house of mystery
I really like Halloween, but it’s always been hard for me to come up with a spooky post that relates to DC Comics. The emphasis here is on “for me”: DC has a wealth of spooky material from which to draw, and I’ve just never been able to work with it meaningfully.
For this year’s Halloween post I thought about doing a survey of DC’s horror-themed titles over the years, because certainly the publisher has had its share. There are stalwarts that go back decades, like House of Mystery, Swamp Thing and The Sandman (whose sequel miniseries starts this week, as you might have heard). The first round of New 52 titles included I, Vampire and Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE — and while both of those have bitten the dust, Justice League Dark still heads up the superhero line’s magic-oriented section.
However, the more I thought about it, this space is really not big enough — yes, even with my extreme verbosity — to do right by the horror books. Besides, most of them have ended up at Vertigo, although some are being reincorporated into the superhero line. House of Mystery is a good example of the “serious horror” migration. It started out in the ‘50s as a supernatural anthology before switching over to science fiction (after the fall of EC) and then, briefly, superheroes (specifically, the Martian Manhunter and “Dial ‘H’ for Hero”). When the Comics Code relaxed its stance on all things scary, HOM told horror stories, including an extended run as the original home of “I, Vampire.” The title ended in 1983, after 32 years and more than 300 issues, but it’s never really been forgotten. The House itself (along with its companion from another eponymous title, the House of Secrets) became a part of The Sandman’s landscape, and was the setting for a Vertigo relaunch, which ran from 2008 to 2011 (42 issues and a couple of specials). Now it belongs to John Constantine and serves as Justice League Dark’s headquarters, which I suppose is better than limbo.
In March, DC Comics debuted Constantine, a new series focusing on the hard-living occult detective John Constantine. No big deal, right? Not so. For more more than two decades, the character was one of the pillars of the the publisher’s “mature readers” Vertigo imprint, starring in the long-running Hellblazer.
Following brief minor dalliances in some event titles in 2010 and 2011, Constantine was made a key figure in the New 52 title Justice League Dark. The aforementioned Hellblazer ended earlier this year with its 300th issue, paving the way for a full-fledged transition of the Liverpudlian warlock into the realm of superheroes. Readers greeted the new Constantine series with both hope and trepidation, and although the first issues are out — so is the jury.
With that in mind, it’s interesting to look at other characters that have called Vertigo home, and how they might fare in the DC Universe of the New 52. Some, like Constantine, crossed over with a bang, while others like Lucifer Morningstar and Kid Eternity, not so much. For this installment of “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six characters or teams that could possibly make the transition well. Please note than many of Vertigo’s best-remembered series aren’t wholly owned by DC but rather in creator-participation deals like Preacher, Transmetropolitan and 100 Bullets; so while the idea of Spider Jerusalem reporting on the state of things in Gotham City might be amusing, I’ve left those off the table for reality’s sake.
I am not certain about a lot of things, but I am pretty sure of this: If you read enough of Karen Berger’s comics, it makes you a better person. It would have to. It just makes too much sense!
In more than 30 years, first as a DC Comics editor and then as head of Vertigo, Berger helped to transform the comics industry by shepherding some of the most acclaimed and beloved series in recent memory. Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, The Sandman and other not-exactly mainstream DC books not only helped define Vertigo’s identity, they established their own, free from the restraints of a shared superhero universe.
Sometimes it’s been hard for me to process the New 52 as anything but an amorphous mass of, well, Newness. In this respect, DC’s October solicitations are helping to define that mass, with details like the five-year timeframe and Superman’s work boots.
Still, despite the promise of widespread change — and the somewhat-irrational implication that those who aren’t curious now will be left behind later — it’s been fairly easy for me almost to ignore the solicits, and just buy the books when they come out. After all, presumably DC is after new (or returning) readers who don’t follow the solicits and aren’t attuned to the spoilers.
Besides, the October solicits also include some attractive reprints; so let’s get right to it, shall we?
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Over on the Vertigo blog, Pamela Mullin shares some news that was revealed this weekend in San Diego — the line-up for October’s House of Mystery Halloween Annual:
To start it off, Matt Sturges and Luca Rossi introduce a group of eternal trick-or-treaters who will make there way through new Lucifer story by Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross, Madame Xanadu by Mike Kaluta and artist Jill Thompson, izombie by Chris Roberson and artist Mike Allred, and Hellblazer by Peter Milligan and artist Guiseppe Cumoncoli.
It’s been four years since the Sandman spin-off series Lucifer ended; it should be fun to see Carey and Gross return to those characters. I’m also all in for the Kaluta/Thompson pairing on Madame Xanadu.
by Cullen Bunn
This is an exercise in nostalgia for me. My collaborator on The Sixth Gun, Brian Hurtt, suggested this topic, and he said he could probably guess the projects I’d mention. Anyone who talks to me long enough will have a pretty good idea of the books that meant a lot to me during my formative years. Hell, you might think most of my comic book influences came out of one of those Whitman 3-packs so prevalent in Piggly Wiggly and Stuckey’s in the 70s. Well, you might be right. I think every comic creator has a list of a dozen or so books they’d love to work on. Here are just a few of the titles I’d love to take a crack at reinventing or re-imagining. I could easily create a second (and maybe a third) list of six projects I’d love to tackle. Rom: Spaceknight … Scare Tactics … Blackwulf … Warlock 5 … The list goes on and on … but the following list are the dream jobs that pop most readily into my skull.
Keep in mind, this isn’t about blowing anyone away with these notions. It’s about daydreaming.
Easily my pick for favorite comic book of all time. I credit The Micronauts with getting me into collecting comics … not just reading, but really collecting. I can remember the first day I stumbled onto an issue of the book very clearly … from picking it up at the grocery store to reading it a dozen or so times in the back room of my dad’s office. For a comic about a line of toys, The Micronauts (like ROM: Spaceknight) tore past its humble origins into something really special. Of course, I would almost kill to write their story.
Although a link between the two isn’t mentioned, I’m guessing the title is a subtle homage to the J.M. DeMatteis-written I … Vampire series that ran in House of Mystery back in the 1980s.
So what better place to kick it off than in the current House of Mystery — or, rather in a Halloween annual that will include a House of Mystery framing sequence and new Hellblazer, Madame Xanadu, Merv Pumpkinhead and I, Zombie stories.