House of Secrets
House secrets v1 01.jpg
Cover of House of Secrets #1 (November–December 1956), art by Ruben Moreira.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
ScheduleVaried between monthly and bi-monthly
FormatOngoing series
Publication date
  • (vol. 1)
    (original run)
    November/December 1956 – September/October 1966
    September/October 1969–October/November 1978
    (vol. 2)
    October 1996–December 1998
No. of issues
  • (vol. 1): 154
    (vol. 2): 25
Creative team
Written by

The House of Secrets is the name of several mystery, fantasy, and horror comics anthologies published by DC Comics. It is notable for being the title that introduced the character the Swamp Thing. It had a companion series titled The House of Mystery.

Publication history

First series

The original Silver Age series ran 80 issues, from November/December 1956[1] to September/October 1966.[2][3] In addition to short "one-off" stories, several issues featured the adventures of modern-dress sorcerer Mark Merlin, who first appeared in issue #23 (August 1959). The dual-personality supervillain Eclipso ("Hero and Villain in One Man!") was created by Bob Haney and Lee Elias and was introduced in issue #61 (August 1963)[4][5] and continued to the series' end. Prince Ra-Man the Mind-Master bowed in #73 (July–August 1965) and was a Doctor Strange-style "replacement" for Mark Merlin.[6][7] Prince Ra-Man twice battled Eclipso.[6][8][9] The "Prince Ra-Man" feature ended in House of Secrets #80 (September–October 1966), the final issue of the series.[10] Other, lesser continuing features included "Peter Puptent, Explorer"; "Dolly and the Professor"; "Doctor Rocket"; and "Moolah the Mystic".

Revival (second run)

Cover of The House of Secrets #92 (July 1971), introducing the  Swamp Thing, art by Bernie Wrightson.
Cover of The House of Secrets #92 (July 1971), introducing the Swamp Thing, art by Bernie Wrightson.

The series was revived three years later with a definite article as The House of Secrets, beginning with issue #81 (Aug.–Sept. 1969). Now its horror and suspense tales were introduced by a host named Abel,[11] who would also host the satirical comic Plop!. His brother, Cain, hosted The House of Mystery.

The title had an early breakthrough for the mainstream part of the medium: issue #83 had a story, "The Stuff that Dreams are Made of", written by Marv Wolfman. As part of the framing story, Abel introduces the story by telling a tale told to him by a "wandering Wolfman". Upon examination, the censor bureau, the Comics Code Authority refused to give the issue its seal of approval since it mentions a wolfman, which was specifically forbidden along with other classic monsters. The series' editor, Gerry Conway explained that the writer's actual surname was Wolfman, and the CCA conceded on the condition that the distinction be made obvious with an explicit writer's credit in the story. That directive was complied with and suddenly the editorship of DC was inundated with complaints from other writers because of Wolfman's special consideration of a printed credit. In response, the editorship made writers credits standard practice for future publications.[12]

The Swamp Thing first appeared in The House of Secrets #92 (July 1971) in a stand-alone horror story set in the early 20th century written by Len Wein and drawn by Bernie Wrightson.[13] The woman appearing on the cover of this issue was modeled after future comics writer Louise Simonson.[14] The Patchwork Man, a character from the Swamp Thing ongoing series, was to have become an ongoing feature in the series, but only appeared in one issue.[15][16]

The revival of The House of Secrets, sporting many covers by Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson and Michael Kaluta, ran through issue #154 (Nov. 1978), with six months passing between issues #140 (February–March 1976) and 141 (August–September 1976). Cancelled as a result of the DC Implosion, it was then "merged" into The Unexpected with issue #189[17] through issue #199. The series was 68 ad-free pages, allowing all three portions to be full-length issues.

The House of Secrets also came to be the name of the actual edifice in which Abel lives. Writer Mike Friedrich and artist Jerry Grandenetti introduced the house and explained its origins. The building itself was constructed for a Senator Sanderson using only materials from Kentucky, and went under the enchantment that only pure-blood Kentuckians would be able to live there. Later, Sanderson's wife went insane in the upper floors, leading the Senator to sell the house. The next four owners, none of them pure Kentuckians, found themselves driven away for various reasons. The following owner attempted to move the home from its original location, but the house tore itself free from its trailer, ran its owner over a cliff to his death and settled less than 200 yards from the Kentucky state line in a graveyard.[18] Whether by fate or some mystical alignment, the companion House of Mystery stands at the other end of the graveyard. Shortly after this, Abel was driven to the house and entrusted as its caretaker by a man who revealed himself to be an aspect of the House's existence, but making vague references to an employer. Abel was showing living in the House of Mystery in the quarterly DC Special #4, published one month earlier (July–Sept. 1969).

In the 1980s and 1990s, The Sandman series revealed that the House of Secrets edifice exists both in the real world of the DC Universe and in the Dreaming, as a repository for secrets of all kinds. The character of Abel would later become a recurring character in The Sandman (vol. 2) and related series such as The Dreaming.

Second series

Main article: House of Secrets (Vertigo)

DC's Vertigo imprint revived the name House of Secrets as a new title and concept. Here the House of Secrets was a mobile manor, appearing in different places. The building itself is haunted by the Juris, a group of ghosts who summon those with secrets in order to judge them and pass sentence. To the Juris, all offenses carry the same weight, from rape and murder to simply lying at a crucial moment. A runaway named Rain Harper stumbled upon the House of Secrets and took up a position as an unwilling witness to the Juris trials, validating the judgments and either condemning the tried souls to imprisonment in the basement, or setting them free to live their life purged of their secret.

