When October rolls in I think of three things:
The hot humid dog days of summer are over.
The World Series.
I grew up a “Monster Kid”
That means when you are growing up you have a passion for watching horror movies, watching horror tv shows, and reading horror comic books.
Looking up at that big rack of comics when I was a kid I bought Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and then all of a sudden a cover of the House of Mystery would grab my eye too.
To the best of my memory, my first DC horror comic was House of Mystery 227, November 1974. Let’s look at the history of horror comics.
The issue of Classic Comics 13, 1943, contained an adaption of Robert Lewis’ Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde published by the Gilberton Company, inc. in August 1943. This is claimed to be the first comic book horror adaption.
Eerie 1 (1947) from Avon Publications is championed as the first horror series with original content. However, it is Adventures Into The Unknown(American Comics group) that claims the title of the first horror comics series in 1948.
Other comic companies like DC,(House Of Mystery 1 Dec.-Jan. 1951)as well as Fawcett, Dell, Gold Key, and Harvey followed suit, but it was EC comics that took the ball and ran with it.
Their three horror titles featured stories introduced by a trio of horror hosts.
The crypt keeper, vault keeper, and the old witch introduced the tales in their three horror titles “Tales from the Crypt”, “The Vault of Horror” and “the haunt of Fear”.
In 1954, crazed (in my opinion) Dr. Fredric Wertham published a book called 'Seduction of the Innocent" (I read it…pure psychobabble) and that bum decided that comic books were the root of all juvenile delinquents.
Highly publicized Congressional hearings led to the formation of the CCA(Comics Code Authority) and heavy regulations were laid down on the industry.
EC went under and only continued publishing Mad comics, which was converted to a magazine with issue 24.
While not all horror comics were canceled they were toned down a lot.
DC’s House of Mystery became a science fiction based comic. In the 1960’s J’onn J’onzz got bumped from a backup feature in Detective Comics to the lead feature of House of Mystery(143-155). That was followed by Dial H for Hero (156-173) (a personal favorite of ye author).
Joe Orlando, an artist for EC and other publications(most notably for Warren Publication’s Creepy magazine) became the editor for House of Mystery with issue 174.
He insulated himself and young gun writers like Marv Wolfman, Mike Friedrich, and Len Wein as well as seasoned vets like E. Nelson Bridwell and Robert Kanigher as writers. Infused with hot artists like Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, and John Albano, House of Mystery returned to a full-fledged horror comic again.
The series went in the Dollar Comics format for issues 251 (March–April 1977) to 259 (July–August 1978).
House of Mystery featured stories by writers T. Casey Brennan (260, 267, 268 and 274) and Scott Edelman (257, 258, 260, 264, 266, 270, 272, 273). Orlando’s tenure as editor ended with 257 (March–April 1978). Karen Berger became editor of the series with 292 (May 1981), her first for DC Comics. Under Berger, the series experimented with long-form storylines in the popular I…vampire series created by writer J. M. Dematteis “I… Vampire” revolved around the heroic vampire, Andrew Bennett, who sought to defeat his nemesis and former lover Mary Seward, 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).
While back issues of the series fetch some high prices on eBay, DC released three phone book format House of Mystery Showcase editions which reprints 174-226. Currently, there are over 50 issues here on DCU to read.
Are you a monster kid?
If not, you’re never too old to enjoy the thrill of reading comics that make you shiver and shake.