Bargain Comic Reviews

New Reviews of Old Comics

House of Secrets #64 (Feb. 1964)

House_of_Secrets_64Purchase price: $1

What?  No Cain or Abel?  This is definitely an old issue of House of Secrets!  So how did I get this for only a dollar?  Well, there is a page missing in the middle, but it didn’t have to do with either story in this comic, though it did take out half of a two page cartoon-ish segment about Houdini which looked kind of dumb anyway.

Although the familiar faces are missing, there is a regular character in House of Secrets, Mark Merlin, who stars in the un-credited story “The Threat of the horrible Hex” which leads off this issue.  Merlin and his gal pal, Elsa, are called from his mansion to central Pennsylvania to investigate a supernatural mystery within the “Dubenite” religious community, which appears to be an allusion to the Amish.  In the late 17th century a witch, an Indian and a Dubenite walk into a bar…er, different story.  Those three people turn to black magic and haunt a community until the Burgermeister stands up to the evil spirits, but not before they place a curse on his family; the first born of his line will die on their 25th birthday.  Well, someone is turning 25 soon and they don’t want to die by the hand of some evil Dubenite and his pals.  Mark Merlin is pretty clever, but not enough to outwit this crew who dwell within the barn signs; he gets poured on, thrown down a pit and beaten through a voodoo doll.  Yeah, it’s not a good day for a paranormal detective.  Thankfully he sees a fourth barn sign and figures out it’s for the Dubenite who originally defeated evil ones.  Once Merlin unlocks his sign through a special spell the story cane come to a happy Comics Code Authority approved ending.

Next is the previously mentioned half of a Houdini cartoon.  Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Finally, we have the 12 and ½ page Eclipso story “Hideout on Fear Island” by Alex Toth.  Continuing the story from the previous issue Bruce Gordon (aka Eclipso) is in the Caribbean helping a professor friend with…something.  Gordon and his entourage are kidnapped because one of them knows something about killing off the out of control jungle that is spreading across the island.  Also, escaped Nazis are involved. While flying over the jungle in a bi-plane (what year does this take place?) they’re attacked by a giant conquistador looking robot and crash in the jungle.  After escaping that they find Eclipso is being framed as a Nazi, while the real Nazi is hatching a scheme to rescue other ex-Nazis from their hiding places using giant birds that he is developing; he even has some eggs in an incubator now, and wants Eclipso to help him.  Although he’s a bad guy, Eclipso is no freakin’ Nazi, man, so he passes.  The story ends when the Nazi who had covered his face with some blue lotion falls into a puddle, washing away half of the lotion and leaving him looking like Eclipso (who changed back to Bruce Gordon) just as the police show up.  That and a submarine blowing up is enough action foe one story.

The Mark Merlin story was rather cheesy, in an endearing sort of way, so it was an enjoyable read.  The artwork struck me as looking rushed, but those guys were just cranking out the pages back then and volume was the most important measurement at the time.  I’d never read an Eclipso story before, but I actually thought this one to be pretty good.  It had a nice adventure comic strip kind of vibe, which reminded me of Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon work (that’s a compliment).  I noticed DC has Showcase Presents collection for Eclipso and I might have to pick that one up based on this story.


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