Starting fresh with a new #1 (October 1996), this series ran 25 issues, plus a two-part special House of Secrets: Facade. This House of Secrets series was creator-owned, except for its title which was "licensed" by DC to the series' creators. The letters column in issue #6 indicates that, for legal reasons, they could not include Cain and Abel in the stories. This series was used for the framing story in the first Vertigo Winter's Edge special, featuring Rain happening upon an art gallery in the House whose paintings allow her to see stories from The Sandman (vol. 2), The Dreaming, John Constantine, Hellblazer, The Invisibles, The Books of Magic, The Minx, Sandman Mystery Theatre and Nevada.

Secret Six headquarters

In the mid-2000s, the Secret Six made their headquarters in the House of Secrets. Scandal stated in issue #5 of Villains United that the House would not show up on technological scans or mystical surveillance. She also said that Mockingbird claimed the House was a "house of victims".

In other media

The House of Secrets appeared in the Young Justice episode "Secrets". In the series, it was depicted as a magic shop across the street from the house of Greta and Billy Hayes.[19]

Collected editions


  1. ^ Irvine, Alex (2010). "1950s". In Dolan, Hannah (ed.). DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. The mystery-suspense anthology series House of Secrets began the eighty-issue run of its first incarnation in December.
  2. ^ House of Secrets at the Grand Comics Database
  3. ^ Overstreet, Robert M. (2019). Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (49th ed.). Timonium, Maryland: Gemstone Publishing. p. 764. ISBN 978-1603602334.
  4. ^ Wallace, Dan (2008). "Eclipso". In Dougall, Alastair (ed.). The DC Comics Encyclopedia. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1.
  5. ^ McAvennie, Michael "1960s" in Dolan, p. 109: "In August's House of Secrets #61, writer Bob Haney and artist Lee Elias used a black diamond to transform Dr. Bruce Gordon into Eclipso".
  6. ^ a b Markstein, Don (2010). "Prince Ra-Man, Mind Master". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on October 12, 2012. Retrieved October 11, 2012. The character came to be when powers within the company apparently decided Mark Merlin...wasn't working. Superheroes were what was selling, so that's what Mark needed to be replaced with. But instead of simply not using Mark Merlin anymore, and introducing something new where he'd formerly been, they attempted to retain whatever fans he may or may not have had by linking him to the new guy.
  7. ^ Haney, Bob (w), Baily, Bernard (p), Baily, Bernard (i). "The Death of Mark Merlin" House of Secrets #73 (July–August 1965)
  8. ^ Haney, Bob (w), Sparling, Jack; Baily, Bernard (p), Sparling, Jack; Baily, Bernard (i). "Helio, the Sun Demon!" House of Secrets #76 (January–February 1966)
  9. ^ Haney, Bob (w), Sparling, Jack; Baily, Bernard (p), Sparling, Jack; Baily, Bernard (i). "The Master of Yesterday and Tomorrow!" House of Secrets #79 (July–August 1966)
  10. ^ Haney, Bob (w), Baily, Bernard (p), Baily, Bernard (i). "The Death of the Six-Sided Sun" House of Secrets 80 (September–October 1966)
  11. ^ McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 134: "Abel never earned any respect from his brother...Yet it didn't stop him from reopening House of Secrets with issue #81, following the series' three-year hiatus".
  12. ^ Cronin, Brian. "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #119". Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  13. ^ McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 146: "'Swamp Thing' was the name of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson's turn-of-the-century tale, and its popularity with readers led a modernized version of the character into his own series a year later".
  14. ^ Levitz, Paul (2010). 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Cologne, Germany: Taschen. p. 481. ISBN 978-3-8365-1981-6. When Swamp Thing debuted in this issue of House of Secrets as a "one-shot", no one could have known it would lead to an enduring hit franchise, least of all its cover model, future comics writer Louise Simonson.
  15. ^ Conway, Gerry (w), Redondo, Nestor (p), Redondo, Nestor (i). "Reprise: The Patchwork Man" House of Secrets #140 (February–March 1976)
  16. ^ Kingman, Jim (January 26, 2010). "DC Shake-Up (and fallout): The Patchwork Man". Comics Bulletin. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Despite the potential, the great artwork, the intriguing cast, and the interesting plot points, House of Secrets was suddenly 'canceled' after issue #140 – The Patchwork Man’s first and only appearance in what was meant to be an ongoing run in the series.
  17. ^ Wells, John (October 24, 1997), "'Lost' DC: The DC Implosion", Comics Buyer's Guide, Iola, Wisconsin, no. 1249, p. 132, Following its cancellation with #154, House of Secrets was merged with The Witching Hour and Doorway to Nightmare in The Unexpected, which was expanded to Dollar Comic size to accommodate the changes.
  18. ^ The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, Vol. 1. New York, NY: DC Comics. 1984. p. 1.
  19. ^ David, Peter (writer); Oliva, Jay (director) (November 18, 2011). "Secrets". Young Justice. Season 1. Episode 18. Cartoon Network.