In the 1960-70s, the covers of House of Secrets frequently featured the same few kids in dangerous situations.

They weren't always aware that they were at risk, perhaps being threatened by a supernatural threat or one sees the threat, and is about to warn the others.

This is a repeating theme for covers of the period.

Where and when did this theme begin?  Who is the primary artist who pioneered this genre of cover?
Have they ever been collected?

And did they cross from one series to grace other covers in other titles as well?


What's the spooky story here?

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Due to the Comics Code in the earlier Silver Age strange stories titles and monster comics filled the place of horror titles. DC got back into the horror genre in the later 60s.

 

In the later 60s Carmine Infantino was in charge at DC, and he designed many of DC's covers. Joe Orlando edited many of DC's horror comics, and Dick Giordano edited some, and they were also artists. But even non-artist editors may supply cover ideas.

 

From what I can tell DC began to get back into the horror genre beginning with Tales of the Unexpected #104, on sale Oct. 1967. The title became The Unexpected with the next issue. I've not read the comics from that period, so I can't say to what extent the content of #104 represented a break with that of the preceding issues, but the cover-style changed with that issue (the logo was changed and Neal Adams started doing them), and before too long the covers were clearly horror covers.

 

House of Mystery became a horror title with #174, on sale Mar. 1968. Challengers of the Unknown switched to stories about supernatural menaces from, I think, #62 in Apr. 1968. The Phantom Stranger had a try-out in Showcase #80 in Dec. 1968, and his new series started in Mar. 1969. Witching Hour started in Dec. 1968. The Spectre became a horror/shock stories title for its final two issues, beginning with #9 in Jan. 1969. House of Secrets was revived as a horror title with #81 in Jun. 1969.

 

DC's additional horror titles of the 70s were Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love (from Jul. 1971) which became Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (from Mar. 1972), Ghosts (from Jul. 1971), Weird War Tales (from Jul. 1971), Sinister House of Secret Love (from Aug. 1971) which became Secrets of Sinister House (from Apr. 1972), Weird Mystery Tales (from May 1972), The Demon (from Jun. 1972; the style was quite different, but it was apparently intended as a horror genre title), Swamp Thing (from Aug. 1972), Adventure Comics for issue #425 (Oct. 1972) and then again when it ran the Aparo Spectre series in its lead slot (from #431, Oct. 1973), Black Magic (from Jul. 1973; reprints from Prize comics), Secrets of Haunted House (from Jan. 1975), Tales of Ghost Castle (from Feb. 1975) and Doorway to Nightmare (from Oct. 1977; Madame Xanadu's series).

 

There were also horror issues of DC Special (first series), Super DC Giant, DC 100-Page Super Spectacular and the tabloid series Limited Collectors' Edition.

 

All the dates in this post are on sale dates.

The House of Mystery covers usually featured images of kids in eerie or dangerous situations from its conversion into a horror title with #174 up to #193. (I think that's supposed to be a kid on the left on #193. There are no kids on #189.) After that they still appeared, but less consistently. The kids are first in immediate danger on #177. The editor of these issues was Joe Orlando.

 

In #56 Challengers of the Unknown had introduced Red's young brother Tino. He has a threatened kid role on the covers of #63, #66 and #67, and he might be one a couple of threatened kids on the cover of #71. The editor of these issues was Murray Boltinoff.

 

The cover of the Phantom Stranger's try-out in Showcase #80 depicted him as protecting a group of kids. Kids were also present on the opening covers of his title. The editor was Joe Orlando.

 

Witching Hour first employed such imagery on the covers of #3, #4. The editor was Dick Giordano.

 

The first kids-in-danger cover along the lines you describe on The Unexpected might be that on #124. Earlier a kid was included in a threatened group on #117, and was an object of fear on #121. The editor was Murray Boltinoff.

The ones I remember best are Neal Adams HOM covers, of course, because they were so dramatic. As I remember, a lot of times the situation from the cover was used inside without the kids present.

I wasn't a big fan of the "mystery" anthology titles, so I hadn't considered that they were supposed to be the same kids every time. I'd have to look at a bunch of covers across titles to be sure of that. I think that Adams used his own kids as the models for his covers, so his might have looked the same from cover to cover.

