By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
March 9, 2010 -- I’ve raved about this being the “golden age of reprints” before, but that doesn’t mean that everything old is worth buying:
* I wish I knew the editorial reasoning behind The Sinister House of Secret Love
, an unusual title introduced by DC Comics in 1971.
The first five issues were in a genre and format I’ve never seen repeated. Secret Love
was extra long – 48 or 52 pages for a 1970s quarter – and contained an extra-long comic-book story plus an illustrated text story, both in the gothic romance genre.
The first issue’s “Curse of the MacIntyres” is a clue why it didn’t catch on: These stories are awful. I’m not the target audience of books like Wuthering Heights
, but at least they’re well-written and keep my interest until the mysteries were resolved. Not so these stories – several written by complete amateurs -- which are bathetic, over the top, predictable and painfully earnest. The art, some by old hands like Don Heck, seems phoned in.
Obviously, Secret Love
didn’t work, and the hand-writing was on the wall with the fifth issue, which was renamed Secrets of Sinister House
. With the sixth issue, the format shifted to that of ‘70s-era House of Mystery
and House of Secrets
– a (not very horrible) horror anthology with a pun-ny host. That format, which had the benefit of at least being familiar, lasted until issue #18, when the title was mercifully canceled.
The entire run is reprinted in Showcase Presents: Secrets of Sinister House
($17.99), including the Secret Love
issues. It’s interesting as an oddity, but you can get your fill of the horror-anthology format elsewhere.
* Speaking of the horror-anthology format, Gold Key’s Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery
lasted more than 100 issues using it, with Karloff himself playing host. Dark Horse has embarked on reprinting the entire run, with the recently published Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery
Vol. 2 ($49.99) reaching issue #10 (June, 1964).
It’s really familiar stuff, with some sort of crime being committed, and a supernatural O. Henry twist at the end rendering justice to the bad guys. A little of this goes a long way, especially since Gold Key was using third-tier artists and had really lousy printing. The above-mentioned House of Mystery
and House of Secrets
did it better, and I found myself falling asleep a lot toward the end of this volume.
* Some 1940s titles are interesting because they feature A) strong, long-lasting characters, B) early work by legendary artists, or C) elements of historic interest. Then there’s Daring Mystery Comics.
was Timely’s follow-up to Marvel Mystery Comics,
which introduced us to The Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, and sold like gangbusters. Daring
had a different bunch of nobodies each issue (with only a few repeating), and struggled through eight issues in two years before going on hiatus. Yes, even to the undiscriminating children who bought comics in the early ‘40s, Daring
Virtually all of the characters introduced in Daring
were poorly-done knockoffs of better characters, and quickly vanished into comic-book limbo. They included The Fin (See: Sub-Mariner), K-4 and his Sky Devils (G-8 and his Battle Aces), Fiery Mask (Human Torch), Trojak the Tiger Man (Tarzan), Monako: Prince of Magic (Mandrake the Magician) and so forth.
Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Daring Mystery Comics
Vol. 2 ($59.99) reprints issues #5-8, and is only useful as fodder for a Leonard Pinth-Garnell’s “Bad Comics” skit, providing you can do a passable Dan Ackroyd. Otherwise, wait for volume 3. That should be better, because Timely publisher Martin Goodman learned his lesson, and when Daring Mystery Comics
returned in late 1942, it starred popular characters by established pros.
* The third and fourth seasons of Irwin Allen’s TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
are considered low points, as they leaned heavily on implausible sci-fi plots and a “monster of the week” (usually men in rubber suits). The second and last volume of the same-named comic book archives suffers from the same problem.
Hermes Press has done comics historians a favor with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Vol. 2 ($49.99), which completes this 1960s Gold Key series by reprinting the last eight issues (#7-14, 1967-68). But as a reader, I found the stories (probably by Dick Wood and Marshall McClintock) silly and forgettable. The bland art by Alberto Giolitti and crummy Gold Key printing doesn’t help.
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at