Papercuts: Horror Classics from DC Comics
By Ryan “HB” Mount
In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s DC Comics was producing a large amount of horror based comics, even in the comics code era. Most famously, they had works like House of Secrets where readers were introduced Swamp-Thing. While there was the couple of series like House of Mystery that endured, there were a lot more that most current readers may overlook like Tales of the Unexpected and Ghosts. Also, interesting about of this period, is how few collections were and are available of all these titles. There were a couple of Showcase Editions of some titles, which were low-cost, newsprint, black and white reprints. Even now, with digital comics, most of these runs have yet to make it onto the digital platform for current readers to enjoy.
Papercuts has traditionally been focused more on current and ongoing books. There are many reasons for that. One, very simply is because they are the easiest books for readers to check out after the reviews have been posted. So, if you like what is reviewed this week, make sure to visit your local comic shop and go through the back issue and dollar bins and see what haunting surprises wait for you!
The Witching Hour #30 (DC)
Published: April 1972
The Witching Hour ran from 1969 until 1978 and has an incredible run of 85 issues.
After reading this issue, this series was the most inventive book of the books I looked at this week. Mainly due to the art found throughout the entire book. While there was still a lot of traditional panel work, there was a lot of panel breaking and bleeding. There were some pages that did away with traditional grids and put nearly no borders on entire pages.
There are several tales throughout the issue, but the best two are “Night Fright” and “The Box.” Night Fright is the tale of a young couple and an attacker and due to lack of any supernatural elements, was extremely creepy and believable that could have happened to anyone, especially in that time. The Box was fantastic because it was a one page story that told a complete story, with a twist ending, and incredibly dark in nature and subtly political in today’s contexts.
If given the chance to read any one of these series, completely though, I would certainly start with this one due to the mixture of natural and supernatural horror and interesting art choices.
Ratings: 4 out of 5
Weird Mystery Tales #14 (DC)
Published: November 1974
Weird Mystery Tales ran from August 1972 until November 1975 and had a moderate run of 24 issues which by today’s standards would be a huge success.
The art again was another simple grid layout and overall the art might not stand out with any unique voices, but these were all professional artists working on each story. When comparing a horror anthology of today versus this one, I’d say the skill level of the artists working back then on even a lower tier book, far surpasses the horror niche books being put out today by a lot of publishers and even perhaps a higher quality than a lot of Big 2 books on the stands today. While it is not crisp and as neatly printed as today’s comics, the craft is still great to read.
The title does a great job of letting readers know exactly what is in store. Each tale is a mystery, some more obvious than others, but all told with the reader asking themselves what is really going on here in terms of the mystery, which is solid story telling.
Ratings: 3 out of 5
Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #14 (DC)
Published: October 1972
According to Wikipedia, Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion started under the title of The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love for the first four issues.
The series ran from September 1971 through March 1974, but only produced 15 total issues in three years.
The most notable feature of this book that it features early Howard Chaykin art. While it is fun to see where he started, this is still a long way from modern Chaykin with his heavy lines and square jaws.
While after the name change, it was said to have been a departure from the romance angle, this book is still a romance book with horror and supernatural elements. Every story in this book dealt with relationships one way or another and it sets itself apart from the other horror titles.
Ratings: 3.5 out of 5
Secrets of Haunted House #9 (DC)
Published: January 1978
Secrets of Haunted House ran from May 1975 until March 1982 and had a fantastic run of 46 issues, just 4 issues short of what today is the marker for fantastic indie books.
If seeking variety with horror anthologies, this appears to the title to explore a vast variety of subject material. Everything from ghosts and vampires to androids in the future. If there was a way to put The Twilight Zone story telling into comics, Secrets of Haunted House, comes the closest.
The art is extremely basic with its simple four to six panel grids on nearly every page. With such a simple style, this book hopefully leaned on the story telling to keep issue fresh for its long run. Perhaps that is why the variety of tales in this book was all over the map in subject matter.
Ratings: 3.5 out of 5
Next time on Paper Cuts: Horror Classics from the vault of Marvel!
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