-- MSA

They certainly are striking.

Have the Neil Adams covers ever been collected?
I could imagine a nifty "covers only trade" that reprinted as a full page ever one of these covers from this DC horror period.

I'd bet you that it would sell... maybe not a smash superstar, but I'll bet that older fan boys and comic shops would order a copy and they'd sell through an initial print run.  What do you think?

There have been books of Adams work, both of comics stories and of art in general, but I don't think one of just his covers.

I'm not sure your sales assessment would have book publishers excited these days. The books out there, along with other all-cover collections, should give them an idea of what something like that would sell, so it wouldn't be a shot in the dark if they decided to. 

-- MSA

How do we suggest this to them, or do they monitor Mr. S.A.'s column or blog?

If I might correct a mistake, Neal Adams did the cover for Tales of the Unexpected #104, introducing the new cover style, but not all the covers from that point. His next for the title was The Unexpected #110.

How do we suggest this to them, or do they monitor Mr. S.A.'s column or blog?

DC does monitor my column and blog. They note what I think would be a good idea, and then they scratch those items off their To Be Published list.

I'm not sure how effective a single request would be, given that they have sales reports on Neal Adams books already. You could suggest it either at their website, in comments on their regular blog, or on their Facebook page.

You could try getting a suggestion to the guy in charge of collections, but I'm not sure who the Group Editor of Collected Editions is any more. It used to be Bob Wayne and then Bob Harras, but those were awhile ago.

Here's something I didn't know: in doing a quick check of the DC site to see if they had a general feedback option, I found a page listing all the errata for DC books, including additional credits: http://www.dccomics.com/errata. I'm not sure who would ever check that, but it's interesting that they maintain it.

-- MSA

This volume which is also listed at Amazon apparently contains a number of Adams's DC covers and some stories. The description says it collects "nearly every DC Comics story and cover by Neal Adams not already collected in GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, BATMAN or DEADMAN titles". I've not seen the volume so I can't say whether every cover gets its own page. (Note that the description implies the volume omits the covers from those previously-collected issues, as well as the stories.)

I remember picking up a copy of Adventure Comics and thinking, "Where are the Supers?"

I did think that DC (with a few exceptions) was going to go the way of all-horror/mystery like Charlton seemed to be.

Luke wrote:

From what I can tell DC began to get back into the horror genre beginning with Tales of the Unexpected #104, on sale Oct. 1967. The title became The Unexpected with the next issue. I've not read the comics from that period, so I can't say to what extent the content of #104 represented a break with that of the preceding issues, but the cover-style changed with that issue (the logo was changed and Neal Adams started doing them), and before too long the covers were clearly horror covers.

 

DC didn't actually get back into the horror genre until Joe Orlando's takeover of House of Mystery. What TOTU did was get DC back into the mystery comics genre... a semantical nitpick, maybe, but what TOTU did was toss out the science fiction stuff like the Green Glob, and instead published a straightforward anthology of mystery/suspense stories in issue # 104. But they retreated from that idea almost immediately after they shortened the name to just Unexpected and started running stories headlining their old Golden Age character Johnny Peril in stories that weren't horror stories, but were more like supernatural adventures -- somewhere in between the Spectre and the Phantom Stranger, but nowhere near as interesting.

After House of Mystery's reboot as a horror title in the old EC vein (though without the old EC content... the Comics Code was still very much in effect in the late 1960s, though it would eventually be revised in 1971), Unexpected did a reverse course, ditching Johnny Peril and gravitating more toward the type of anthology horror stories HOM was running. So yes, TOTU was there first, but it was a one-issue experiment that didn't really take. HOM was the comic that really got the horror genre rolling again for DC (but in point of fact, Charlton actually beat DC to the punch, not that anybody ever paid much attention to Charlton).

I paged through some of the covers for The Unexpected at Grand Comics Database and saw some great art by Adams and Nick Cardy. If the insides are nearly this good, this has my vote for the next mystery book Showcase Presents. Also, I'm now really curious about who the Mad Mod Witch was!

Hoy

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