity, that it is up to them to rebuild the human race and to get it right this time. He tells her his name is Adam. She replies, "Really? My name is Gertrude!"

The entire book was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Secrets Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

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